The small vocal group Gallicantus has a knack for recordings of very specialized repertory that nevertheless appeal to general audiences with attractive performances and intelligent programming. Queen Mary's Big Belly does not quite deliver on its amusing title referring to the phantom pregnancy suffered by the Catholic queen in 1555, although some of the pieces would have been heard at the time as relevant to the situation. What you get instead is music, mostly sacred, that the queen would have heard or been served with in the course of her daily life. As such, it suffers from the small size of the group (six to nine members, one voice to a part); at Mary's sumptuous court the music would have been performed by many more singers. The singers of Gallicantus have a nice mixture of precision and lyricism, though, and in some of the more intimate pieces -- sample Tallis' gorgeous O sacrum convivium -- they are undeniably effective. They're aided by fine engineering work from Signum, working in St. Augustine's Church, Kilburn, London. Recommended for those interested in this particular historical juncture.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim