While shepherds watched
Christmas Music from English Parish Churches, 1740–1830

A Christmas record with a difference! This jolly disc revives the little-known tradition of 'gallery music', suppressed by the Oxford Movement in early Victorian times because it was too cheerful. The title track, for instance, is sung to the tune of 'On Ilkley Moor baht 'at'. Some of the tunes, and almost all of the texts, will be familiar, and all fifteen works vitally capture the enthusiasm of an age newly emerging from a century which had seen Puritanical rejection of the pomp of Christmas, a time, indeed, when 'While shepherds watched' had been the only Christmas hymn tolerated by the Church of England.

The performances on this recording are not meant to be an exact reconstruction of the way these pieces might have been performed by particular church or chapel choirs at the time; it would be futile to try to reproduce the low standards of ensemble and intonation reported in many contemporary descriptions of country choirs. In general, we have tried to find a performing style that draws on the best practice of the time, and matches the directness and vigour of much of the music. The vocal group Psalmody was formed especially for this recording and consists of professional singers, teachers and students drawn mainly from the Colchester area.

CDH55325  66 minutes 13 seconds
‘A Christmas collection of genuine novelty’ (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)
‘Good rousing stuff’ (Classic CD)