Music review: Mediaeval Baebes, St Luke’s, Glasgow

Medieval Baebes
Medieval Baebes
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BEWITCHING female harmony ensemble Mediaeval Baebes mixed the jovial and the ethereal, the sacred and the profane and the lion and the unicorn at this alternative Christmas celebration. Led by their founder Katharine Blake, five multi-tasking pagan priestesses in flowing velvet and floral headdresses delivered a repertoire of ancient and ancient-sounding song in exquisite a capella or backed by a trio on drums, cello and an assortment of lutes and stringed things as well as accompanying themselves on violin, hurdy gurdy and whistles. All this, and courtly dancing too.

Mediaeval Baebes, St Luke’s, Glasgow ****

Their set drew on current album, A Pocketful of Posies, which explores the dark origins of nursery rhymes, producing the eerie a cappella Bye Baby Bunting, the gobbledygook storytelling of The Jabberwocky and The Lion and the Unicorn, a rather prescient fable of argy bargy around the union of the crowns.

There were also seductive overtures in medieval Spanish, a “cheeky little number” in French and a song about “fairly unusual sexual practices” adapated from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which teased out their impish humour.

In contrast, the regal flourish of Alleluia, familiar as the theme to TV drama Victoria, showcased their vocal grace and control, Gaudete and Coventry Carol were, respectively, exultant and heartbreaking, and there were a couple of numbers from hip young lyricist Robert Burns – Yonder Lea, Blake’s beautiful adaptation of O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast? and a luminous encore rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

FIONA SHEPHERD