A mild case of ‘getting to know you’ between vocal soloist and viols appeared to afflict the opening piece Salvator mundi, but O sacrum convivium ended proceedings on an eminently satisfying note.
Most of the 22-item programme in between was secular and more or less evenly divided between vocal and purely instrumental pieces, which demonstrated that Byrd and Tallis had plenty of serious musical opposition in Tudor England.
Lassus and Robert Parsons are obvious instances, less so Clement Woodcock – a charming piece, Browning my dere; Nicholas Strogers – quite powerful one, O doleful deadly pang; Robert White – a lovely, plaintive In Nomine, by way of example.
Of more doubtful merit was the anonymous Come tread the paths, which Rory McCleery did his best to avoid sounding like a parody.
The Rose Consort’s reputation in this music is well founded and they played it with richly varied tonal variety within stylistic limits, unflagging spirit and a clear sense of enjoyment.
McCleery, a highly impressive young countertenor, revealed a strong top register but a little more power in projection below his voice’s middle range would not have gone amiss every now and then.
He sang with admirably steady smoothness of line and meaningful use of words (when audible) and shortcomings can perhaps be forgiven in the face of his fabulous rendering of the sublime Parsons setting of Ave Maria.