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In 1600 Shakespeare’s former clown Will Kemp danced a morris from London to Norwich in nine days and then published a self-glorifying account of his feat as Kemps nine daies wonder. He needed the publicity, since he’d just parted company from the Bard.

Although only two pieces on the album refer directly to Kemp – the country dance ‘Kemp’s Jig’ and Weelkes’s madrigal ‘Since Robin Hood’ – this anthology of popular music from the time proves highly entertaining; vigorous, toe-tapping performances emerge at the start from a background of birdsong and morris dancers’ jingling bells. The boisterous mood gives way to a more reflective middle section that includes such favourites as Dowland’s ‘Can she excuse my wrongs’ and ‘Sorrow, sorrow, stay’.

Among the ensemble’s ‘strange instruments’ are the nyckelharpa (a Swedish bowed hurdy-gurdy), Hardanger fiddle and jew’s harp, all played with virtuosity alongside familiar wind, string and percussion instruments of the Renaissance. There is nothing folksy or artificial about the mixing of strange and ancient; satisfying textures combined with excellent recording quality bring the music vividly to life. And how refreshing to hear singing that focuses on the words, without a polite veneer of conservatoire or choral scholarship training.

Jeremy Barlow Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing