This album of carols faced plenty of competition when it appeared in advance of the 2019 Christmas season, and it was released, moreover, on the sparsely known First Hand Music label. Nevertheless, it became one of the most popular releases of the season, and sales promised to continue into 2020 and beyond. The reason is that it stands out from the crowd in both repertory and sound. The subtitle "800 Years of Christmas Music" is a bit misleading. Although the pieces do run from the medieval era to the 19th century Stille Nacht (Silent Night), it is not a survey. Instead, the program is rooted in medieval song and shows how, with common roots, tunes have crossed borders and intertwined with each other. Anyone who has ever sung the Coventry Carol included here, instinctively knows that Christmas carols have deep medieval roots, but the idea is demonstrated here with unusual variety. The selection includes carols from Catalonia to Finland, and the familiar Patapan is sung in the original Burgundian language, which is rare enough. The Telling, a group of about a dozen, backs the carols up with a minimal but lively plucked-string instrumental group, and the mood is generally festive, with several of the instrumental pieces with which the group often leavens its programs. Anyone can listen to and enjoy this program, and find parts of it familiar, but there is also much here for the enthusiasts.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Verbum caro factum est de Virgine (In hoc anni circulo) (The Word was made flesh by the Virgin Mary) (12th century, England)