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Album Review: Solo Piano Christmas
Chad Lawson
Cover image of the album Solo Piano Christmas by Chad Lawson
Solo Piano Christmas
Chad Lawson
2011 / Hillset Records
46 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Solo Piano Christmas is a collection of twelve Christmas carols arranged for solo piano by Chad Lawson and played to perfection with his smooth and elegant touch. Don’t get me wrong - this album is no snooze unless you want it to be. The arrangements are beautifully realized and performed with heartfelt expression, so even though the tempi are relatively slow and the mood is quiet, this album will not get old or stale after a few listens - quite the contrary! This music offers a place for contemplation and reflection while soothing away the stresses that the holidays can bring. Most of the twelve selections are what would be considered religious carols - no Frosty or “Jingle Bells” - and Lawson has done an exceptional job of maintaining a consistent mood throughout the album without allowing the songs to sound alike. Recorded at Piano Haven Studio on Joe Bongiorno’s incredible Kawai RX7 grand, the sound of the piano is stellar.

“What Child Is This” begins the album with a delicate sound much like a music box. As the piece evolves, it becomes fuller and more graceful, returning to its original style at the end - a gorgeous arrangement and a great way to set the tone of the album. “The First Noel” is both traditional and contemporary with a dreamy mood and short improvised passages. “The Holly and the Ivy” is light and playful with a rhythmic left hand and a dancing right. I love this arrangement (sheet music???)! “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” beautifully captures the wistful, nostalgic feeling of the lyrics wordlessly. “Sing We Now of Christmas,” is a traditional 15th century French carol also known as “Noel Nouvelet.” The repeated left hand pattern becomes hypnotic as the right hand expresses the dark, haunting melody - a favorite! “Joy To the World” brightens the mood considerably with a more energetic tempo and light-hearted spirit. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is thought to date back to the 12th century, making it one of the earliest Christmas carols. Its deeply emotional melody makes it a favorite for instrumental arrangements, and Lawson’s is one of the most effective solo piano versions I’ve heard. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a song that lends itself to a very wide range of musical styles. Lawson’s arrangement is varied, beginning with a delicate and poignant treatment, becoming livelier and more joyful as it unfolds. The improvisation in the middle is darker and more intense, returning to the melody and becoming quieter to the end. I love this one, too! “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire” is one of JS Bach’s most popular melodies. Lawson gives it a contemporary treatment while staying true to the spirit (and melody) of the original. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” closes the album with the feelings of peace and good will mixed with a tinge of bittersweetness. A great ending to a great Christmas album!

Solo Piano Christmas is a joy from start to finish and would be a delightful addition to any collection of Christmas music! It is available from chadlawson.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
November 11, 2011
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums