2012 / Bill Whitfield
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas Solitude, released in 2012, was pianist/composer/arranger Bill Whitfield’s debut CD and contains eighteen peaceful songs of the season performed in Whitfield’s trademark elegant style. The selection of songs includes traditional favorites (both religious and secular), a few less well-known pieces, and some originals. (No composer credits are given on the CD, so I’m not sure which songs are originals, but I know there are at least a few.) The album was recorded on Whitfield’s 7’ Steinway grand and the sound quality is beautiful.
Christmas Solitude begins and ends with arrangements of Vince Guaraldi’s classic “Christmastime Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Always wistful and dreamy, Whitfield adds just enough melancholy to touch the heart and elicit a sigh. “What Child Is This?” is always a favorite, and Whitfield’s poignant arrangement is uncomplicated yet very effective. “Miracles” is a graceful, heartfelt original piece that has appeared on other albums. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is given a stately, classical treatment even though it’s one of the newer songs - and it works very well! “Carol of the Bells” is one of my favorite Christmas songs and there are countless arrangements of it in a huge variety of musical styles. This one is fairly straightforward and fits into the context of the album beautifully. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is flowing and somewhat lighter than it is often heard - a very nice arrangement! “Chestnuts” is actually “The Christmas Song” and subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” a romantic modern classic. Whitfield adds a few jazzy touches in the middle, but this is mostly a very slow, sensuous ballad. “One Small Child” is a new piece for me and comes from a musical by the same name - a gentle yet powerful piece. The title track is another original composition, this one poignantly expresses the feeling of someone spending this most special of holidays alone. "I Wonder as I Wander" is a Christian folk hymn written by American folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles. The haunting melody is a wonderful piano solo and Whitfield plays it with deep emotion. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is played a little slower than usual, expressing the profound sadness of the lyrics without using any words. The closing arrangement of “Christmastime Is Here” is a little longer than the first one and is equally moving.
Christmas Solitude is a very beautiful solo piano Christmas album that is more reflective and peaceful than celebratory. Whitfield gives showmanship and virtuosity a back seat, choosing instead to create a calming mood. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
October 24, 2016