Renaissance Faire troubadour Owain Phyfe teamed up with the magical RenFair jam band CANTIGA in 1990 to form The New World Renaissance Band and together they have produced a series of timeless recordings which have become classics. "Live the Legend," their stunning debut recording became a "popular phenomenon" and has been featured on over 90 public radio stations across North America.
Critical praise garnered for "Live the Legend":
"Live the Legend" The New World Renaissance Band is the finest example of Contemporary Renaissance' I know. It's authentic with just enough of a modern touch to evoke all the joy and sorrow which the composers intended."
KUSC Radio, Los Angeles
"What a masterful recording! ...From the music selection, to the actual stunning performances, The New World Renaissance Band has Classic 99 listeners Living The Legend. One Listener said it all with, 'if this is what the Renaissance was all about, quick, somebody get me a time machine!'"
KFUO-FM, St. Louis
"These tunes may be as much as four hundred years old, but they're far from tarnished. Instead, the thirteen songs covering the ecstasy, solace, and heartache of love sparkle like gems in a finely crafted antique necklace----especially with an imaginative ensemble such as the New World Renaissance Band polishing them up. Passion and innocence, elegance and virtue, simplicity and intelligence mingle in a timeless alchemy of emotional relevance that the group's vocalist, Owain Phyfe, describes as "musical chivalry." Phyfe, who also plays the guitarlike vihuela, leads an ensemble that features such modern instruments as violin, viola, cello, and harp as well as the family of Renaissance Flutes known as recorders. The results are immediately striking, increasingly addictive on subsequent listenings, and infinitely refreshing, especially in today's trendy and jaded musical climate."
The New Age Journal
"Huzzah! Music worthy of the noblest king and his court!
"Live the Legend is a must own for romantics and music enthusiasts alike."
---Pawlyn ap Gryffydd.
Phantom Press Publications
Reviewer: Philip Haldeman
(Philip Haldeman is a reviewer of classical music for The American Record Guide.)
"Live the Legend, is the first in a series by The New World Renaissance Band. This group, created by singer Owain Phyfe, has become a popular phenomenon that takes the music and lyrics of Renaissance times and, by not adhering to the strictures of "approved" style, brings the full content and emotion of the compositions right into the lap of the 20th century. As one listener has raved of this album: 'Passion and innocence, elegance and virtue, simplicity and intelligence mingle in a timeless alchemy of emotional relevance.'
The beauty of the album is Phyfe's ability to sincerely communicate a set of songs, many of which lean toward lovely melancholy themes, in a fashion that is instantly recognizable. There is little feeling of historical distance in what he does, though he speaks of his carreer as "musical chivalry." With the exception of a vihuela (an early guitar) he uses modern instruments: recorders, a viola, cello, fiddle, and harp. Will purist object? Who cares? Phyfe is working with this wonderful material on his own terms (and in several languages), and the result is captivating. I'll admit that for someone used to listening to authentic renditions and what is assumed to be a more traditional delivery, it takes a little getting used to. In fact, I kept wracking my brain while listening for the first time, trying to recall which popular singer's voice Phyfe's reminded me of. It took me days to figure it out. (If you buy the album and guess who I mean, I'll respond at email@example.com).
Of course, no one really knows how this music sounded, or what kind of a voice was considered ideal. One shouldn't make too much of Phyfe's differing from traditional authenticity (the modern instruments, his delivery). In no way does he sound like a "pop" singer. He always uses the original lyrics; he has a smooth, finely textured, completely natural voice; and he simply allows the lyrics to breath in today's air, as if they might have been written last week. Thus he spookily reminds us that we all experience the same emotions as the denizens of four centuries ago. All the lyrics are printed in the booklet that comes with the disc.
I'd recommend 'Live the Legend' as a way of expanding one's aesthetic understanding of Shakespeare's time."
Reviewer: Philip Haldeman
Rmerican Record Guide
"A stunning debut release from Owain Phyfe & friends"
"With a voice like chocolate velvet and backed by some of the finest instrumentalists playing on period instruments, Owain Phyfe made the music of the Renaissance available to everyone with this magical debut recording. From the joys to the laments of this unique period in time, his clear vocals and seemingly easy style of delivery regardless the language make every track a joy. The arrangements and recording are marvelous, and I highly recommend this as a very fine addition to anyone's collection, or the perfect introduction to the sound of the true balladeer during the age of chivalry."
Reviewer: PJ. Garner from United States
"...I'm crazy about this band, April 8, 2000
With the choice of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" as a cover picture, you begin to appreciate this group on several levels.
The painting by Sir Frank Dicksee is a visual adaptation of a poem by John Keats. The musical adaptations of this very talented group are equally rich in color and texture. The traditional carol, "Drive The Cold Winter Away", has a freshness and vitality that carries over into all the other songs. Other songs are treated with equal verve and evident passion for early music.
If you must limit your purchases of early music to only the very best, then this is certainly one group to collect.
Reviewer: Maggie Boleyn
The Tudor Times