The all-female vocal ensemble Papagena makes it's debut on SOMM Recordings with The Darkest Midnight, a sublime collection of songs for winter from the Middle Ages to the modern era embracing the secular and the sacred. Described as "a stunning addition to the vocal music scene" and "la crème de la crème in the crowded a cappella space", Papagena's three sopranos (Elizabeth Drury, Abbi Temple, Suzie Vango) and two altos (Suzzie Purkis, Sarah Tenant-Flowers) look certain to add to their fast-growing reputation with this beautifully sung compendium. Casting a dark glamour all of it's own, the bleakness of winter has prompted some of the most bewitching, brittle and bright songs. Alongside traditional Christmas anthems can be found legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's 'The River' in an achingly melancholic arrangement and American composer Don Macdonald, whose When the Earth Stands Still is movingly poignant and still, twilit and shining. Celebratory songs marking the Christmas season - the exuberant In dulci Jubilo, burnished, glowing harmonies of Angelus ad virginem, sublimely serene Es ist ein Ros entsprungen and infectious Shchedryk/Hark How the Bells from Ukraine - are heard alongside lilting Irish songs from antiquity and the charming Scottish lullaby Balulalow. Songs from England, Germany, Norway and 'Toi le coeur de la rose' from Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges round off a recording that includes first performances of eight arrangements and is marked by sheer beauty of sound.