The Griffin Consort & The Revellers
In a collaborative effort between two Edmonton musical ensembles, The Griffin Consort and The Revellers set out to recreate the good Christmas cheer of European commoners during a period when carols were considered pagan for their secular content. And they succeed because they present one of the only two types of music which intrinsically contain the true spirit of Christmas. One can only be sung by a church choir and the other by a band of wassailers on your front step. With Gloucester Wassail as an opening refrain, Let Christmas Come In solidly sets the latter stage, beckoning you to open your door to the cold night and let in a warm breeze of song.
Warmest of all are Good King Wenceslas and Riu Riu Chiu, two tracks near the end of the CD. The well-known carol is sung a cappella with an upbeat tempo, while the traditional Catalonian song is given a liberal dose of hand-clapping and other percussion.
It's telling that these two versions are vocals-driven. The wonderful harmonies of The Revellers, consisting of four members of African-influenced Juba and one member of Pro-Coro Canada, give this CD its holiday cheer. Their voices continue dancing through your head during the flute, cello and harp interludes of the Griffin Consort.
While the commoners listen to Let Christmas Come In, the nobles may pop A Celebration of Christmas in their stereos. Then they may pop it out again, button on their parkas, and head out into the streets to party with the commoners.
These live selections from a December 1995 concert in Vienna by Jose Carréras, Natalie Cole and Plácido Domingo fail to capture the spirit. The classical portions, like Bizet's Agnus Dei, do their part, because Domingo can belt them out. But more popular tunes, like I'll Be Home For Christmas and The Holly and the Ivy, are so melodramatic you'd never guess Christmas is a joyous holiday. Cole's take on Winter Wonderland is more lively but so conventional it creates little warmth.
Stew Slater, See Magazine