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The Rowallan Consort
Notes of Noy, Notes of Joy is the debut release by the Rowallan Consort, an early-music duo that takes its name from a 17th-century Scottish lute manuscript. Formed in 1994, the Consort features Robert Phillips on lute and William Taylor on clarsach (wire-strung harp); on Notes of Noy, subtitled Early Scottish Music for Lute, Clarsach and Voice, the pair are joined by vocalists Mhairi Lawson and Paul Rendall. Like much early music, Notes of Noy represents a work of scholarship as well as musicianship: The disc’s liner notes are so detailed as to require extensive footnotes. The pair unearthed a great deal of the disc’s music themselves, and much of it is recorded here for the first time. (The “noy” [sadness] and “joy” of the disc’s title refer to two ancient musical categorizations in Scotland—intriguingly, the third is “sleep music.”) Almost magically evocative of time and place, Notes of Noy is a sort of 17th Century’s Greatest Hits; its opening tracks, “Come my Children, dere” and “Joy to the personne of my love,” are two of the most popular Scottish songs of the era. Though its focus is on the delicate, chiming interplay of lute and clarsach, most of the disc’s tracks feature Lawson and Rendall’s sumptuous vocals. Fortunately, both sing beautifully enough to temper the woe of such typically doleful lyrics as, “Streke hom swet death and stope my vitall breath/Whear life breedes care theire no-thinge swet but death.” Released by Scotland’s Temple Records—which customarily specializes in indigenous bagpipe and fiddle music—Notes of Noy is being distributed in the U.S. by Flying Fish. CP