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American Record Guide: (07/2017) 
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Reviewer: William J. Gatens


In November of 1554, Mary Tudor, Catholic Queen of England, was thought to be pregnant and due to deliver around May 1, 1555. She entered the confinement and birthing chamber at Hampton Court Palace, and on April 30, the rumor reached London that she had given birth to a male heir to the throne, continuing the Tudor dynasty and consolidating the restoration of the Catholic Church in the realm.

The rumor was false. As the summer wore on, it became evident that Mary was not pregnant at all, and in August she left Hampton Court for Oatlands Palace.

This program brings together pieces of sacred and secular music of that time and place. Even if some of it was composed before the start of Mary’s reign, it could well have been performed in her presence. As the booklet notes put it, the music “explores the musical traces of an extraordinary year of hopes raised and dashed”. The musical genres range from motets, office responsories, and polyphonic hymns to solo songs with lute and an instrumental “Fansye”. There were many processions and litanies to supplicate for the queen’s safe delivery, and the present program includes a Sarum litany of the period fitted to the music Tallis wrote for the English litany of the Book of Common Prayer.

The ensemble Gallicantus under the direction of Gabriel Crouch seeks to create “performance projects which explore narratives and draw out unifying themes in apparently diverse repertoire”. That is certainly an apt description of this program. The booklet notes give a riveting account of the historical events and how the musical selections relate to them. The performances themselves are of the highest order. The vocal polyphony is sung by one voice to a part to give the intimate feel of vocal chamber music. I would guess that this recording will appeal as much to students of the history and culture of the period as to admirers of the music for its own sake.

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