If life is determined by a series of happy accidents, then somebody upstairs was beaming long and hard the day the Carnival Band happened across Maddy Prior. Beginning as a one-off experiment for a Radio 2 Christmas Special,
their collaboration has become a long term concern lasting over twenty years and counting. Despite forays into other musical styles and influences, it has been their unique approach to Christmas music that has proved the enduring theme of their work together. Their semi-regular Yuletide live show has become the highlight of many a seasonal period, featuring festive favourites played on medieval and modern
2007 however will see the pairing embark in a new direction. Ringing The Changes is an apt title for an album that sees them eschew their usual approach of adapting music from earlier centuries in favour of all self penned material. Though still a Christmas record in the tradition of Carols And Capers and A Tapestry Of Carols, this is an album that takes a look at all aspects of what the season means today.
Thus there is the Jamaican gospel of ‘Wake Up!’ and the beautiful introspection of ‘Bright Evening Star’, both dealing with the traditional story of the virgin birth. ‘Stuff!’ (featuring a guest turn from Monty Python’s Terry Jones) looks at the thoroughly modern custom of retail frenzy and panic buying. Elsewhere there is more rumination on the nature of the season and a rich musical landscape that includes medieval and folk music, as well as a Latin text set to a Cuban rhythm.
The result is a collection of contemporary reflections on the festive season with fresh musical ideas to match. Christmas is always changing – you could argue whether for better of for worse – but these songs show that amid the frantic materialism, the fragility of family life and the questioning of beliefs there is still room for quiet contemplation, generosity, awe and wonder, a pint and a carol or two.
1: Wake Up!
2: Blue Pearl
3: Bright Evening Star
4: Carol (There was a Boy)
5: Lachrimae Amoris
6: The Gift
8: Bring us in Good Ale
9: Ring the Bell, Watchman!
10: The Changing Face of Christmas
11: The Quiet Way Home
13: The Undefeated Sun
14: A Latin Latin Christmas