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Album Review: Homecoming: Songs of Comfort and Joy
Dana Cunningham
Cover image of the album Homecoming: Songs of Comfort and Joy by Dana Cunningham
Homecoming: Songs of Comfort and Joy
Dana Cunningham
2022 / Fountain Creek Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Pianist/composer Dana Cunningham's Homecoming: Songs of Comfort and Joy is a wonderful collection of twelve arrangements of traditional Christmas pieces and original compositions. The album is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Dana's parents, both of whom recently passed away. Warmth, love and peace flow from every note of this music, enveloping the listener in the beauty and true spirit of Christmas and the holiday season. Four of the pieces on Homecoming first appeared on Dana's 2020 EP, What I Hear, but all were revised for this new album. Some of the pieces are solo piano and some include Max Dyer on cello and/or Mike Sakash on saxophone. It is interesting to note that the album was recorded at CedarHouse Sound and Mastering in New Hampshire on the same very expressive 1898 Steinway B piano that Robin Spielberg has played on some of her albums. The sound quality is excellent.

Homecoming begins with "One Horse Open Sleigh," the original title of "Jingle Bells." It opens with phrases from "Do You Hear What I Hear" on piano and then the sound of sleigh bells before becoming a soulful piano and cello duet. I don't think I've ever referred to this song as "elegant" before, but it certainly is here! "Homecoming" is an original piece that was composed in the summer of 2021, "less than a year after my mother’s passing. The music fell into my hands as if from heaven, and there began the journey of collecting, arranging, and rendering songs and carols that evoke the tenderness of return and reunion." A piano, cello and sax trio, the grace and beauty of the music soothes both the mind and soul. "Christmas Tree at Crystal Lake," a piano and cello duet, is a gently flowing meditation that actually seems to sparkle - gorgeous! The familiar melody weaves in and out of "Meditation on God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" - a peaceful and delicate piano solo. "We Three Kings" is one of my favorite carols, and this piano/cello version allows the melody to flow in and out of a more ambient setting. "What Child Is This" is another favorite, and is a smooth and haunting sax and piano meditation. The second version of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is arranged for all three instruments and overflows with deep emotion - I really love this one! "Joy" is an original piece that reflects on the true and lasting kind of joy that comes from knowing inner peace and abiding love. "Do You Hear What I Hear?" has become a Christmas classic made famous by none other than Bing Crosby in 1962. Even without lyrics, the meaning of the song and the beauty of the melody sing through the voices of the piano, sax and cello. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" is arranged for piano and cello, and what a magnificent closing piece it is! The cello and piano are perfect for this gentle yet heartfelt arrangement.

Homecoming: Songs of Comfort and Joy is a wonderful choice for new holiday music this year (and any year!). It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
November 14, 2022
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