It seems that the majority of solo piano Christmas CDs that have been released over the past decade or so have promised to be an antidote for the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but Chuck Cape completely embraces the joy and excitement of the season with his debut album of seventeen songs, six of which are originals. Not all of the pieces are joyous and up-tempo, but this album is definitely about the spiritual and personal delights of Christmas, expressed in a mostly classical (as opposed to pop or jazz) style. Don’t get me wrong - these arrangements are very contemporary - it’s just a classical style that emphasizes the melodies and is not afraid to pull out all of the stops from time to time.
In The Spirit of Christmas begins with an arrangement of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that is both grand and graceful, letting us know right away that this is a pianist of no small ability or technique. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a spirited version of “The First Noel,” but it works well as it dances all over the piano keyboard. “Good King Wenceslas” reminds me of Mannheim Steamroller’s exuberant carols - big and fast with a sense of fun. “The Remembrance Carol” is the first of the originals. Surprisingly, it’s very simple and spare, but it was composed in honor of the first Christmas after Cape’s mother passed away. Heartfelt and sincere, it’s lovely. “Sing For Joy” is also original, and I’m sure from its hymn-like style it must have lyrics. “Away In A Manger” scales back the excitement for a sweet and gentle lullaby. “Jingle Bells” has a rarely-heard softness about it that is more wistful than carefree. I really like “The Wedding Carol,” a delicate yet passionate piece about a very special day. “Carol of the Drum” is the melody for “The Little Drummer Boy,” one of the more popular contemporary carols. Keeping a steady rhythm on the piano (as a drummer boy would), Cape keeps the melody simple and uncluttered with a child’s innocence. “Angels we Have Heard On High” picks up the tempo and merriment again. “O Come All Ye Faithful” is an enthusiastic invitation to share the joy of the good news with fellow believers. “A Winter’s Hymn” closes the set quietly and gently like a prayer for peace.
In the Spirit of Christmas
is sure to liven up an evening at home or a celebration with friends. The softer songs are intermixed with the jubilant ones, so there is a really nice balance. It is available from www.chuckcape.com
, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!