All the microphone setting, mouse clicking, singing, multitrack singing and playing of guitar goes on while David's cat, oblivious to it all, suns herself behind the curtain, a spiral pattern of which neatly fits between her ears like the head-dress of some Egyptian goddess!
The music chosen for this CD ranges from one of the earliest English pieces known - the canon Summer is icumen in - albeit with some curious improvised harmonies as it progresses, through the Renaissance in France, Italy and England, the classical period in Austria, the baroque in Germany and England and on to the Romantic period in France.
The performer is countertenor David W Solomons, who also multitracks as an entire men's voices choir, ranging from top E in alto to bottom D in bass
Févin's sweet little song about May (It is pleasant to hear the little bird) dates from the end of the 15th Century.
The piece by Guillaume le Heurteur is one of many settings of this song about wine, which may also have political overtones: regional preferences underlying the wines themselves. The light red (vin clairet) makes my head spin ….
Loyset Compère's "Nous sommes de l'ordre de Saint Babouyn" is a satirical song about monks whose order (Saint Baboon) allows them to get up to all manner of gluttony and fleshly enjoyment, quite a contrast to the poverty of most of the inhabitants of France after years of war.
"Si la noche hace oscura" (= if the night is dark) is the first of the songs for guitar and solo alto voice, a sad lament in Spanish where the singer asks why her lover does not come since the night is already fallen and the path is short.
"Se j'ay parlé" (= if I have spoken) is one of Sermisy's satirical songs - he claims that his bad words about poor religious ladies were, after all mistaken and he is sorry. (Yeah, sure! The music suggests otherwise methinks….)
"Kemp's dance" is one of Weelke's lighter pieces and describes the famous dance that the actor and clown Will Kemp (who belonged to Shakespeare's troupe) performed all the way from London to Norwich - or in the case of this song actually into France!
"April is in my mistress face" by Morley is one of the best known early madrigals of the English Renaissance and owes much to the earlier madrigals of Italy. The concetto is that the seasons can be seen from the attitudes of the beloved lady.
"My bonny lass" also by Morley includes the almost ubiquitous "fa la la " refrain beloved of madrigalists and satirised so neatly in later centuries.
"Sweet Suffolk Owl" - appropriately set by another "bird" Thomas Vautour (vulture!), is a beautiful evocation of the owl ruffling its feathers. Be warned, however, don't make the mistake that our choir (not the dwsChorale) once made: we sang it by request under the window of a dying lady only to hesitate when we realised too late that we were about to sing "…and sings a dirge for dying souls"!
There follows a John Dowland "sandwich": "What if I never speed" for solo voice and guitar, a madrigal and then another of his solo songs.
The Ave verum is possibly Byrd's most famous motets followed it by his cradle song, which David has arranged for guitar and voice.
Sicut Cervus takes us to Renaissance Italy, "as the hart desireth the waterbrook…" and we leave the Renaissance with a Christmas motet from the German composer Hassler: Verbum caro factum est - the word became flesh.
The Baroque is represented by oratorios by two great German composers Handel and Haydn. David has started with his favourite solo from the Messiah, "But who may abide" and then gone back into choral mode for the Hallelujah chorus. The Heavens are telling comes, of course from Haydn's The Creation (Die Schöpfung) and gives the one man choir an opportunity to split into chorus and solos .
Mozart's Kyrie à 5 is a curious five voice movement originally written for five soprano soloists in canon. This performance (transposed for altos) marks the very first "appearance" of the dwsChorale, being performed back in 1989, using a four-track cassette recorder. Those were the days!
Dido's lament is also an early recording and uses somewhat unusual instrumentation, the cello sound being represented by a synthesized creation sounding a little like a tromba marina. It has been included in this collection because the solo alto performance is particularly moving.
By contrast, Die Forelle (The trout), is somewhat humorous in its interpretation since the piano part is replaced by samples of the soloist's voice, giving the impression of the flowing bubbling stream in which the fish swims. This is followed by another of Schubert's songs Heidenröslein - little rose on the heath, and then a choral love song "Ständchen" - my songs flow gently to you through the night.
The two choral songs by Ravel are satirical and humorous - N'allez pas au bois d'Ormonde lists all the evil spirits in the wood which the young should avoid a very long a complex list, requiring great dexterity on the part of the singer(s)!, but not to worry: the old folk who give these warnings have actually frightened all the spirits away, so there's no point in going to the woods after all!
Nicolette is a not-so-innocent young maiden who chooses money over love.
Après un rêve is David's arrangement for guitar and solo voice of Fauré's beautiful song about awaking from a dream but wishing to stay back in the dream.
The meeting of the waters is also an arrangement for guitar and voice of a traditional Irish song, originally written by Thomas Moore.
Finally, returning to the distant past but looking out to the future, the dwsChorale treats us to an unusual rendition of the traditional English canon Sumer is i-cumen in, in which the harmonies become more complex as it proceeds.