Through the Stillness: A Quiet Christmas
2013 / Quiet Rain Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Through the Stillness: A Quiet Christmas is a beautiful collection of eighteen traditional Christmas carols arranged for solo piano and performed by Greg Starr. The arrangements are not overly embellished, relying on the heartfelt emotion and sincerity that Starr puts into his playing to get their point across. A few of the songs have original passages, but this is the perfect album for people who don’t want their Christmas music “messed with” too much (and there are a lot of them!). Designed for relaxation and to combat the stresses of the holiday season, this truly is an exceptional album.
Through the Stillness opens with a lighthearted “Joy To the World.” “Coventry Carol” is usually dark and tragic, and while Starr’s arrangement has gravity, it isn’t wrenching. I love the original interludes between verses, which update the song while leaving the verses intact. My favorite track is “Come Though Long Expected Jesus.” It begins with a one-handed playing of the melody for the first verse and a really simple left hand for the second, but then Starr makes the song his own. Dark and powerfully emotional - even in the quiet passages - it’s a stirring beauty! “O Christmas Tree” is light and simple with a few jazz chords here and there to keep it interesting. “I Wonder As I Wander” is another favorite. Starr emphasizes the poignance of the haunting melody and the emotional quality of the song itself without going overboard - gorgeous! “Still, Still, Still” has a light, sparkling quality that is very effective. “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” is one of the oldest Christmas carols, but Starr’s treatment, while faithful to the original, makes it seem more contemporary - beautifully done! “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is adaptable to a very wide variety of musical stylings, but Starr keeps it simple, again making the listener aware of how beautiful these timeless songs are as is. “What Child Is This” is many centuries old (well, the melody of “Greensleeves” is), and Starr gently updates it with more contemporary harmonies in the chords and a lovely interlude near the end, but the melody is unchanged. The album ends with a short “Silent Night” played in a slow jazz styling that suits the song well. Other titles are “Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella,” “All Through the Night,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “The First Noel,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” and “We Three Kings.”
For a truly soothing and peaceful solo piano Christmas album, you can’t go wrong with this one! Through the Stillness is available from CD Baby. Recommended!
November 19, 2013