A Vaughan Williams Christmas Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, William Vann, Hugh RowlandsALBCD035 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
The singing on this disc from the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea under director William Vann is quite polite, gentle and refined, as opposed to passionate and exciting – not that there is anything wrong with that whatsoever, and in fact it suits these lovely carols pretty well. The disc opens with eight traditional English carols arranged by Vaughan Williams, some of them well-known (On Christmas Night, Down in Yon Forest, The Truth sent from Above and The Wassail Song), and others less familiar (The Twelve Apostles, May Day Carol, And All in the Morning, and The Birth of the Saviour). These are followed by the world premiere recording of two carols: the rather gorgeous Come Love We God (a Vaughan Williams arrangement of an old German carol) and There is a Flower, a setting using a free translation by Ursula and a four-part harmony by Praetorius. Then there are five carols from The Oxford Book of Carols, of which Vaughan Williams and Martin Shaw were musical editors and which featured a number of new tunes, including four by Vaughan Williams, included here after O Little Town of Bethlehem: The Golden Carol, Rocking Hymn, Snow in the Street and Blake’s Cradle Song. The disc concludes with nine carols for male voices, all arrangements by Vaughan Williams of a mixture of familiar and perhaps less well-known pieces, from God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen through The First Nowell and The Coventry Carol to I Saw Three Ships. The disc is nicely presented with good and informative notes, texts and a very attractive cover. A highly enjoyable release all round.
Nocturnal Jakob Lindberg HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
This beautifully-produced disc (as one would expect from BIS) opens with five different works by Anthony Holborne, and Jakob Lindberg captures their contrasting atmospheres very well indeed – the playing is wonderfully sensitive, responsive and evocative. Next are works by the sixteenth-century composers Edward Collard (court composer to Queen Elizabeth after John Johnson), Daniel Bacheler and John Danyel (brother of the poet Samuel Danyel). After these, three anonymous pieces from an early seventeenth-century manuscript are short but beautiful, the first – The Flowers of the Forest - being especially interesting with its strong Scottish feel. Byrd’s tender Lullaby is in an arrangement by the sixteenth-century Francis Cutting, and precedes Britten’s Nocturnal, after John Dowland in a setting for lute by Lindberg himself. This works extremely well, which is not surprising, given that Julian Bream noted of the work that Britten “obviously still had the sound of the lute in his head” when he composed it. To round off the disc, six works by John Dowland are followed by three by John Johnson, culminating, appropriately enough, in Good Night and Good Rest. Overall, this is an excellent disc containing a lovely, well-thought-through programme, and superbly executed.
Holst Orchestral Works BBC Philharmonic, Sir Andrew Davis, Guy Johnston CHSA 5192 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
These are extremely good recordings of some of Holst’s fabulous but all-too-often overlooked orchestral works. The disc opens with the wonderfully atmospheric A Winter Idyll, and moves on to the lovely Cotswolds Symphony, both early works. Sir Andrew Davis gets a good sense of freshness from the BBC Philharmonic, and the playing is incisive, energetic, and spirited, while the recorded sound is also good – very clear. Guy Johnston then joins the orchestra as the soloist in Invocation, and gives a suitably impassioned account of this work. The Moorside Suite is presented in the composer’s own string orchestral version, and here the BBC Philharmonic creates a beautifully lush, warm string sound, while Indra is then given a wonderfully dramatic performance. The disc concludes with an excellent performance of Scherzo, which was completed just before Holst died in 1934. Wonderful stuff, and highly recommended.
Sir Arthur Bliss The Beatitudes BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis, Emily Birsan, Ben Johnson CHSA 5191 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
In his magnificent The Beatitudes, Arthur Bliss interspersed the nine Beatitudes from the Gospel According to St Matthew with mystical poems by the seventeenth-century poets Henry Vaughan, George Herbert, and Jeremy Taylor, and the twentieth-century Dylan Thomas. The result is thrilling, dramatic and, in places, apocalyptic. The BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis is excellent here, including some superb short orchestral solos. The BBC Symphony Chorus is less secure: there is a fair amount of strain in the voices, and their pitch is not always spot-on. Soprano soloist Emily Birsan and tenor Ben Johnson are fine, and altogether this is a good performance of this wonderful work. It is followed by the Introduction and Allegro, written after Bliss had heard and been tremendously impressed by the discipline and virtuosity of Leopold Stokowski’s Philadelphia Orchestra. This is dedicated to Stokowski, who gave the American premiere after Bliss had conducted the world premiere at a Promenade Concert in 1926. This recording features good, incisive playing from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in a very sound rendition of this work. It is also a lovely touch that the disc concludes with Bliss’s arrangement of God Save the Queen, made for chorus and orchestra in 1969.
Elgar The Music Makers; The Spirit of England BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Andrew Davis, Sarah Connolly, Andrew Staples CHSA 5215
This is another excellent production from Chandos, with Sir Andrew Davis again conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The Music Makers comes first, with Dame Sarah Connolly as the mezzo soprano soloist. She is very good – her mature, rich, plummy voice is ideal for this work, and her diction and enunciation are excellent. The chorus are pretty good in the latter department too, and although they do struggle with higher notes in places, this is not as obvious as on the Bliss disc reviewed above. There is a real sense of excitement created by the performers – for example, in ‘And therefore to-day is thrilling.’ The high standards of enunciation continue in The Spirit of England, with the chorus very impressive in this respect, while tenor Andrew Staples also has excellent diction. He has a nice, open sound and never strangulates on the higher notes (as can quite easily happen!). This is overall a good release with excellent and well-produced booklet notes, including a most interesting table of the quotations from Elgar’s other compositions that feature in The Music Makers.
Finzi Cello Concerto; Eclogue; New Year Music; Grand Fantasia and Toccata BBC Symphony Orchestra; Sir Andrew Davis; Paul Watkins; Louis Lortie CHSA 5214
Here is a very fine performance of Finzi’s lovely Cello Concerto, with Paul Watkins as the soloist and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis: a passionate, intense first movement, and an especially gorgeous tender, lilting opening to the second movement. The recorded sound has a nice clarity, which is particularly obvious in the beginning of the gloriously ebullient third movement. The Concerto is followed by Eclogue, with Louis Lortie the excellent piano soloist in both this and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata. The disc also includes a wonderful rendition of Nocturne (New Year Music). Overall a very attractive programme, superbly delivered by all involved.
Parry Symphony No. 4 BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales; Rumon Gamba CHAN 10994
The original 1889 version of Parry’s Fourth Symphony is presented here as premiered at St James’s Hall by Hans Richter, prior to Parry’s 1909 revision. It is a spirited and joyful work, here given an excellent performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. It is followed by Proserpine, Parry’s only ballet score. This was commissioned by fellow composer Norman O’Neill --then director of the Haymarket Theatre in London-- as part of the Keats-Shelley Festival, which had been set up by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association (of which Parry was a patron) to raise funds in order to purchase the house in which Keats had died in Rome. The piece sets Shelley’s Song of Proserpine While Gathering Flowers on the Plain of Enna, sung here by the ladies of the BBC National chorus of Wales. This is a gentle, romantic and dancing work – charming. The Suite Moderne is a four-movement work written for the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival in 1886, where it was given an unconventional premiere: Parry, conducting, was not provided with a baton, and so, as he recalled in his diary, had to “begin with an umbrella and go on with a walking stick!” We are here given only three movements, with no reason as to why one has been omitted: the booklet comments that “the three movements included on this recording reflect the strong emphasis on distinctive thematic material.” Is it possible that the fourth movement was not deemed as strong, or could there be a more prosaic reason –that an error was made in the planning of the disc when calculating the timings, and it was only afterwards realised that all four movements would not fit (as it is, the disc runs to seventy-five minutes)? In any case, it is a real shame, given how attractive and sparkling the Suite is.
Fanfares Onyx Brass, John Wilson CHSA 5221
This disc contains fifty-eight tracks, comprising almost exclusively fanfares, many of them by important English composers. These include Howells (one fanfare), Malcolm Arnold (five), Bliss (thirteen), Tippett (two), Bantock (one), Coates (one), Haydn Wood (seven), Ketelbey (seven), Harty (one), Frederick Curzon (three), Lutyens (one), Bax (seven), and Imogen Holst (two). She is also the composer of the only non-fanfare work on the disc, the Leiston Suite for two trumpets, trombone and tuba. One can see why the latter was included – it has a very fanfare-like opening, although it is a nice little piece overall and a good addition to the disc. Otherwise, one does get slightly fanfare-d out. Stand-out fanfares include Bliss’s Homage to Shakespeare, based as it is on a musical phrase by John Wilbye; Bliss’s 1944 Fanfare in Honour of Sir Henry Wood’s 75th Birthday; the weird and wonderful Tippett Wolf Trap Fanfare; and Imogen Holst’s Fanfare for Thaxted for flute, two trumpets and bells. I also found the Ketelbey fanfares to be among the most innovative and interesting. Bax’s are good, too, while Lutyens’s Fanfare for a Festival is the most lengthy and discordant of all these works.
Rawsthorne and other rarities Solem String Quartet, Clare Wilkinson, Peter Lawson, John Turner, Mark Rowlinson dda 25169
This claims to be a disc of rarities, and it certainly is that! It opens with Rawsthorne’s rather wacky Chamber Cantata, performed by harpsichordist Harvey Davies, the Solem String Quartet (whose ensemble leaves something to be desired) and mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson, who here adopts a rather harsh and abrasive tone that suits the music very well. I can truly say that this is like no other Rawsthorne piece that I’ve ever heard, and I’m a devoted fan! Next we are presented with a somewhat bitty programme, interspersing more substantial works with much smaller and shorter pieces, such as Halsey Stevens’s short and equally strange Sonata Piacevole for recorder (John Turner) and harpsichord, and a number of other short pieces by Karel Janovicky, Donald Waxman, Sir Arthur Bliss, Malcolm Lipkin and David Ellis. Of these works, two stand head and shoulders above the others: firstly, Vaughan Williams’s The Willow Whistle of 1939, for treble voice and bamboo pipe (Turner again), is a real rarity and fascinating to hear; secondly, Basil Deane’s The Rose Tree, which was left unfinished on his death and completed by Raymond Warren. This is a very atmospheric work, and Clare Wilkinson’s very breathy tone enhances its early music feel. Of the more substantial pieces, Rawsthorne’s masterpiece Practical Cats is here in, alas, an arrangement for piano, which for me is just too pale compared with the full orchestral version, and Rawsthorne’s String Quartet in B minor is sadly too scrappily played by the Solem String Quartet, who are simply not together enough. This is a pity, as the second movement of this lovely work brings some much-needed lightness to the disc. The booklet notes are good, with plenty of information and photographs.
Eugene Goossens The Apocalypse The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, The Sydney Philharmonic Choir, Myer Fredman SRCD.371 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Gosh. What a work. What an amazing work! This oratorio by Eugene Goossens sets The Revelation of St John for large orchestra (including two harps, celesta, piano, organ and wind machine), double choir, boys’ choir, brass bands, recorder ensemble and six soloists. It’s a big work, and a gloriously noisy one, too. There is a fair amount of bitonality going on, with hints of John Foulds and Stravinsky, and lots of rhythmic complexity, with rhythmic and melodic cells juxtaposed and used sequentially – very appropriate devices, bearing in mind the subject matter of disintegration and fragmentation. The result is thrilling and exciting – exhilarating and hair-raising, even. Here the work is presented in a live recording from the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House in 1982, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. There is a fair amount of audience noise, but don’t let that put you off. The writing is very demanding for all concerned, but the entire ensemble copes extremely well indeed. With his very low bottom D natural, Gregory Yurisich succeeds excellently in the role of “A Great Voice” --although he is listed as a baritone, not a bass, oddly enough-- while Grant Dickinson as John the Evangelist is listed as a bass but sounds more like a baritone to me. He is also excellent, with, in particular, superb enunciation: you can hear every word. That the disc is nicely presented is simply a further bonus. There are very good notes by Rob Barnett, texts (but no artist biographies, sadly), and a highly appropriate William Blake cover image. Great stuff. Hats off to the ABC!
British Orchestral Premieres Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Orion Symphony Orchestra, Karelia State Philharmonic Orchestra REAM 2139
This four-disc set presents works previously issued on Cameo Classics, although the presentation here is of a far higher standard, including attractively laid out and extensive booklet notes along with composer photographs (but still no artist biographies whatsoever). The works themselves are thoroughly worth hearing, and it is of great importance that recordings of them are made available. However, the standards of playing leave something to be desired, and one fears that the original recordings were made on the cheap.
The first disc opens with Somervell’s magnificent Thalassa Symphony, with Michael Laus conducting the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. The sound is exceedingly muddy and, sadly, the orchestra is not really up to scratch. This is followed by Cyril Scott’s weird and wonderful Harpsichord Concerto, while Maurice Blower’s pastoral and romantic Eclogue for Horn and Strings concludes the disc –the latter is a nice work, well played by Jose Garcia Gutierrez on the horn.
Frederick Kelly’s rather gorgeous Serenade for Flute, Harp, Horn and Strings opens the second disc, followed by Maurice Blower’s Concerto for Horn and Strings and Walter Gaze Cooper’s Concertino for Oboe and Strings. John McDonough is the soloist in this, as well as in Robin Milford’s lovely Suite for Oboe and Strings, which makes an excellent finisher for the disc.
The strong opening to the third disc— Alexander Mackenzie’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci– is unfortunately let down by ropey orchestral playing that lacks precision, ensemble, and good intonation. With the next work, we leave Michael Laus and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra for the Karelia State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marius Stravinsky, in a performance of Dorothy Howell’s symphonic poem Lamia. It is followed by Howell's Piano Concerto in D minor with Toby Purser conducting the Orion Symphony Orchestra, probably the best orchestra featured on this set. They also perform the final work on this disc, Out of the Mist, by another female composer, Lilian Elkington.
The fourth and final disc features Holbrooke’s Pantomime Suite with the Malta Philharmonic again, and his Variations on ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ with the Karelia State Philharmonic. The disc concludes with Maurice Blower’s Symphonyin C, also with Karelia. I found the fourth disc less satisfying than the previous ones: not even Holbrooke’s works are as strong as those by Somervell, Mackenzie, Kelly and Milford. On the whole, this an important release, but it is a great shame that better orchestras were not used when Cameo originally recorded the pieces.
An Evening Hymn Anton Batagov MEL CD 10 02533
Early English composers are presented on this disc from the Russian label Melodir, with works by Purcell, Dowland, Byrd, Bull and other anonymous sixteenth century composers, all arranged for piano. The booklet comprises not a single word of text, and consists purely of landscape photographs. Very nice and atmospheric, no doubt, but it would be good to know the motivation behind the disc, and something about the works and performer at least! The works are all extremely well played and range in style from the energetic and jolly –Purcell’s Chacone in G and Bull’s Galiarda--to the more meditative, introspective and melancholic, such as Bull’s In Nomine, Purcell’s Rondo in D, and the opening anonymous A Galyarde. I enjoyed listening to this disc far more than I had expected (the piano would not have been my first choice of instrument for these works). The pieces chosen are all very original, tuneful and interesting, so as a whole the disc works pretty well.
William Sterndale Bennett Sextet in F sharp major; Chamber Trio; String Quartet in GVilliers Quartet, Jeremy Young, Leon Bosch 8.571379
Containing three chamber works by William Sterndale Bennett, of which one – the String Quartet in G major – is a world premiere recording, this is an important release. In the first work on the disc, the Sextet in F sharp minor, the Villiers Quartet is joined by double bassist Leon Bosch and pianist Jeremy Young, who shines in the work’s very soloistic role for piano. The following Chamber Trio is quite delightful, featuring Young along with violinist James Dickenson and cellist Nick Stringfellow from the Quartet, while the disc concludes with the String Quartet in G major. All the works are full of charm, lyricism and beauty, a delight to listen to. The sound, however, is lacking – rather boxy, but also quite harsh and flat, almost nasal in the String Quartet. Although the ensemble isn’t always spot-on, the performances are otherwise of a high standard, and it is good to have recordings of these lovely works.
Tea for Two Les Frivolites Parisiennes8.573973
I have to admit myself slightly disappointed in this disc. It is sub-titled Paris-London – Songs and Chansons from the Belle Époque to the Roaring Twenties, and it presents a range of works, from the much-loved Haydn Wood Roses of Picardy and Jerome Kern’s Some Sort of Somebody through to less familiar pieces and even some world premieres. It opens with the eponymous Tea for Two (the world premiere recording of this particular arrangement), the performance of which sets the tone for the rest of the disc: rather on the slow side and not quite free and jazzy enough. The singers on the disc, Clementine Decouture and Philippe Brocard, feel too “classical” to fully make these pieces work: their sense of rhythm is too precise and literal, and there isn’t enough flexibility in their singing. Brocard’s enunciation is also not quite clear enough –in Gold and Blue and White, for instance, one simply can’t make out the words. The intonation of the Frivol’Ensemble's string players isn’t quite perfect, either. Two of the most successful numbers on the disc are Maurice Yvain’s Je chante la nuit, which I very much enjoyed, and the closing, up-beat, Grace LeBoy Everybody Rag with Me, but some of the others come across slightly dreary and lacking in energy.
Music for Brass Septet Elgar, Finzi, Parry, Walton Septura8.573825
Here we have “reimaginings” of works by English composers for brass septet, with arrangements made by trumpet player Simon Cox and trombonist Mathew Knight. My problem with this release is that sonority and attack are so different between string and brass instruments. This means that Elgar’s Serenade in E minor simply doesn’t work for brass, and in the opening Finzi God is Gone Up, the listener is confronted by a gaping hole when the expected choir does not enter –all wrong. As well as these two works, the disc also includes Finzi’s Prelude in F minor and Romance in E flat major, excerpts from Parry’s Songs of Farewell, and the most substantial piece on the disc, Walton’s Sonata for String Orchestra. I hate to say that this doesn’t work, since the transcriptions are good and the playing is beautiful – it certainly demonstrates the lyrical and romantic side of brass-- but overall the impression is that there simply is not enough material here for the forces mustered. It might perhaps be advisable to commission some new works for brass, instead of transcribing from a genre that is simply too different.
Coates conducts Coates Eric Coates NI7106 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
You really can’t go wrong with Eric Coates, especially when he is conducting his own works, and this two-disc set draws together some of his finest recordings from between 1926 and 1957. This is finely-crafted music in excellent performances from the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra, the New Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, the New Symphony Orchestra, and the Light Symphony Orchestra. The set includes many well-loved favourites – such as Calling All Workers and By the Sleepy Lagoon-- as well some pieces that might be new to listeners. Overall, a delight.
Sir Hubert Parry Twelve Sets of English Lyrics, Volume III Sarah Fox, Roderick Williams, Andrew West SOMMCD 272 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
This third volume in SOMM’s Parry songs series is as wonderful as the previous releases. It opens with the exuberant, radiant My Heart is Like a Singing Bird with Sarah Fox – a superb beginning. I have to confess that I find Fox’s vibrato just a little excessive for my personal taste, but this is a subjective opinion and I cannot fault her technique or communication –certainly her enunciation is excellent, as, of course, is that of her fellow singer, the peerless Roderick Williams. Other stand-out songs include Thine Eyes Still Shined For Me and Whence, a truly wonderful piece and exquisitely sung. This is a really good disc all round, with a lovely programme, gorgeous songs, outstanding performances from all involved, and an excellent booklet and presentation throughout. The Glory and the Dream: Choral music by Richard Rodney BennettRoyal Birmingham Conservatoire Choir, Paul SpicerSOMMCD 0184 This rather lovely disc opens with the carol I Wonder as I Wander, which immediately strikes a tone of quiet beauty, reflection and lyricism, while the performers – the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Choir under their director Paul Spicer-- make an impact with the freshness of their voices. This is followed by two more carols, Lullaby Baby and The Sorrows of Mary, also gorgeous little works, especially the former, which is ravishing. Other works on the disc combine dissonance with lyricism in a modern yet nevertheless accessible way. The most substantial work is the four-movement The Glory and the Dream for mixed voices and organ, setting texts from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, written to commission from the New Cambridge Singers and first performed in the chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge in 2001. It is a composition full of mysticism and radiance. All the works contained on the disc are here given their world premiere recordings (except for The Glory and the Dream) and all are definitely worth hearing. On the whole a most interesting and appealing disc of lovely works, well performed.
In Remembrance Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea SOMCD 0187
The singing is good from the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea on this disc of works drawn together by the theme of war and the remembrance of lives lost. The Choir’s enunciation is excellent, and there is a good sense of spirit. However, there is a lack of unity, especially when they are joined by the Chelsea Pensioners' Choir (in Parry’s Jerusalem, Charles Harris’s O Valiant Hearts and Holst’s I Vow To Thee, My Country): the sound becomes too unblended. The disc opens with John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man, and also includes Elgar’s They Are at Rest, Parry’s There is An Old Belief and Stanford’s Justorum animae. I was especially touched by For the Fallen by Douglas Guest (best known as the Organist Emeritus at Westminster Abbey) – a beautiful and deeply moving little gem. There are also two arrangements on the disc, of Holst’s Ode to Death and Faure’s Requiem, both made by Iain Farrington for organ and choir, and the recording concludes with a powerful, intense and emotional short work by Ian Venables, Requiem aeternam, an excellent finisher to a strong release.
Bantock Rediscovered Maria Marchants SOMMCD 0183
This disc consists entirely of world premiere recordings of Sir Granville Bantock's piano music, played by Maria Marchant, and amounting to some twenty-three individual pieces. This is music of gentle charm and romantic beauty, variously serious and introspective, quixotic and light-hearted, or stormy and passionate. Stand-out works include the atmospheric Cloisters at Midnight and the highly enjoyable Two Scottish Pieces: The Hills of Glenorchy and The Bobers of Brechin. The Twelve Piano Pieces were collected and published in 1897 and form the second half of the programme. They are preceded by the symphonic overture Saul, which was published in both orchestral and solo piano versions. The playing from Marchant is sympathetic and sensitive – a very good disc all round.
The Darkest Midnight – Songs of Winter and Christmas Papagena SOMMCD 0189
This disc opens with an arrangement by soprano Suzzie Vango from the all-female group Papagena of a traditional Irish Christmas song, which sets the scene for a disc of atmospheric and sometimes magical music in striking, hushed, and beautiful performances. It ranges not just over centuries (from the thirteenth-century carol Angelus ad Virginem through to contemporary composer Don MacDonald’s When the Earth Stands Still) but also countries, from England, France and Germany, via Norway to the Ukraine. (The traditional Ukrainian song, Shchedryk, is quite jolly, with gorgeous close harmonies and imitations of bells). There is also a wide range of styles, from searingly beautiful mediaeval carols through to Joni Mitchell songs. The group have a breathy style which suits some of these works quite well. Their singing is generally pretty sound, although there is the occasional lapse in intonation. The arrangements are mostly also very good, although I took exception to two: Gaudete and In dulci Jubilo. In Suzzie Vango’s version of Gaudete there are two opening short, sharp 'Gaudete's that precede and then are sung over the traditional carol. Musically, this works very well, but the problem is that in the performance these come across as full of tension, anxiety and sternness, very far from the rejoicing that they mean, and which the whole carol advocates. Also, when there is a carol so perfect as In dulci Jubilo, why muck about with it, as in Matthew Culloton’s arrangement? The following arrangement (by alto Sarah Tenant-Flowers) of the traditional German carol Es ist ein Ros entsprungen is far more sensitively done. These minor criticisms aside, this is a very good disc and makes for an enjoyable and different offering from the usual Christmas fare.--Em Marshall-Luck