This is a rare instance where the English Symposium label put out something that doesn't sound like a collection of the oldest recordings you've ever heard: Gallimaufry by the period-performance group Passamezzo. "Gallimaufry" -- what a lovely word, and one you don't see everyday; it means hodgepodge, and this disc makes no bones about the fact that this is what it is. It consists of a Mulligan's Stew of various ditties and dances from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and there is no coherent program or concept behind it, though it bears the all-inclusive subtitle "Elizabethan & Jacobean music for the Court, the Country, the Playhouse & the Streets." A number of pieces stem from Elizabethan stage productions, which makes sense, as Passamezzo leader Tamsin Lewis is also a member of The Lion's Part, a period theater company that presents historically accurate stagings of such plays.
Passamezzo sounds like a 1950s-era period-instrument group; the instrumental playing is more enthusiastic than crisp or disciplined, and countertenor Peter Luke Kenny has the unfortunate tendency to take on material that lays a little low for his voice, something Russell Oberlin had the good sense never to do. Even the recording, with its bone-dry ambience and restricted frequency range, sounds like something Lyrichord or Esoteric could have recorded back in the fabulous '50s. However, the music-making is so casual and good-natured that it would be unfair to dismiss the group, and Gallimaufry, out of hand. Passamezzo would probably sound terrific at a Renaissance Faire or a wedding -- and it plays many of both -- but up against, say, the Early Music Consort of London or the Dufay Collective, it seems a little down-market. Most offerings on the Symposium label are economically quite the opposite, so one is advised to try before you buy.