New York Polyphony – Tudor City
I liked these guys the first time I heard I Sing the Birth, their outstanding Christmas record of medieval, renaissance and contemporary music. The program was beautifully sung and the mix of repertoire really hung together well. It’s fine to program Perotin, Byrd and Kenneth Leighton on the same recording, but it’s another thing for it to all make musical sense. I Sing the Birth hit on all counts and it’s one of my favorite Christmas albums.
Each Sunday I get to hear some members of the group at church in the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys. I believe it was last year when New York Polyphony sang the Sunday morning service from the rear gallery of the church and it was a stunner. It’s sometimes tough to focus on the service when a group of such quality is singing.
Tudor City is their new recording on the always interesting Avie label. Like I Sing the Birth, Tudor City is marvelously programmed. This time its English music from the reign of the Tudors (1485-1603) and four specially commissioned pieces by Andrew Smith that are worked into the mix.
What a great sampling of English music! There’s a bit from the Worcester Fragments (just wondering, does anybody remember the Accademia Monteverdiana recording of the Fragments on Nonesuch?), an Eton Choirbook piece, some Dunstable, Byrd, Tallis, Tye and others that make for one powerful album. The Smith pieces fit smoothly into the medieval and renaissance soundscape yet have their own pungent, contemporary tone. Mr. Smith deserves to be better known because his Surrexit Christus and “To Mock Your Reign” are brilliant. Come to think of it, he is getting better known since Bora Yoon and Brian McKenna have remixed Surrexit Christus and it is now available on download from iTunes. I kid you not.
How does Tudor City sound? Damned good. Critics may trip over themselves praising Stile Antico (the fantastic mixed voice group from the UK), but as far as I am concerned Tudor City is the album they should be talking about. The New York Polyphony voices are perfectly balanced, lush and warm but with enough bite to give the tangy dissonances some punch. This is truly a breakout album.
Here’s New York Polyphony in Christopher Tye’s In Pace
By the way, for those of you who are not fortunate enough to live in New York, Tudor City is also a legendary residential complex on the Eastside (the cover of the album features the complex’s famous sign). New York Polyphony – Tudor City, it’s kind of a New York state of mind.
Heads-up to New Yorkers
New York Polyphony will be singing Flemish Polyphony at the Miller Theatre on November 20th.
One more bit, Jerusalem from Thomas Crecquillon’s setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah