Music’s Quill, the expandable early music ensemble, convened for its annual Christmas program on Saturday evening – in the small round chapel at the Cathedral of St. Luke’s in Portland – and explored a considerably broader repertory than the concert’s title, “A Baroque Christmas,” promised.

There were, in fact, only a handful of Baroque works – a pair of Bach settings, and a few works published after 1600 – nestled among carols and songs from medieval through Renaissance times, and even a piece from the 19th century.

Had the audience been sticklers for accurate labeling, there might have been some consternation, given that there is so much top-drawer Baroque Christmas music to choose from. But as it turned out, most listeners seemed happy to read “Baroque” to mean “Early,” so the expansions in either historical direction were taken as a kind of bonus.

There were even pop connections for a couple of the songs on the program: The 12th-century Wexford Carol, “Good People All, This Christmas Time,” can be found on Christmas collections by Judy Collins and Julie Andrews, and the British folk-rock band Steeleye Span has recorded “Gaudete,” the rhythmically vital medieval carol that closed the Music’s Quill program.

For the concert, lutenist, theorboist and guitarist Timothy Burris, and tenor Timothy Neill Johnson – the core of Music’s Quill – were joined by violinist Lori Scheck, violist Sophia Scheck and cellist Raffael Scheck, although as always at Music’s Quill concerts, each song was accompanied by a different combination of players.

The program began, for example, with Johnson singing a verse of a 14th- century setting of “Angelus ad Virginem” unaccompanied, and Raphael Scheck joining with a cello accompaniment on the second verse. All the bowed instruments joined Johnson on “There Is No Rose,” a 15th- century carol, and Burris added his theorbo to the ensemble for Michael Praetorius’ 1609 setting of “Es is ein Roess entsprungen,” before hopping back to the 14th century for “Puer Nobis Nascitur.”

Familiar works – the anonymous “Veni, Veni! Emmanuel,” Orlando Gibbons’ “Christmas Day,” Richard Allison’s arrangement of Christopher Tye’s “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night” and the 15th-century “Coventry Carol” – were presented amid more obscure pieces, including traditional carols from France (“Noël Nouvelet!” and “Guillô, Pran Ton Tamborin”), Ireland (“Balulalow”) and England (“A Glee at Christmas” and “Jolly Shepherd”).

Even the Bach pieces, “O Jesuslein Suss,” and “Von der Geburt Jesu Christi,” were fairly obscure, the first presented with only lute accompaniment (you don’t often hear Bach’s vocal music performed that way, and it was effective), the second with lute and bowed strings.

Johnson was in fine voice, and moved easily between the different kinds of tone production necessary to reflect the eras and styles at hand. Not that he was dogmatic about it: For “Angelus ad Virginem,” he used a hint of vibrato, but in other medieval works, he used hardly any, preferring an earthier approach that suits the music and texts. He also handled a small percussion arsenal, taking up a hand drum, tambourine and bell at various points.

Burris played less than he typically does in these Portland Early Music concerts, but he offered historical introductions, and read a pair of Christmas-themed texts. He also gave a beautifully turned account of Miguel Llobet’s arrangement of “El Noy de la Mare,” a Catalan Christmas song, for which he switched from theorbo to a modern replica of an early 19th-century guitar.

The string playing was generally solid and well-balanced as well, and if the first verse of the string trio’s rendering of the “Coventry Carol” sounded unaccountably sour, the ensemble adjusted quickly and played the rest of the instrumental arrangement with a more centered tone.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn

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