is pianist/composer Brad Jacobsen’s second solo piano Christmas album, following his 2011 Deck the Halls
. Like the previous album, Midnight Clear
is a collection of ten Christmas carols, all traditional this time, arranged in a quiet, thoughtful style that emphasizes the beauty of the melodies, updates them a bit, and gently reminds us of the true “reason for the season.” Not only are Jacobsen’s arrangements beautiful, but they are also very soothing and relaxing - something most people can use a little more of during the hectic pace of the holiday season. (Pianists should be happy to know that there is a companion songbook to the album - also very soothing and a delight to play.) In re-reading Jacobsen’s bio, I ran across this quote which really explains his approach to composing and arranging: “My personal philosophy – The most complicated piece performed flawlessly does little for the soul, while the most simple song, if played with sincere feeling, is a true ‘masterpiece’.” Jacobsen recorded the album at Piano Haven Studio in Sedona on Joe Bongiorno’s incredible Shirgeru Kawai grand.
begins with “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful,” arranged as a warm and sincere invitation to come together to worship. The second and third verses up the tempo a bit and are more joyous. (This is also the opening track on the new Christmas Whisperings 2 album.) “The First Noel” is slower than we usually hear it, telling the Nativity story simply, as if explaining the wonder of it to a small child. I love Jacobsen’s arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” one of my favorite carols. Dark and very intense, I love the powerful accents in the deep bass of the piano and the tone of mystery they create. A little bit past the mid-point of the song, the rhythm changes to rolling broken chords and the tempo quickens for a verse, and then it returns to the more somber opening. It seems that “Away in a Manger” is the first Christmas carol many children learn, and Jacobsen’s arrangement expresses feelings of innocence and wonder. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is another favorite of mine (I know, I like the dark ones!) and Jacobsen does a great job with it, keeping the melody simple and direct with an accompaniment that enhances its poignance. The livelier interlude in the middle of the piece gives it a lighter tone before returning to the original song. While the first nine tracks of the album are about the Nativity, Jacobsen chose to end the album with “Good King Wenceslas,” a song about a king who, along with one of his pages, braves the snow to invite a peasant he sees out gathering wood to come and join his feast. Jacobsen told me that the song reminds him of his father and others who have lived lives of service to others. “So while the first nine tracks celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the last track is about what it means to follow His example and live as He did.” Perfect!
So, if you are looking for some peaceful Christmas music that will soothe, inspire, and uplift, Midnight Clear
is an excellent choice! It is available from www.bradjacobsenmusic.com
, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!