Warwick Festival?s many friends and admirers will know the annual event, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, for producing moments of exceptional pleasure like rabbits from a hat.
In Vinum Bonum?s programme of 15th and 16th century music associated with the great Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and friend of kings, they presented an absolute tour de force.
Not only did we hear in context a comprehensive review of liturgical music of the period sung by a small ensemble of quite exceptional quality, we also heard Andrew Benson-Wilson, the leading exponent of early English organ music, playing - though not of course at the same time - the two reconstructed instruments to come from The Early English Organ Project.
As an illustration of the development of liturgical styles in the last 100 or so years before the Reformation, a programme of works starting with The Agincourt Carol and Dunstaple, then moving not-so-swiftly on through Fayrfax, Taverner and Sheppard to the mighty Tallis, is more than adequate.
Better, it included music of exquisite beauty, in Henry V?s Gloria, Soursby?s pensive Agnus Dei, and another, anonymous, Agnus, with its robust rhythms and ethereal harmonies. It showed us, were we ever in doubt, the immense musical skill within these hidden gems, and the scale of the loss English music suffered with the destruction of so much more similar material at the Reformation.
Matthew Vine, an exceptionally capable director, has a superb group of specialists with the vocal qualities and understandings to make the best of this exceptionally lovely music. Alexandra Buckle, researching for a doctorate, devised the fascinating and well-balanced programme, and Andrew Benson-Wilson?s immaculate playing was the icing on an unforgettable cake.