12 Days of Christmas

Rydale Festival: 12 Days of Christmas
Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort
Sarah Latto, Owain Park, Anita Datta
Filmed in Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
Released daily from 25th December to 6th January

A bit of Christmas enterprise comes from three UK choral ensembles, Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Gesualdo Six and The Swan Consort, in association with the Rydale Festival and Tidze. Under the banner of Give the gift of a Choral Christmas, they present a series of 12 short concerts, filmed in Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Links to the videos are emailed every day between 25th December and 6th January, with catch up available until the end of January 2021. There are options for simple digital delivery (for £12) or two types of gift boxes (£24/34) with additional goodies. They can be used as a gift to friends, or to yourself.

Each group contributes four videos, with a bonus 13th video combining all four choirs. The choirs are small (6/8 singers) and sing without accompaniment. The music ranges from Renaissance polyphony to pieces by contemporary composers. Venues within the monumental early 18th-century Castle Howard are the long gallery/library, the Baroque chapel (redecorated c1875 by William Morris and Burne-Jones) and Vanbrugh’s extraordinary Great Hall, one of the most sumptuous interior spaces in the UK.

The recording, audio and video quality (by Patrick Allen) are excellent. Each video starts with a little choral fanfare on the Xth Day of Christmas and some end with a little coda, all by different contemporary composers. One warning – the videos start off with the sound muted, and there is very little time to click the unmute button (in the top right hand corner) before the music starts. I recommend going full screen for the visual effect and to blank out the rather gushing ‘Chat’ comments below the video. There is a button link to a programme note pdf for each video. The pieces performed in the videos are –

Palestrina Hodie Christus natus est
Sally Beamish In the stillness
Pierre Villette Hymne à la Vierge
Martin/Blane Have yourself a merry little Christmas, arr. Jonathan Rathbone
Away in a manger, arr. Reginald Jacques.
Jean Mouton Nesciens mate
I wonder as I wander, arr.Anita Datta
Byrd Vigilate
Nina Simone Little Girl Blue + O Come O Come Emmanuel, arr. Sarah Latto
Ola Gjeilo Tota Pulchra Es
Maria durch ein Dornwald Ging, arr. Philip Lawson
Judith Weir Ave Regina Caelorum
(Bonus video) The truth from above, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams/Owain Park

A short promotional video can be accessed here, showing the three choirs in a rehearsal setting, rather than in Castle Howard. The Rydale Festival also has a series of videos available online.