The City Music
St Mary’s, Warwick
IN SOME traditions it’s allowed to open one of your Christmas presents just a little bit before the big day, and so it was with this joyous gift of a concert.
The City Musick brought the sprightly sound of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to life with a performance of great mastery and great wit.
In a wonderfully mixed programme of short pieces and songs there was ample opportunity to hear the range of instruments on display in varied combinations.
Cornetts, sounding like trumpets in a fanfare, shawms, recorders, sackbut and more combined with the utterly winning voice of soprano Angela Hicks to conjure up the world of Byrd, Gibbons and their like.
Early music, as it has come to be called, has a sound all of its own and, locally, it really has found a worthy home in the high spaces of this fine church.
In truth, this was a programme with no fillers. But if highlights had to be picked it would be hard to ignore the sung carols accompanied on the lute and interspersed with instrumental contributions from the ensemble.
The Coventry Carol, for all the mystery surrounding its early life, has become somewhat of a staple these days and it was refreshing, if not enlightening, to hear this oddly-metered, early rendering.
But the concert was not without its challenges. The Arctic snap gripping the country meant the church was filled with winter coats and scarves as the heating struggled to keep the air warm. On the stage the musicians fought to keep things in tune and, in the case of lutenist Lynda Sayce, resorted to blowing on the hands to keep the fingers working.
The serving of mulled wine at the interval was not so much festive as humanitarian.
In the face of such a challenge – and perhaps with an eye on sending the listeners back out into the bitter night with some sort of spring in their step – the ensemble brought out the bagpipes and whipped through some fabulous dance tunes to end the show.
Sometimes the run-up to Christmas can seem to drag a little but with offerings like this the festive spirit is truly melting the ice away.
The new year brings a fabulous range of concerts to the area ranging from early music to modern chamber works. Full details can be viewed at leamingtonmusic.org.