Review:: Downe in Yon Forrest – Kemper Crabb

7 Dec

By David Garrison If you are looking for a Christmas album that breaks from the norm of contemporary Christmas music, then journey back to the Middle Ages with Kemper Crabb’s latest project, Downe in Yon Forrest.  The album draws from the rich history of Christian worship and Christmas carols, many from the 1500’s .  Kemper is not only an Episcopalian priest; he is also a bard and minstrel for our times.

Creativity:: 10 Reaching back into the deep history of Christian music and lore, Kemper has created a tonally beautiful album that is quite unique among music today.  He draws not only from medieval styles of music, but also uses German, Latin, and Gaelic languages on the project, too.

Original Songs:: 8 As far as I can tell, none of the songs are original creations.  But that doesn’t seem to be the purpose of this album either; therefore, Kemper gets extra points for making a Renaissance-style Christmas album—that is original!

Classic Covers:: 10
The covers of the classics on this recording are fantastic and quite unique.  He has covered not only some of the traditional Christmas songs, such as “What Child is This?”, “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)”, and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”, but he has also re-introduced some of the lesser-known carols such as “Taladh Chriosda (The Christ Child Lullaby)”.

Musical Score:: 10
The music is rich and full, conveying a strong sense of flow and movement and has a deep texture to it.  Listening to the album with eyes closed, one can almost imagine being back in the Middle Ages preparing to celebrate the Christ Mass.  It begs to be played alongside a roaring fire on a cold evening.

Overall Holly Jolliness::  8 While a fantastic album, it tends to lean in a more mellow direction.  I am not sure I would score it very highly as a “holly jolly” one.  That being said, I found myself exploring new and different aspects of Christ’s advent as a result of the carols chosen and how they were presented.

Total = 46.  Not only is this album part of Santa’s personal collection, he’ll be dropping it off all over the world on Christmas Eve.  But just in case you made the naughty list, better pick up a copy of Downe in Yon Forrest (or a DVD of Kemper Crabb’s live performance on PBS).  Five hundred years old and people still wear to hear it, this is one album that you’ll not tire of hearing, season after season and year after year.

Print copy of review.

To read our review guide lines, go here.

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No Responses to “Review:: Downe in Yon Forrest – Kemper Crabb”

  1. Barry Wallace December 10, 2008 at 5:22 PM #

    Just curious… do you know if this CD is significantly different from Kemper’s “A Medieval Christmas” CD? I love it, but the song selection is very similar. Thanks.

    • Amy December 10, 2008 at 6:42 PM #

      Barry, I don’t know. Hopefully someone else reading this review can let you know. Sorry! Amy @BSW

  2. Barry Wallace December 11, 2008 at 11:51 AM #

    Okay, thanks. I’ll check back in case someone comments.

  3. Kemper Crabb December 11, 2008 at 4:51 PM #

    Hey, Barry, this is Kemper Crabb. In answer to your question, this is a different recording from my A Medieval Christmas CD, though some of the songs are the same, The reason for this is that Downe In Yon Forrest is the soundtrack to a national Christmas special I recorded for PBS (which is currently showing across the country; you can go to kempercrabb.com for local PBS playtimes if you’re interested). The recordings are, in my estimation, much better in terms of arrangement and playing, as well as having been recorded in a much superior fashion than the older recording. I hope that helps answer your question. Many thanks to David Garrison and Backseat Writer for the very kind review posted here. Pax Christi.

  4. Chuck Dotson December 11, 2008 at 5:09 PM #

    I have both “Medieval Christmas” and “Downe in Yon Forrest”. Although a lot of the song selection is the same the arrangements are different and the production, while still acoustic and “medieval/folk”, sounds very different. I would consider Downe to be definitive. In fact, after having listened to it many, many times I can tell you I can’t listen to “Medieval Christmas”. The performances are sooo much better and the quality of the audio is astounding.

    If you only want to have one it should be “Downe in Yon Forrest”.

  5. Barry Wallace December 11, 2008 at 5:33 PM #

    Hi, Kemper. Thanks for the clarification. A friend of mine challenged me recently to name my 10 favorite Christian albums of the 80s. Two of your recordings were on my list. Based on your description, I’m sure I’ll pick up the new Christmas CD as well. Thanks again for the reply.

    Chuck,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, too. You’ve got me worried, though. I like “A Medieval Christmas” so much that I can’t imagine not listening to it any more!

  6. Laurie Bluth December 24, 2008 at 10:52 PM #

    I am currently watching the PBS special. It is my first exposure to Kemper Crabb’s music and an instant favorite. There is no doubt I will be getting this album (or the DVD). I have a couple other “Medieval” type albums and this blows them away. I love having the narrative about the history. As a musician I am so moved by the quality and beauty I can’t imagine going another Christmas without it.

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