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Album Review: Victorian Christmas
Emily Rowe
Cover image of the album Victorian Christmas by Emily Rowe
Victorian Christmas
Emily Rowe
2019 / Emily Rowe Music
25 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Victorian Christmas is a collection of seven Christmas carols elegantly arranged for solo piano and piano with strings by Emily Rowe. All of the songs are of a more quiet, reflective mood and the arrangements are beautifully soothing - a wonderful antidote for the rushed pace and stress that can build up during the holidays. The arrangements are contemporary, but the original melodies are intact without a lot of embellishment or flash, allowing the simple beauty of the music to shine through. Emily Rowe is a classically-trained pianist from Oregon and released her debut album, Daydream, in 2016.

Victorian Christmas begins with “The Holly and the Ivy,” one of my favorites. It starts out as a piano solo, becomes a piano/cello/violin trio in the middle, and returns to piano solo for the last verse and coda. Simple, gentle and straight from the heart. “I Wonder As I Wander” isn’t as commonly heard as some of the carols, but I have always loved the haunting quality of the melody. Rowe has added a few passages to the music that really enhance the beauty of the song. It, too, begins as a piano solo and becomes a trio for piano, cello and violin with the strings and piano alternating with the lead. Love it! I’m always amazed at the variety of musical styles that work well with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and Rowe’s solo piano arrangement is on the quiet side, again focusing on the heartfelt quality of the melody. The first half and last verse of “Silent Night” are also solo piano and are peaceful and serene, beginning in the upper octaves of the piano and gradually moving into the more “normal” playing range before the strings enter for a short passage. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a very old carol that can sound mournful and tragic, but was actually considered to be quite joyful at the time it was created. It also begins as a piano solo with some original additions that are gorgeous. The second verse becomes a trio, and the soulful cello melts the heart before returning the song to a piano solo. Haunting, stirring and very emotional! “Now Is Born” (aka “Il est ne’, le divine enfant”) expresses a gentle sense of urgency - a wonderful piano solo! “Still, Still, Still,” also a piano solo, brings this lovely Christmas collection to a close warmly, simply and with a smile.

Victorian Christmas will be a welcome addition to anyone’s instrumental Christmas music collection. The album is available from Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music and many streaming sites. Sheet music is also available from Emily Rowe’s website. Recommended!
November 26, 2019
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