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1. Verbum caro (Plainchant)
The unison sound of this florid chant, a respond for Mass on Christmas Day, is so evocative; plainsong is, after all, the basis for so much music of the Renaissance.
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2. Make we joy now in this fest (Seldon manuscript, c1450)
The original meaning of carol was ‘round dance’, and from here evolves the Medieval carol. It consists of a burden (chorus) which alternates with verses sung by one or more solo voices. There is no better example of that dance structure than here.
3. Richard Pygott: Quid petis, o fili?
Pygott’s macaronic (mixed-language) poem with its mixture of sacred and profane takes the listener back to medieval forms, yet his clever use of imitative polyphony turns a delightful text into quite exquisite music.
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- Free download: enjoy a late Medieval carol from Schola Antique of Chigaco
4. Jean Mouton: Nesciens mater
Mouton gives us much more than a technical feat (a quadruple canon over a plainchant melody). This is without doubt one of the finest Renaissance motets for the Christmas season – slow moving harmonies, subtly controlled, yet rich in ideas.
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- Download the score for ‘Lullay, my liking’ by Thomas Hewitt Jones
5. Thomas Tallis: Puer natus mass
Written not only to celebrate Mass on Christmas Day but also to honour Queen Mary’s (mistaken) belief that she was pregnant, the seven-voice texture of this carol is so sonorous and inventive that there can be no better celebration to the birth of our Lord.
Harry Christophers (2008)