Five centuries, seven languages, and six singers with 35 years of remarkable experience inform this rare collection of choral music. In the world-renowned King's Singers resplendent voices, ancient and modern choral music comes to life with all the blazing immediacy and timeliness of the gospel of the nativity. With 25 pieces of music–ranging from familiar works such as "Coventry Carol" to the obscure Tchaikovsky piece "The Crown of Roses"–the King's Singers move through this hallowed and festive set with the vocal mastery that only three-and-a-half decades of accomplished work together is capable of creating. A number of contemporary carols written in the last century by composers such as John McCabe, Philip Lawson, John Rutter, and others are balanced by pieces by Bach and a host of traditional works. Lawson's "You Are the New Day," performed with a string quartet, stands out as one of the more notable performances. Like most of their music throughout Christmas, it reminds listeners that the art of music often interprets divine aspects gladly realized here on Earth.
Royal Rhymes and Rounds is the King's Singers' contribution to the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in 2012. There are ballads, part songs, madrigals, rounds, and anthems written during the reigns of (and some also in honor of) Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The music from the times of Henry and Elizabeth I is especially strong since it was the era of a flowering of English song, which then lay relatively dormant for several centuries. The composers include such luminaries as William Cornysh, Orlando Gibbons, John Dowland, and Thomas Weelkes, as well as Henry himself, whose rousing ballad Pastime with good companie opens the album. It's in this transparent repertoire that the group sounds its absolute best. The singers' immaculate intonation, focused tone quality, and sensitive musicianship are remarkable.
The Roberta Martin Singers were an African-American gospel group based in the United States. The group was founded in 1933 by Roberta Martin, who in that same year had just become acquainted with gospels music, which was different from the traditional spirituals which were popular at the time. Theodore Frye and Thomas A. Dorsey were directing a junior choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and asked Martin to serve as the accompanist. From this junior choir, Martin selected six young men at random to form a group, Eugene Smith, Norsalus McKissick, Robert Anderson, Willie Webb, James Lawrence, and W.C. Herman. This group was named the Martin and Frye Singers, and in 1936, the group adopted the name of The Roberta Martin Singers. The Roberta Martin Singers (RMS) contained no traditional bass. For a brief period of time, the group was known as the Martin and Martin Singers, when Sallie Martin joined Roberta's group.