A Noel is a French Christmas carol, and the ones here are sung by Les Pages du CMBV (Centre Musique Baroque de Versailles), a children's choir. Their voices do not soar, but they are not the stars of the show. Instead, the album is part of a series called L'age d'or de l'orgue français, and the main attraction is organist Gaétan Jarry, and even more so, the 1710 organ at the Versailles chapel. It's a marvelous instrument, clear in all registers, lively, and bracing. The composer-organists here are largely unknown today, at least outside France, but hearing these works, the listener may understand why crowd control police had to show up for performance by the likes of Claude Balbastre (1724-1799). Jarry performs the Noels with the choir singing verses in alternation with the organ. He admits there's no particular precedent for doing it this way, and indeed the choir tends to interrupt the organist's momentum a bit. However, the organ variations themselves are fascinating, and the music is both enjoyable in its pleasant pastoral sounds and instructive as to the missing links between the French Baroque organ school and the virtuoso French styles of the 19th century. Clear, rich sound is a bonus on this offbeat French holiday selection.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim