2015 / Tickled Ivory Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Jennifer Thomas’ Winter Symphony is a dazzling collection of twelve holiday pieces, two of which are original compositions. This is quite possibly the biggest production I’ve ever heard on a contemporary Christmas album with choir, orchestra, live strings, grand piano, and more. All of the music was arranged by Thomas and most of the orchestration was done to perfection by Glen Gabriel (Thomas did some of the orchestration, as did Nathan Allen Pinard). The very impressive package includes a 16-page booklet with all of the production credits and a gallery of photos of Ms Thomas. Thomas’ love of cinematic music is given free reign in these arrangements, many of which have a big, sweeping sound. The selection of music is also inspired and includes traditional carols, a contemporary song, music from two Christmas-themed films, and two original pieces. With the symphonic theme, this album is probably the most classical of Thomas’ recordings, although there is plenty of evidence of this being an album created in the 21st century!
Winter Symphony opens with a lovely arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard On High.” It begins with piano and strings, building to include the Ensign Chorus (a full choir from the Seattle area) and the Cochin Chamber Orchestra - an uplifting and dramatic way to start! “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is a piece from The Nutcracker that I dearly love. Beginning with piano and strings, it again builds to a very big sound that is both playful and mysterious - probably my favorite track. “Carol of the Bells” is flowing and dramatic, giving the piano a more prominent position amid the full orchestration - a beautiful arrangement of another favorite! “Alleluia” is the first of the original pieces and features soprano Felicia Farerre and the Ensign Chorus as well as the full orchestra. Elegant and stirring, this could become a new classic. One of my own holiday traditions is to watch Edward Scissorhands for the umpteenth time, and Thomas’ arrangement of “Ice Dance” from that movie makes me want to do that sooner than later! Hauntingly beautiful and icy cold, it’s another favorite! “I Saw Three Ships” goes in an entirely different direction with lots of drums, piano, and Thomas playing the violin (to name only a few of the participants!). Lively and jubilant, this is a fun piece and a real toe-tapper. The “Theme From Home Alone” includes the soulful “Somewhere In My Memory” as well as some of the more playful instrumental music - another great arrangement and orchestration! “What Child Is This” is a gorgeous and somewhat smaller production that features both Taylor Davis and Thomas on violin. Piano and orchestral touches add to the poignant quality of this beautiful piece. The title track is the other original. Fully orchestrated, it’s lively and lighthearted yet powerful and very dramatic. Piano, choir, and the full orchestra pack a whallop, creating and yet another favorite. “O Holy Night” closes this excellent album with a peaceful and soothing version of this emotional carol.
Jennifer Thomas has created what is likely to become a Christmas classic with Winter Symphony. Sure to become a favorite that you can enjoy for many years to come, it is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
December 4, 2015
with Carolyn Southworth
Review by Michael Debbage