Dreaming of Christmas
2021 / Key Image Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
I don't usually review Christmas albums in May, but Christine Brown's solo piano Dreaming of Christmas is so good that I couldn't resist! Christine released the album in 2021, so it isn't new for this year, but we're catching up (long story!). The eleven tracks on the album include traditional and popular carols and songs, a couple of classics, and one original, all played in Christine's graceful, elegant piano style. Her two previous Christmas albums, A Classic Christmas (2012) and A Classic Christmas II (2018), were mostly medleys of Christmas songs and well-known classical pieces, but Dreaming of Christmas has just one medley. Her intention was to create a dreamy album that was also a relaxing soundtrack for the season: "Think glass of wine by the fire." She succeeded well!
Dreaming of Christmas begins with "O Christmas Tree," one of the first carols I taught most of my piano students with its simple, repetitious melody. Christine's graceful touch and heartfelt expression give this song a whole new meaning, delving much deeper into the emotional qualities of the holidays as well as the song itself - a revelation! She adds a little bit of "Deck the Halls" at the end, but this isn't a medley. I've always loved the haunting "I Wonder As I Wander," and Christine's soulful solo piano arrangement is perfect. She uses the damper pedal to give the piece a shimmering quality that makes it even more mysterious. Love it! "The Holly and the Ivy" is another favorite of mine, and Christine's arrangement is kind of different with a theme and variations structure that works really well. "Amazing Grace" is one of the most popular hymns ever, but Christine manages to make it sound brand new with her own elegant interpretation - gorgeous and very deeply felt. I don't know anyone who doesn't love A Charlie Brown Christmas, which made Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" a beloved highlight of the season. Christine's arrangement is slow and thoughtful, mixing in a bit of "Silent Night" here and there - it works seamlessly! "Little Drummer Boy" is another newer carol that everyone seems to love - me, too! Christine's smoothly flowing arrangement incorporates some classical influences and is one of the most beautiful versions of the song I've heard. "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is a piece that adapts well to many styles of music, and Christine's arrangement is darkly soothing as it encourages slowing down to relax a bit. "Do You Hear What I Hear" has become a popular classic since Bing Crosby recorded it back in 1963, and Christine focuses on the beautiful melody with her graceful playing style. Bing Crosby also had a big part in making "White Christmas" a mainstay of the holidays, a song Christine combined with Robert Schumann's "Traumerei." Really? Her "White Christmas" is a slow waltz with passages of "Traumerei" woven in and out, and it works beautifully! "Pachelbel's Dream" is a dreamy version of the venerable "Canon in D," but I'd say that it's more Christine Brown than Pachelbel - not a problem for me! The last track on the album, "Shimmer," is the one totally original piece on the album and suggests twinkling lights on Christmas trees, sparkling snow in the moonlight, and the spirit of children watching for Santa on Christmas Eve. What a great album - even in May!
Dreaming of Christmas is available as a CD or download from Christine Brown's website, as a download on Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes, and on streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
May 8, 2023