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Thys Yool - A Medieval Christmas
Martin Best Ensemble
rec. Wyastone Leys, 1988
Previously released as Nimbus NI5137
NIMBUS NI7103 [64:07]

Martin Best is an English singer and composer whose career has focused on early styles of music, including minstrel songs, Shakespearian sonnets, medieval and renaissance music. His ensemble includes a talented group of vocalists and musicians performing on traditional instruments. The album is a collection of holiday tunes performed centuries ago, grouped into secular (1-8) and religious (9-23), stretching across a span of 350 years.

The earliest song, Miri it is while sumer ilast, dates about 1225. The original poem was written in Middle English and is almost completely indecipherable. However, Donna Deam and Kristine Szulik sing a modern translation, which cherishes the happy times of summer and laments the hardships of winter, analogous to the phases of a relationship. They are accompanied by Martin Best on the psaltery, a small harp, Jeremy Barlow on pipe, and Lucie Skeaping playing the rebec, an early bowed string instrument. One of the latest and longest songs in the collection is the beautiful ode to Mary from the 15th century There is no rose, sung a cappella by the trio of Donna, Kristine and tenor Angus Smith in rich, perfect harmony. Another interesting tune, Judas and Wenceslas, is an instrumental medley that combines a 14th century Polish dance with a 13th century tune that later became Good King Wenceslas. Martin has a lively and energetic tenor voice and sings the title tune, Thys Yool, dated around 1396, accompanied by psaltery and pipe. The song is a New Year’s resolution, still relevant and timeless: to be a merry man, to put away care and strife, to make what mirth you can, to give your lady all your love. Donna Deam and Lucie Skeaping perform a marvelous duet singing O Virgo Splendens, with repeating choruses that soar and weave around each other. The tune originated in Spain and was found in the 14th century manuscript Llibre Vermeill de Montserrat.

A 28-page booklet is included with song lyrics and original comments from the previous 1988 album issue. The sound quality is excellent.

Bruce McCollum

Sing Today of Joy
Personent Hodie (2:02)
II. Winter and Wassail
Judas and Wenceslas (1:31)
Hyer Matin (5:07)
Miri it is while sumer ilast (1:52)
Man mei longe lives weene (5:26)
Thys Yool (1:03)
Tapster, drynker (1:15)
Ja pour hyver (4:27)
III. A Child is Born
Gabriel from Heven-King (2:26)
Song of the Nuns of Chester (3:11)
Hail Mary full of grace (4:11)
As I lay on Yoolis Night (3:39)
Edi be thu (2:09)
Perperit Virgo (2:49)
IV. Mary Mother, Queen of Heaven
O Virgo Splendens (2:20)
Loor de Santa Maria (1:56)
Polorum Regina (2:57)
Mariam Matrem (2:02)
V. Mary’s Son, Goodwill on Earth
I pray you all (2:09)
There is no rose (4:42)
Caligo Terrae Scinditur (2:01)
Princeps Pacis (3:13)
VI. Rebirth
Mors vitae Propitia (1:17)



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