TENET Vocal Artists, NYC’s preeminent early music ensemble led by artistic director Jolle Greenleaf, releases a Christmas disc of music spanning medieval to modern day repertoire. TENET’s pristine, one-on-a-part singing lends itself well to both well-known and rarely heard songs and carols featured in this recording. New compositions and fresh arrangements make Love Enfolds Thee Round a stand-out among holiday recordings. Each member of the ensemble is well featured, creating an intimate sound-world to celebrate the holiday season.
|TENET Vocal Artists||1:25|
|02||O Jesulein süss|
O Jesulein süss
|TENET Vocal Artists||2:42|
|03||Tu scendi dalle stelle|
Tu scendi dalle stelle
|Stephen Sands, tenor, Hank Heijink, lute||1:54|
|04||Jesus Christ the apple tree|
Jesus Christ the apple tree
|TENET Vocal Artists||3:09|
|05||Wither’s Rocking Hymn|
Wither’s Rocking Hymn
|TENET Vocal Artists||3:11|
|06||A Spotless Rose|
A Spotless Rose
|TENET Vocal Artists||2:53|
|07||The Infant King (Sing lullaby)|
The Infant King (Sing lullaby)
|TENET Vocal Artists||2:13|
|08||Lullay my liking|
Lullay my liking
|TENET Vocal Artists||4:23|
|09||Rise up shepherd and follow|
Rise up shepherd and follow
|TENET Vocal Artists||3:06|
|TENET Vocal Artists||3:11|
|11||See amid the winter’s snow|
See amid the winter’s snow
|TENET Vocal Artists||4:37|
|12||Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle|
Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle
|Jolle Greenleaf, soprano, Hank Heijink, lute||2:03|
|13||Sweet little Jesus boy|
Sweet little Jesus boy
|Charles Wesley Evans, bass-baritone||5:19|
|Hank Heijink, lute||1:41|
|15||What child is this|
What child is this
|Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone, Hank Heijink, lute||3:37|
|TENET Vocal Artists||1:35|
|Virginia Warnken Kelsey, mezzo-soprano, Stephen Sands, tenor, Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone||3:59|
|18||Veni mater gracie/Dou way Robin|
Veni mater gracie/Dou way Robin
|Jolle Greenleaf, soprano, Molly Quinn, soprano, Stephen Sands, tenor||2:34|
|19||Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen|
Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
|Molly Quinn, soprano, Hank Heijink, lute||2:18|
|20||The holly and the ivy|
The holly and the ivy
|TENET Vocal Artists||2:52|
|21||Three kings from Persian lands afar|
Three kings from Persian lands afar
|TENET Vocal Artists||2:16|
|22||Hush thee, princeling|
Hush thee, princeling
|TENET Vocal Artists||1:32|
TENET Vocal Artists created this disc as a gift to its loyal audience of supporters during a time of increased isolation due to the pandemic. Although much of the repertoire featured falls outside the purview of “early music,” the disc well represents the singers’ collective specialties in the music of the Anglican tradition. In fact, the works on this recording could easily serve as selections from a Lessons and Carols service of today.
Representing British masters from the last century, TENET includes some of the best-known works from the Christmas canon including Peter Warlock’s “Bethlehem Down,” Herbert Howells’ “A Spotless Rose,” and Hubert Parry’s “Welcome Yule.” David Willcocks, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Gustav Holst also make appearances with rarely heard gems and arrangements of medieval tunes.
Early compositions that have become known as traditional Christmas works include Francis Cutting’s “Greensleeves,” Praetorius’ “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen,” and Bach's famous chorale, “O Jesulein süß.” The hauntingly beautiful 14th Century motet, “Veni mater gracie/Dou way Robin” tells of Mary’s immaculate conception in the lead voice all the while shooing away a pesky Robin who might wake the Christ child in the counter melody using an early form of ground bass.
TENET is very fortunate to have among its cast accomplished singer, composer, and arranger Jonathan Woody, who provided beautiful arrangements for two classic tunes: “Rise up, Shepherd, and Follow” and “Coventry Carol.” He imbued these well-known classics with his fresh, contemporary voice. Woody also composed a new version of “What Child is This” (along with the transition from Greensleeves) for bass voice and lute. His rendition mixes his own knowledge of early music style and vocal practices with contemporary harmonies, showing off the versatility of lutenist Hank Heijink.
TENET fans will recognize the voices of our singers as they perform one-on-a-part; the crystalline timbres of artistic director Jolle Greenleaf and Molly Quinn, sopranos, the warm alto of Virginia Warnken Kelsey, versatile and sweet-toned tenor Stephen Sands, and rich and enveloping bass-baritones Charles Wesley Evans and Jonathan Woody. Hank Heijink’s accompanying prowess is on full display, enhancing the carols throughout the recording.
“Love Enfolds Thee Round” closes with a charming contemporary work by composer Norman dello Joio and writer Anna Elizabeth Bennett, “Hush Thee, Princeling” (also known as “Lullaby for the Christ Child”), whose last line of the first poetic verse serves as the disc’s title.
Recorded by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, Mt Vernon, NY
Edited, mixed, and mastered by Ryan Streber
Editing assistant: Charles Mueller
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Cover: delfi de la Rua, Unsplash.com
Back Cover: Brian Erikson, Unsplash.com
Preëminent New York City-based early music ensemble TENET Vocal Artists trusts in the power of music to bring joy and peace to our 21st century world. Under Artistic Director Jolle Greenleaf, TENET Vocal Artists has won acclaim for its innovative programming, virtuosic singing and command of repertoire that spans the Middle Ages to the present day.
Highlights of recent seasons include performances of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Bach's motets, Handel’s Messiah, a three-year cycle of Carlo Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories, regular performances of music by Henry Purcell and his contemporaries in honor of St. Cecilia, music’s patron saint, and explorations into medieval repertoire. TENET Vocal Artists has also dedicated itself to creating original theatrical performances highlighting works composed by, for, and about women in 17th century Italy.
Renowned for their interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, TENET Vocal Artists' distinguished soloists have been praised for their pristine one-voice-to-a-part singing “to an uncanny degree of precision” (The Boston Globe). Under TENET's auspices, the highly praised Green Mountain Project gave annual performances (2010-2020) of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and other reconstructed Vespers featuring music by Monteverdi, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Giovanni Gabrieli, Antoine Charpentier, Michael Praetorius, and their contemporaries.
A driving force in cultivating New York City’s early music community, TENET Vocal Artists collaborates regularly with other acclaimed ensembles and organizations including ACRONYM, Dark Horse Consort, Ensemble Caprice, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Quicksilver Baroque, the Sebastians, and many others.
TENET Vocal Artists performs regularly at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Caramoor, Columbia University, Yale University, and numerous other venues in and around New York City. Further afield, TENET Vocal Artists has performed at the Festival Casals de Puerto Rico, Berkshire Bach Festival, Connecticut Early Music Festival, Costa Rica International Music Festival, Montreal Baroque Festival, and many other festivals throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe.
If there ever was a type of music that was for the people, it's Christmas music. For centuries, before the advent of electricity which brought about the glut of electronic devices that entertain us today, families would gather around the fireplace or woodstove, and communities would gather together in church to collectively sing Christmas carols or seasonal songs. The only way they would hear this music was by performing it themselves. And this is basically the sense you get from this new recording by the Tenet Vocal Artists titled Love Enfolds Thee Round. The simple a cappella arrangements once in a while accompanied by a single lute, evoke the atmosphere of a Medieval household or an 18th century Christmas mass service, with the music provided by a small, intimate group of voices.
The booklet notes state: "TENET Vocal Artists created this disc as a gift to its loyal audience. Although much of the repertoire featured falls outside the purview of 'early music', the disc well represents the singers' collective specialties in the music of the Anglican tradition. In fact, the works on this recording could easily serve as selections from a Lessons and Carols service of today. TENET fans will recognize the voices of our singers as they perform one-on-a-part". The works on this CD range from the 1500s with music by Michael Praetorius to Norman dello Joio (1913-2008). Including as well some Bach, Holst, Howells, Warlock, and much more. I don't know about you but I always thought that Greensleeves was an anonymous piece. It turns out it was written by Francis Cutting (1550-1595).
Every year at around this time, many new recordings of Christmas music are released that quite simply add to the existing glut of tried and true renditions of this music. I prefer focusing attention on the ones that avoid the commercial trappings of the season, and instead capture and project the essence of Christmas music as something special and meaningful to each and everyone of us. And this year, this is the one.
— Jean-Yves Duperron, 11.19.2020
The TENET Vocal Artists are also specialists in early music, but they strike out in a different and very pleasantly expressive direction on an Olde Focus Recordings disc with a Christmas-through-the-ages theme. This is a cleverly arranged CD, in which early works such as Bach’s O Jesulein süss and the very, very old Veni mater gracie/Dou way Robin (which dates to 1349 in Yorkshire) are interspersed with much later material from Vaughan Williams (Wither’s Rocking Hymn), Holst (Lullay my liking), Hubert Parry (Welcome Yule, which opens the recording), and Peter Warlock (Bethlehem Down). Far from being a collection of well-known secular tunes, this beautifully sung CD certainly includes secular elements (Francis Cutting’s version of Greensleeves) but carefully places them in the context of the sacred meaning of the Christmas holiday (the Cutting work appears between the spiritual Sweet little Jesus boy and Jonathan Woody’s arrangement of What child is this). The result is a disc that reaches out beyond the strictly religious but remains firmly rooted in the Christian concept that lies at the heart of Christmas as it is understood today and has been for centuries. The TENET Vocal Artists are just as comfortable and just as eloquent in Italian (St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Tu scendi dalle stelle) and French (the traditional Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle) as in English – not to mention Bach’s German and the Yorkshire work’s Latin. The singers pronounce words not only correctly but also feelingly, conveying the emotions underlying each of these pieces even to listeners who find the music unfamiliar and may not know some of the languages at all. This communicative skill is quite a gift. The remaining pieces on the 22-track disc are Elizabeth Poston’s Jesus Christ the apple tree, Herbert Howells’ A Spotless Rose, David Willcocks’ The Infant King (Sing lullaby), Woody’s arrangements of Rise up shepherd and follow and Coventry Carol, John Goss’ See amid the winter’s snow, the traditional Sussex Carol, Michael Praetorius’ Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, Walford Davies’ The holly and the ivy, Peter Cornelius’ Three kings from Persian lands afar, and Norman dello Joio’s Hush thee, princeling. The British – specifically Anglican – orientation of the disc is quite clear, but this is music that reaches out well beyond any one specific religious tradition and, indeed, beyond the spiritual sector altogether, except insofar as music itself has a spiritual dimension that elevates, inspires and delights. And that is precisely what this beautifully sung disc does: it raises the spirit, informs it with the hope and meaning of Christmas, and simply sounds wonderful.
— Mark Estren, 11.25.2020
Tenet Vocal Artists’ seasonal album is on a much smaller scale, this New York ensemble fielding just seven singers and a lutenist. You know this’ll be good when they begin Parry’s “Welcome Yule” in irresistibly perky fashion, the essence of Christmas distilled into barely 90 seconds. I love the sound this group make. There’s no grandstanding. and it’s refreshing to hear the better-known carols unadorned. The highlights are too many to mention, but their version of Vaughan Williams’ “Wither’s Rocking Hymn” is sublime. We get Peter Warlock’s “Bethlehem Down” and Holst’s “Lullay my liking”. Bass-baritone Jonathan Woody’s version of “What child is this” is a tad more idiomatic than Jonas Kaufmann’s (see below). An exquisite anthology.
— Graham Rickson, 12.18.2020
This looks like a fairly conventional Christmas carol collection, including many old favourites, some early, music, some new music and some new arrangements of popular old carols. And, to a certain extent, that is precisely what it is; but it sounds very different from the usual run-of-the mill Christmas compendium. For example, I wonder what Sir John Goss might have thought hearing his familiar hymn See Amid the Winter’s Snow accompanied by a lute, and I am certain Sir David Willcocks had a very different sound in mind when he wrote The Infant King.
What makes this so very different is not the programme, nor the fact that the performers are a group of just six vocal soloists, but that these six vocal soloists are singing a programme which is mostly comprised of music, if not actually intended for, then most usually performed by, a choir. Peter Warlock’s unspeakably lovely Bethlehem Down feels almost skeletal in this pared-down version with the bare bones of his exotic harmonies brightly exposed, and Herbert Howells’s magical A Spotless Rose has no atmosphere in this precise, clinically clean performance. On the other hand, having the flabby flesh of multitudinous voices cut right back gives a welcome freshness to Walford Davies’s The Holly and the Ivy, and brings great clarity to Holst’s Lullay my liking. It also makes a refreshing change to hear the Sussex Carol shorn of its usual sparkling arrangements and shown off to be a really lovely carol in its own right. Best of all – and perhaps surprisingly so – are the two spirituals in the programme. There is a lovely feeling of spontaneity about this performance of Rise up Shepherd and Follow, and for an unbelievable five minutes of magic, just listen to a Charles Wesley Evans’ mesmerising unaccompanied solo delivery of Sweet Little Jesus Boy.
TENET Vocal artists comprises two sopranos (Jolle Greenleaf, who is also the group’s artistic director, and Molly Quinn), one mezzo-soprano and one tenor (Virginia Warnken Kelsey and Stephen Sands) and two bass-baritones (Charles Wesley Evans and Jonathan Woody). It is Woody who has made the new arrangements, and his distinctive handprint is a polyphonic interweaving of the lines with harmonies and rhythms which often seem to diverge wilfully. Some of them take a bit of getting used to, but have a certain austere beauty, such as the Coventry Carol and What Child is This?. This latter is sung by Woody himself with lute accompaniment, and it uses the famous “Greensleeves” tune so often incorrectly attributed to King Henry VIII. But the Greensleeves included in the programme as a solo lute piece, and stated as being by Francis Cutting, is, so far as I can make out, the third of Cutting’s Divisions of Popular Tunes which is more usually attributed to John Dowland. Whatever its origins, Hank Heijink gives it a suitably delicate and introspective account, which is rather rudely ended off by the labyrinthine key changes needed to segue this into What Child is This? The documentation with the disc is limited to the full sung texts and the tiresome and ridiculously extravagant marketing guff which seems de rigueur for all professional solo singers; you need to go online to find out which singer is singing which solos, and you need to search even more widely to find out any information about any of the music recorded here.
Surprising and unexpected as this all is, these are six superb voices, and while they do not in any way meld into a conglomerate choral ensemble, they do work well together in achieving a fine, equitable balance. The big downside of this is that there is very little musical colour or variety, and the weight of the interest lies in their precise diction, delivered with a crystalline clarity which makes every syllable and punctuation mark very obvious. It can only be a good thing to have the words of these often familiar carols so vividly conveyed, and the music, delivered in such clean and direct performances.
— Marc Rochester, 12.09.2020