What’s in a name? You might expect a choir called Renaissance Voices to devote itself wholly, or at least mostly, to Renaissance music, and if you do, you were probably puzzled by the Christmas program the group sang on Saturday evening at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s. The program reached back to Plainchant and included several pieces by living composers, with most eras along the way represented as well. Only a third of the program was composed in the era the group was named for.

But of course, the Tallis Scholars don’t limit themselves to works by Thomas Tallis, and the Handel and Haydn Society moves beyond those composers. So why shouldn’t Harold Stover, this choir’s director (and also an organist and composer), range freely through the choral repertory?

Actually, the group’s name seems entirely apt if you think of it not as a description of its historical focus, but as an explanation of its sound quality. Throughout the program, the group’s 21 singers, perfectly tuned and performing without accompaniment, produced the consistently seamless, velvety tone and rich blend that are hallmarks of Renaissance choral music, regardless of the provenance of the music at hand.

As if to make the point, Stover often mixed periods within groupings. He opened the concert, for example, with a Baroque setting, Alessandro Scarletti’s “Laetatus Sum,” and then jumped back two centuries to Heinrich Isaac’s “Ecce Virgo Concipiet.” A contemporary score, Angelina Figus’ “Tota Pulchra es Maria” (2007), sat comfortably beside a sumptuous Renaissance work, Felice Anerio’s “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” and if not for Figus’ use of mild expressive dissonance, you might have mistaken her score for a much older piece.

Stover’s most inventive juxtaposition was a group that began with Plainchant, “Rorate Coeli Desuper,” the text of which became the basis of Martin Luther’s hymn “O Heiland, Reiss die Himmel Auf.” An anonymous 17th-century setting of the hymn followed, as did the expansively varied motet that Johannes Brahms wove around the hymn tune.

A pair of works from the more vigorously ecstatic side of the Renaissance repertory framed the program’s second half, with Cipriano de Rore’s lively counterpoint, in “Jubilate Deo,” exhorting listeners to serve God with joyful songs, and Silvio Marazzi’s “Hodie Christus Natus Est,” with its soaring soprano lines within the full, rich choral texture, announcing and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Between them, Stover offered three 20th- and 21st-century settings that proved to be the heart of the program.

The most striking was also the newest, “Now May We Singen,” by Cecilia McDowall, a British composer, born in 1951. McDowall’s work, composed in 2007, uses an ancient carol text, its refrain scored for the full, balanced choir, and its verses set with one voice range singing single, sustained words while the rest of the choir sings a jaunty, harmonized version of the full text.

The companion works to the McDowall were a pair of 20th-century pieces. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Birth of the Saviour” is a more conventional setting, in a straightforward block of shimmering chords, a style that plays to this ensemble’s strengths. The choir sounded even more luminous in John Joubert’s “There Is No Rose of Such Virtue,” a magnificently calm theological meditation.

Between groups of choral works, members of the choir presented readings, including a liturgical poem by Hildegard of Bingen, May Sarton’s “December Moon,” Ali Ahmad Said Esber’s “The Beginning of Speech,” and Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline’s Christmas.”

The concert was repeated at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The next Renaissance Voices concert is “Madrigals Old and New,” an exploration of 16th-, 20th- and 21st-century love songs and laments, at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s on May 7.

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