Words by Ann Sulaiman
Six albums have passed since the Gregorian a cappella group, Mediæval Bæbes, came into being with their charming take on European folk music. Now album number seven, ‘The Huntress’, sees ‘the Bæbes’ revisit similar ground in time for the yuletide holidays.
Described as a celebration of “feminine energy”, ‘The Huntress’ contains interesting moments which explore this theme.
‘Dianae’, ‘Queen and Huntress’ and ‘Dies Irae’ are notable examples, not just for their lyrical focus on traditionally strong and female characters (Dianae being the Greco-Roman goddess of the Moon and the hunt), but also their show of harmony – as founding member Blake, and her newer cohorts, bring their voices together in a trill and hum of gentle unity.
The effect is a calm atmosphere that connects itself to female fraternity and imagery, through references of historically constructed ideas of feminine beauty and strength.
Since their first release in 1999, Mediæval Bæbes have been rooted through connected, female interpretations of folk songs, traditional and new, from ‘Coventry Carol’ to ‘Summerisle’ (from the 1973 film The Wicker Man).
However consistent, and however successful, this does make it somewhat redundant for Blake to devote an entire album to the concept, when she and the rest of the group have examined it many times before.
Another issue, that holds back ‘The Huntress’, is the overuse of filler performances and arrangements.
‘Dianae’ and ‘Dies Irae’, for all their strong points, are unfortunately pushed to the second disc of the album; becoming overclouded by the greater number of more accessible tracks on the first disc – which ironically represent the record’s weaker sounds, through restrained notes and vocal range.
And whilst Mediæval Bæbes’ seventh album will no doubt be an eager addition to several stockings this Christmas, an opportunity has been missed.
The chance to introduce European folk songs to a more mainstream audience has been arguably ignored, in favour of playing up to the image of an all-English, modern female carol.
‘The Huntress’ is available now, in store and online.
For more on Mediæval Bæbes, including information on their UK Christmas Cathedral Tour, visit http://www.mediaevalbaebes.com