Royal Rhymes and Rounds is the King’s Singers’ contribution to the Jubilee, assuring us the British monarchy and the musical art have connections that go a little deeper than the recent Variety Show outside Buckingham Palace.
Eight madrigals saluting Good Queen Bess are at the heart of the collection. The six men trip neatly though John Mundy’s Lightly she whipped o’er the daies. In Thomas Weelkes’ As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending, the nymphs and shepherds run down in twos and threes as daintily as they did on the Auckland Town Hall stage.
Those who quest for curiosities will appreciate having two versions of Orlando Gibbons’ The Silver Swan.
In both, the closing phrase, "more geese than swans now live, more fools than wise" seems as eloquently relevant for our times as four centuries ago.
Henry VIII sets the collection off when the King’s Singers deliver the monarch’s own rousing Pastime with Good Company.
Henry’s womanising is slyly tagged in the anonymous Hey, trolly lolly lo! in which countertenors get to play a maid determined to milk her cow rather than lose her maidenhead.
A bracket of Victoriana, written for the 80th birthday of the Queen, offers juicier harmonies but, in the case of Elgar’s lovely "To her beneath whose steadfast star," a richer palette of mixed voices would have been better.
The Choral Dances from Britten’s Gloriana spring to life with the impeccable vivacity that has become the group’s signature, although a more recent commission is problematic.
Paul Drayton’s A Rough Guide to the Royal Succession seems overlong and nudging at almost 13 minutes, complete with buzzing flies in court of Aethelred the Unredey, a touch of Tea for Two when Queen Anne gets out her teapot and a spot of jolly ragtime to celebrate the current Queen.
The King’s Singers: Royal Rhymes & Rounds (Signum, both through Ode Records)
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