Christmas Softly EP
Fiona Joy Hawkins
2021 / Little Hartley Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas Softly is a beautiful five-song EP from Australian pianist/composer/vocalist Fiona Joy Hawkins that features gentle instrumental arrangements of four traditional Christmas songs and one original piece. Layers of angelic voices (all Fiona's) weave in and out of the piano and orchestration, creating "reimagined" versions of some older favorites. Corin Nelsen produced, mixed and mastered the EP and the sound quality is warm and clear. So far, three of the songs, "Holly and the Winter Ivy," "Softly the Manger" and "Christmas Is Coming," have been released as singles with the others to follow.
Christmas Softly begins with "Softly the Manger," a new arrangement of "Away In the Manger" that features piano, cello and violin as well as Fiona's voice (no lyrics). There are at least forty different melodies that go with the words to this sweet lullaby, and this arrangement uses "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton." Tenderness and love flow from every note. "Christmas Is Coming" is Fiona's original composition and if you're familiar with her music, you will hear some touches that are distinctively hers. Bright and energetic, a soaring Irish whistle and Fiona's piano carry most of the melody with wordless vocals providing additional "instrumentation" - joy set to music! "Holly and the Winter Ivy" is a new arrangement of "The Holly and the Ivy," one of my favorite carols. Piano, strings, voices, and light bells paint a picture of a chilly winter landscape that is profoundly peaceful and beautiful. "Bell and Jingle" is a fun and unusual arrangement of "Jingle Bells" with Fiona singing the familiar lyrics with mostly piano instrumentation. There is some light guitar and percussion, too, but this version is mostly piano and vocal - spirited and happy! "Always Still" is a lovely arrangement of "Still, Still, Still," an older carol that has become very popular - especially as an instrumental. Fiona's arrangement includes piano, Irish whistle, voices (no lyrics), light bells, and strings. Both gentle and soaring, it's an excellent close to a great EP!
Christmas Softly would be a really nice addition to anyone's collection of Christmas music! Peaceful yet spirited, there is much to love about this music! The EP and singles are now available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify.
November 30, 2021
(as Fiona Joy Hawkins)