England is a funny old mixture when it comes to our musical history; there are teeny pockets of greatness interspersed by whopping great periods of drought. Eighteenth-century London may have been a musical Mecca, but its two stars were really anglophile Germans: Handel and JC Bach. So, we can really puff out our chests when it comes to the music of the Tudor and Elizabethan courts; it is wonderful, and it is indisputably English.
I Heard A Voice has Kings College Choir singing unaccompanied and accompanied anthems by Thomas Weelkes, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins. This being one of the UK's top choirs doing what they do best, you're not going to fall off your seats with surprise when I say that they've done a smashing job, and it would be a bit pointless of me to waste ink expounding the virtues of their faultless interpretation etc. etc. Of course it is good. The reason I'm bothering to review this at all that the choir has collaborated with the viol consort, Fretwork. Their presence is the real strength of this disc. Viol playing had been part of musical education since Henry VIII had engaged a viol consort in 1540, and the choristers at Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral would have all received lessons. So, this disc gives us a far better idea of the sound world of these three composers than is often offered on choral anthem collections.
Time for the whistle-stop tour. The composers are featured in date order, starting with Weelkes (hard to believe that the composer of the reverent When David Heard was dismissed as Chichester Cathedral organist for drunkenness and profanity of language), moving on to Gibbons with favourites including the stately O Clap Your Hands, and finishing with Tomkins, including a lovely 6-part Fantasy for viols.
If you're a fan of Kings College Choir then you'll love this, and pairing up with Fretwork was an extremely effective move.