And now we’re into the last seven days before Christmas. As tends to be my practice, the selections will get longer as we get close to Christmas, because we could all use more music!
This is an entire album by Chanticleer, a magnificent all-male vocal ensemble based in San Francisco. Originally founded to perform Renaissance music according to historical performance practice, the group has branched out over the years to recording other genres. But their main “bread and butter” remains their Renaissance work, and I always love listening to them. It gives me the feeling of walking through stone cathedrals on cold days and nights, illuminated by either sun streaming through stained glass windows or by candles in sconces casting too little light to keep the vaulted ceiling above me from vanishing into the shadows. It’s the music of spice and incense and torchlight, of colorful robes and fine doublets and, yes, a dagger tucked into one’s belt or boot.
The final track of this album, by the way, is not a Renaissance piece at all, but a composition by Franz Biebl, a twentieth century German composer who only died in 2001. While Franz Schubert’s setting of the Ave Maria is undoubtedly the most famous, for me Biebl’s is the more beautiful. I won’t claim it’s the most beautiful, since there are many settings I haven’t even heard, but the one here is truly magical. I’ve known it ever since the Wartburg College Choir sang it as part of our annual Christmas program, back in the day.
Here is Chanticleer, performing their entire album. A Chanticleer Christmas. The days are truly growing short now, so find what light you may!