FOR this concert in the York Early Music Christmas Festival we were musically transported to a Hanseatic Christmas and a feast of seventeenth-century German Renaissance music performed by ‘city’ musicians.

Praetorius’ Sinfonia gave the concert a regal start, though it took my ear at least a while to accommodate William Lyons’ rackett which sounded like a lovely basso profundo bee.

This was immediately followed by countertenor Mark Chambers singing the well-known Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, and beautifully too, with fine organ support from Robert Howarth.

It was a spine-tingling moment when they were joined by the Ensemble, creating a rich musical dialogue. Scheidt’s masterly Canzon a 5 super ‘O Nachbar Roland’ was seriously assured, the interweaving of lines clear and beautifully engaging.

Melchior Schildt’s Paduana Lachrymae for solo harpsichord brought a welcome change of timbre and an articulate, crisp performance from Mr Howarth. Keith McGowan’s arrangement of Praetorius’s In dulci jubilo proved to be a little gem. But the performance of the Praetorius/Melchior Vulpius Est ist ein Ros entsprungen, a piece with almost butterfly-wing delicacy, was exquisite.

The second half continued in much the same flawless engagement. Memorable moments, though not necessarily highlights, included a beautifully understated performance of Scheidt’s Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein, Schutz’s Der Engel Sprach, with a (now) typically imperious contribution from Mr Chambers, a semi-surreal Toccata by Matthias Weckmann and a splendid Gaudete chorus.

The ensemble was superb, but this was the first time I have heard Mark Chambers sing and I found his contributions illuminating.