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Album Review: Home for Christmas
Carolyn Southworth
Cover image of the album Home for Christmas by Carolyn Southworth
Home for Christmas
Carolyn Southworth
2011 / Heron's Point Music
50 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Carolyn Southworth’s Home for Christmas is a beautifully orchestrated collection of old and new Christmas carols, some sacred and some secular; the twelve selections also include two original pieces. Carolyn Southworth is a very accomplished pianist and violinist who teaches both instruments in addition to composing. As much as I love her solo piano work, Southworth told me some time ago and that she usually “hears” her music orchestrated as she is creating it, and this collection certainly reflects that. Southworth did all of the arranging and most of the orchestrating in addition to playing the piano; Jennifer Thomas, Southworth’s daughter, orchestrated two pieces and Jace Vek orchestrated one; Paul Speer appears on guitar and Zak Dewey provides drums. The sound is rich and full, and the arrangements are truly inspired, making these chestnuts shiny and new (and yes, “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” is included!). It is a real challenge to keep such well-worn songs traditional and still give them a fresh treatment, but Southworth has succeeded well on both accounts.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” begins the album. A song that holds up well with a wide variety of musical approaches, this version plays it pretty straight, emphasizing the beauty of the melody. Piano, strings, and Paul Speer’s distinctive guitar sound make this a great opening piece (orchestrated by Jennifer Thomas). “Pat A Pan” sparkles and dances for joy. I love this song, and Southworth’s is now one of my favorite arrangements. Jace Vek orchestrated “The First Noel.” It begins as a sweet piano solo and becomes more orchestrated as it evolves, with the piano usually the main focus. “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime (The Huron Carol)” is a French Canadian/Native American carol, and the use of Native American flute is really effective along with piano, bells, and light strings - another favorite. “The Holly and the Ivy” is poignant and bittersweet, and this arrangement has a lovely Gaelic flavor. “Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella” is also very adaptable to a wide variety of musical styles, and this one is lively and joyful. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is one of the very first Christmas carols and this hauntingly beautiful version features piano, voices, strings, and other instrumentation. “First Snow” is the first of the two original pieces. The graceful piano melody is simple and heartfelt, with strings and bells adding dimension and washes of color. “Shades of White” is the other original composition - and what a lovely slow dance it could be! Speer’s guitar enhances the feelings of longing as well as of peaceful calm. The closing track is a gorgeous version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Piano and strings convey the emotions perfectly without any words.

Home for Christmas will bring hours of holiday cheer for many seasons to come! It is available from carolynsouthworth.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
October 30, 2011
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums
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