Being a piano teacher who starts students on Christmas music in early-November in preparation for the winter recital, I’m not always very receptive to reviewing Christmas albums much past Thanksgiving, but David Nevue’s O Come Emmanuel
is truly exceptional. David’s retelling of the Christmas story with his solo piano arrangements and interpretations is deeply personal as well as spiritual and inspirational. The fourteen selections include two originals, and all are of a religious nature. David Nevue has a wonderful way of taking a simple melody line and making it full of meaning. His elegant playing style is never overly showy, preferring a direct and honest approach, which takes a lot more skill and heart than pure showmanship takes. Nevue set out to create a Christmas album that was truly something different, and succeeded well.
The CD opens and closes with hauntingly beautiful arrangements of the title song, rich in its dark minor key moodiness. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is one of the oldest Christmas carols still sung today, but in capable hands such as Nevue’s the song is both ancient and contemporary, full of deep emotion that is ageless. “Away in A Manger” is a song that is often the first Christmas song learned in Sunday School, and Nevue introduces his lovely version with a one-hand melody line, emphasizing the children’s view of this sweet song. He then brings in some of the other melodies (there are at least 40 melodies that go with this song!) that are often used, making each verse a little different. “Watching Their Flocks” is one of the two original pieces, and is quietly introspective, possibly suggesting the peaceful solitude of shepherds tending to their flocks late into the night - very beautiful. “Joy to the World” opens with a long, improvisational intro and then comes into the song itself at the chorus - a very interesting and effective approach. “Silent Night” is pure peacefulness. “Coventry Carol” is one of my favorites. Nevue again opens the piece with a long prelude that is mysterious and dark, and his interpretation of the piece itself is emotionally charged - a wonderful arrangement. “The Gift” is the second original piece, and it is also a real beauty in its simple honesty and gentle message. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is the most upbeat piece in the collection, with a jazzy treatment - starting out slowly with a rubato rhythm, and evolving into several variations. Great stuff!
O Come Emmanuel
is one of my favorite Christmas albums now, and I highly recommend it! It is available from davidnevue.com