The figure of Elizabeth I loomed large in English music of the late Renaissance, and an entire collection of madrigals, "The Triumphs of Oriana," was presented to her in 1601. The idea of using Elizabeth as a thematic principle for an album release has been tried in various ways. The entire "Triumphs of Oriana" collection has been recorded a few times, and madrigals have been used for deeper investigations of Elizabeth's reign. This collection by the mixed-gender adult choir Sarum Consort, which performs a wide spectrum of music from medieval to contemporary, takes a more accessible approach: All the Queen's Men is a loose reconstruction of a program that might have been played for the Queen during one of her tours of the English countryside. You can find greater crispness in the vocals, or a more rigorous concept. The inclusion of Philippe Rogier's Latin motet Laboravi in gemitu meo (formerly attributed to Thomas Morley), for example, is justified merely on the odd grounds that a household preparing for Elizabeth's visit would have had to work laboriously. Yet this is a satisfying collection of music that combines very famous pieces like Gibbons' O clap your hands with a few more unusual numbers, such as Thomas Hunt's Hark! Did ye ever hear? (track 2), with lute songs and unaccompanied lute pieces added to break up the series of unaccompanied madrigals. The Sarum Consort offers something of an old-school recording here, straightforwardly delivering the qualities that have made English madrigals crowd-pleasers for so long. Song texts and translations are available only on the Naxos website and sound is very plain.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim