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The Joys Of Quink

12 APR 11 JASON SERINUS

There's no better springtime welcome than Thomas Morley's "Now is the month of Maying" or Francis Pilkington's "Sweet Phyllida." Filled with warmth and cheeriness, they're but two of 18 a cappella works on the Quink Vocal Ensemble's classic Telarc recording English Madrigals.

The melodies of some of these "fa la la la la" madrigals, such as Thomas Tomkins' "Phyllis, now cease to move me," may sound happier than their titles lead you to expect, but all have a simple and compelling beauty best communicated by artists who excel in "the art that conceals art."

Here is where Quink shines. Their singing is far more alive than that of some of the most proper English ensembles currently commanding the circuit. Their "Now is the month of May," for example, is gifted with a an almost rustic, rollicking treatment that distinguishes it from the more sublime grief of William Byrd's gorgeous "Come to me grief, forever."

Formed in Holland in 1978, Quink numbered five singers at the time of their 1993 English Madrigals recording. They continue to tour the United States and Europe as a vocal quartet, demonstrating their mastery of vocal mood and color.

The other composers honored on English Madrigals -- Thomas Bateson, John Farmer, John Wilbye, and Thomas Weelkes -- also write welcoming, immediately appealing music that benefits from Quink's beguiling clarity. The music's pining and carefree gaiety hark back to a pre hip-hop era of pastoral pleasures and sorrows. How lovely to make the journey with Quink.