In the spirit of Yuletide David Rees-Williams takes Christmas melodies and transforms them via his eclectic musical sensibility - a kind of musical alchemy.
The David Rees-Williams Trio was formed in 1988 and features David Rees-Williams, Neil Francis and Phil Laslett. Based in Canterbury, they have performed at a variety of concerts and festivals over the years and now specialise in a programme that unites the best of classical and jazz.
From earliest times, Christmas has been a period of mixing disparate things together. A pagan celebration of the winter solstice gets appropriated by Christian Rome and Christmas springs into life. The ancient German pantheistic worship of winter greenery is tarted up with baubles and tinsel by the Victorians and becomes the beloved Christmas tree.
These transformations include Stille Nacht usually suggesting a peaceful snowy scene, but this rendition plays on the carol's alter-ego as cold, scary and full of mystery.
Gabriel's Message, based on passages from St Luke's Gospel, tells the story of Gabriel's annunciation to Mary that she will be the future mother of Christ. The arrangement of this poignant tune almost touches on the feel of a soft "progressive rock" style ballad.
Bach's sorrowful Erbarm dich mein is turned into a no holds barred humorous arrangement. Canonic patterns, improvisation, eastern European folk modes, film music, and jazz are all parts of the Rees-Williams musical engine too.
This recording brings together a wide range of Christmas melodies allowing medieval tunes to rub shoulders with prog-rock, street samba, and blues here as only the David Rees-Williams Trio can.
Although the title "Ex-Mass" is a word play on the obvious "Xmas", the Latin prefix also suggests that the music is removed from its normal place. The compilation avoids the obvious and concentrates on other beautiful and seasonally relevant melodies, from the ancient to the more modern.