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C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz, December 2004

"The tradition of Christmas carols is as old as Christianity itself and has given rise to many other related holiday traditions. The English have been instrumental in the evolution of carols and caroling, uniting them and Biblical Lessons into programs (as Benjamin Britten did in A Ceremony of Carols, for trumpet, voices & harp, Op. 28 in 1942). Over the past two millennia, new pieces have been added to the Christmas canon with confident regularity. Again, the British have been at the forefront of this evolution, with Christmas standards being provided by everyone from Thomas Tallis and John Taverner to John Rutter and John Tavener. With respect to this, Naxos Records commissioned an Advent Sequence of Carols from Antony Pitts and his very talented group, Tonus Peregrinus. Pitts took his commission—and using 23 canonical carols and one of his own, rearranged them, re-realized them, and grouped them into four sequences, each focusing on a different portion of the Christmas story. These arrangements are intended for widespread use and, for the most part; do not stray from the soprano, alto, tenor, baritone paradigm. The four sequences are divided on thematic lines. "The Hope" is made up of five carols highlighting the thematic dichotomy of Advent—the hope of the Messiah and the glory to Reign. "The Message" is comprised of seven carols announcing Christ's conception and birth. The six carols of "The Baby" sequence detail Luke's Second Chapter account of the birth, while the final "King of Kings" focuses on adoration of the Divine. Collectively, this sequence of carols is almost an assembled oratorio, expertly dissolved in the Spirit."



Sara Bryan Miller
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 1999

"A talented British octet called Tonus Peregrinus ("wandering tone") provides an idiosyncratic collection of 24 carols and hymns. The content is divided into four sections: "The Hope" (Advent music), "The Message" (a catch-all that combines "The Holly and the Ivy" with Praetorius), "The Baby" (self-explanatory) and "The King of Kings" (another catch-all). It's all arranged by director Antony Pitts (except for an uninspiring piece that Pitts composed), with mostly good results . . . if you're ready for a different approach, it has some interesting and worthwhile moments."




David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com

If you're very comfortable with your favorite Christmas carol choral arrangements, be prepared to adjust your ears and your sensibility as you listen to these newly commissioned--and sometimes very different--settings by Antony Pitts (who also happens to be a composer, radio producer, and the conductor of the vocal ensemble Tonus Peregrinus). Although Pitts strove to honor the original tunes and to preserve certain familiar aspects of carol singing forms and customs, he wasn't afraid to shake tradition with new harmonies and a few unusual melodies. Of course, how many ways can you harmonize "Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming" and still have it recognizable and singable? Pitts chooses not to tinker very much with this beloved hymn, instead substituting a completely different translation ("Lo, there a Rose is blooming") set to very familiar harmony, gradually introducing dissonances and changing the texture, carefully ornamenting the non-melodic lines. Other pieces are more daring--the melismatic inner parts and flatted sevenths in "While shepherds watched", for example, or the stark, open, fourth- and fifth-oriented harmonies in "O come, o come, Emmanuel".

. . . At the Naxos budget price, it's a great buy and, if you're interested, the arrangements are available online."






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5:33:06 PM, 21 December 2014
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