The Piano Guys
2017 / Sony Masterworks
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas Together is the second Christmas album and seventh full-length studio album from the amazing super-group, The Piano Guys. With more than a BILLION YouTube views for their 50+ music videos, the four Piano Guys are Al Van der Beek (music producer and songwriter), Paul Anderson (producer and videographer), Steven Sharp Nelson (cellist and songwriter), and Jon Schmidt (pianist and songwriter). The lavish production for this album includes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Placido Domingo, David Archuleta, The King’s Singers, Lexi Walker, Peter Hollens, and others. Without the Christmas theme, I would imagine retailers everywhere would be scratching their heads about how to categorize this album, which includes classical, pop, traditional Christmas songs, and two originals. Seven of the twelve tracks include vocals, so if you are looking for an all-instrumental Christmas album, this one isn’t.
Christmas Together begins with a stirring arrangement of “Angels from the Realms of Glory” that features Peter Hollens, David Archuleta, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square as well as Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson. This track has a huge sound and starts the album off from a high point. “O Holy Night / Ave Maria” opens with a gorgeous duet with Schmidt and Nelson playing “O Holy Night” and then segues into “Ave Maria” with the impressive vocals of Lexi Walker with Schmidt and Nelson quietly playing the Bach “Prelude in C” in the background. The medley of “Mary Did You Know” and “Corelli Christmas Concerto” is a wonderful piece that features Nelson on electric and acoustic cellos and Al van der Beek providing vocal textures. The cello can be such an emotionally expressive instrument and Nelson really makes it sing from the heart. “Ode to Joy to the World” is, of course, a medley of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and Handel’s “Joy to the World.” This is another very “big” track with choirs (there are two), handbells, trumpet and percussion backing the “Guys.” “What Child Is This” is a haunting duet for piano and electric cello - simple yet very moving. “Gloria / Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” has a much more contemporary/pop feel to it, as does “Little Drummer Boy / Do You Hear What I Hear” with the first one being vocal and the second being instrumental. “Silent Night, Holy Night” is sung by Placido Domingo and children’s choirs accompanied by Schmidt and Nelson. Jon Schmidt arranged the lively “I Saw Three Ships” and performs it as a piano solo - very buoyant and joyous. “The Manger” is the first of the two original pieces, composed by Nelson, Schmidt and van der Beek, and performed as a poignant piano and cello duet. “The Sweetest Gift (Dedicated to Annie Schmidt)” is a real heartbreaker, as Annie is Jon Schmidt’s daughter who passed away last year. The deeply emotional lyrics would work for just about anyone who has lost someone dear. I think this song will become a Christmas classic.
Christmas Together is an effective blending of several musical genres and styles that people of all ages should be able to identify with. It is available from many retail outlets including Amazon and iTunes. Recommended!
November 27, 2017