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Album Review: A Candlelight Christmas
Joe Bongiorno
Cover image of the album A Candlelight Christmas by Joe Bongiorno
A Candlelight Christmas
Joe Bongiorno
2010 / Piano Haven
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
It might have been David Lanz who started the tradition of smoothing out Christmas music as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and it could be that Joe Bongiorno, “Mr. Mellow Sounds” himself, has taken this approach to its ultimate degree with his long-awaited A Candlelight Christmas. Joe arranged ten traditional Christmas songs and composed two new ones, and recorded them in his Piano Haven Studios on his hypnotic Kawai grand. All of the songs are paced very leisurely, creating a serene and peaceful mood and almost an hour of soft-spoken, graceful solo piano Christmas music. A nice glass of wine, some candles and this album, and voila’ - you have your very own Piano Haven Christmas!

Bongiorno begins with the smoothest arrangement of “Joy To the World” I’ve ever heard. Very slow and gently flowing, it sets the tone of the album. “What Child Is This?” seems to be a favorite of almost everyone, yet Bongiorno’s version is fresh and new. I’ve never heard this song mixed with phrases of “Carol of the Bells,” but it’s a great touch! “O Come Emmanuel” has always been one of my own favorites, and it’s often very, very dark. Bongiorno lightens the mood somewhat, although his arrangement maintains the melancholy and deep emotion. I love this arrangement. The first of the two original pieces is “A Candlelight Waltz,” a slow, dreamy, and very romantic dance for two. “Silent Night” is soft and hushed yet conveys a warm glow. I find it really interesting that over the past ten years or so, “O Holy Night” has evolved from an emotional powerhouse to a tender and gentle carol. Instead of a command to “fall on your knees,” it seems to have become a quiet suggestion. Bongiorno’s arrangement definitely comes under the second style and is one of the sweetest. “The First Noel” and “Away In a Manger” are the most improvised of the tracks, making them even more personal - and very beautiful. “The Little Drummer Boy” is one of the most popular of the more modern carols, and I’ve heard it with a strong march sound, a couple of times in a rock style, and occasionally with the innocence and sincerity of a young child. Bongiorno chose the latter of those approaches. His “O Christmas Tree” is slow, flowing, and dreamy. Bongiorno closes this lovely collection with his own “Feels Like Goodbye,” an exceptionally beautiful piece that ends the album sad to see the holidays ending, but hopeful for the coming year. Sigh....

Well worth the wait, Joe Bongiorno’s A Candlelight Christmas is available exclusively from joebongiorno.com. Recommended!
November 27, 2010
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday Albums
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