Six songsters – three male, three female – consort in concert to present Christmas carolling as a medieval nativity narrative in The Song Company’s swansong for this year, Lully Lulla.
Stock Yule tunes like Silent Night and Away in a Manger are passed over for Christmas canticle ranging from anonymous 15th century compositions to contemporary pieces from local composers including Calvin Bowman, Brian Kogler and David Hood.
According to the programme notes, Lully Lulla comes from the refrain of a Coventry Carol, transcribed, arranged or possibly composed by Thomas Mordycke in 1591 as part of a mediaeval mystery play in which the chilling tale of Herod’s jealous rage is set against the bittersweet lullaby. Dialogue is provided from the Pageant of the Shearman and Tailors and Herod’s horridness is given true hiss the villain rendition, even though the preview audience were too polite do so!
Woven into this programme of medieval, Renaissance and 19th century lyric and music is David Hood’s The Shearer’s Wife, creating a song line between the events of two thousand years ago and the musical celebrations of those events through the millennia, to this place, here and now.
The programme makes joyously informed and liberal use of both The Naxos Book of Carols and The Patmos Book of Carols utilises pertinent William Byrd compositions to bring both acts to conclusion – A Carowle for Christmas Day for Act 1 and, appropriately, Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby to end Act 2, and the evening.
Lully Lulla is contemplative carolling, not the glitz and tinsel borne from Victoriana, with chirpy children and winter wonderland motifs. Artistic director, conductor and character actor, Antony Pitts and his seasoned singers bring a much more coruscating view of the Christmas story, like the medieval mystery plays, a mix of entertainment and edification. Abundant in joy and hope, Lully Lulla nevertheless does not flinch from the themes of asylum seekers and refugees, innocents and perpetrators. An edifying antidote to the mush and slush of Carols by Candlelight.
Lully Lulla previewed at Yellow House, Potts Point, Sydney on Friday November 24 and tours till Saturday December 16. Details at song.company.