2006 / Us Four Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas Magic is Jennifer Haines’ fifth album to date, and is comprised of fifteen solo piano arrangements of traditional Christmas pieces. The arrangements are very stylized and played in a gentle flowing manner that remains consistent throughout the album. Thoughtful and reflective, these are more serious songs (no “Jingle Bells” or Santa tunes), meant to soothe and uplift. Haines’ playing isn’t flashy, but the arrangements are well-thought out and lovely to listen to, presenting these well-worn holiday nuggets in an original style that is decidedly different. If you aren’t looking at the liner notes, it could take a moment or two to figure out which song is playing - something I happen to like since I teach so much Christmas music to my own piano students. This might encourage you to listen to this CD at various times throughout the year as well as during the holidays.
Haines’ arrangement of “O Holy Night” is much quieter than it is usually played. Often complex and powerful, this version is peaceful and subdued. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is often big and brassy, but this is more of a sweet good wish or even a prayer. “Still, Still, Still” recalls a childhood dream of snow falling, and has a gentle, dreamy sparkle. I really like this version of “The Coventry Carol.” Dark and somber, Haines’ use of deep bass notes adds to the drama and poignance of the piece. Her calm yet intense arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” is also especially nice. Haines gives “Angels We Have Heard On High” a new rhythm that’s really interesting and refreshing. “Silent Night” is also very different. With original harmonies and a minor key, it still tells of perfect peace. “We Three Kings” lends itself well to a variety of treatments, and this one is very contemporary with a changing rhythm and improvisational touches. “Good King Wenceslas” is often jaunty and upbeat, but this version is flowing and rather poignant.
If you are looking for a Christmas album that sets a peaceful mood and keeps it, and provides arrangements that are different, Christmas Magic could be a perfect choice. I also really like the original cover artwork! It is available from cdbaby.com and amazon.com. Very nice!
October 13, 2006