The noël, a type of popular Christmas song, flourished throughout France beginning early in the Renaissance. The authors of most of the noëls included here, Nicolas Saboly and Natalis Cordat, were active in the mid-seventeenth century in southern France and wrote primarily in Occitan, or langue d'Oc, rather than French. They are responsible for the texts, but the tunes were taken from popular songs of the time and from sacred music. (Saboly was a composer of liturgical music, but is thought to have used preexisting tunes for his noëls.) The tunes Saboly uses are generally livelier and folksier than those of Cordat and the other writers, which are more hymn-like. The Saboly noëls that open and close the album, Ben urosa la naissance and Sant Jousè m'a dit are especially engaging, and Li a quauqua ren que m'a fat paur has a Monteverdian wit and sophistication. This collection, performed by La Camera delle Lacrime, directed by Bruno Bonhoure, who is also the soloist on several tracks, makes a good introduction to noëls. Some are performed as solos, some by a small vocal ensemble, and some by a children's choir, with varying accompaniments, including viol, theorbo, Baroque guitar, organ, and harpsichord. Bonhoure and soprano Caroline Bardot have light, clear voices and sing with unmannered freshness, as is appropriate for this repertoire, which is essentially popular song, created for untrained singers. The vocal ensemble and children's choir perform with spirited energy, and the accompanying forces are inventive and lively.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins