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Album Review: A Candlelight Christmas 2
Joe Bongiorno
Cover image of the album A Candlelight Christmas 2 by Joe Bongiorno
A Candlelight Christmas 2
Joe Bongiorno
2021 / Piano Haven
51 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
A Candlelight Christmas 2 is the follow-up to Joe Bongiorno's 2010 A Candlelight Christmas. This album includes eleven familiar Christmas songs and a new piece by Joe. Nine of the songs were arranged and performed by Joe Bongiorno and three were arranged and performed by his wife, Amy Janelle, an excellent composer/pianist in her own right! On the back of the CD jacket, it says "A little more Christmas music to unwind to..." which gives you a good idea of the spirit and styling of the music. Peaceful and soothing, the music is beautifully reflective of the true meaning of the Christmas season as well as an antidote for the stressful side of the holidays. Performed on Joe's amazing Shigeru Kawai SK-7 piano, Joe also engineered and mastered the album in his Piano Haven Studio. As always, the piano sound is both velvety smooth and crystal clear without a hint of harshness.

A Candlelight Christmas 2 begins with a slow, delicate arrangement of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a song that dates back to 1943 and World War II. Joe's arrangement is warm and heartfelt, relying on his expressive touch rather than fancy finger-work to get the poignant message across. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is one of my favorite carols because it is so versatile and sounds great in a wide variety of styles. Joe's arrangement is lively but not flashy and has a beautiful interlude that personalizes it even more. I really like this one! "Mary, Did You Know" is the first of the three pieces arranged and performed by Amy Janelle. Composed in 1991, the melody is dark and powerfully emotional. Amy's version is stunning and another favorite. Joe's arrangement of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" has a quickly flowing left hand that gives the song a different feeling. The original interlude in the second half of the piece personalizes it even more. Amy's arrangement of "Bell Carol" (aka "Carol of the Bells") is both dark and haunting while remaining delicate and very expressive. This is another song that does well with a wide variety of musical treatments and this is one of my favorite solo piano versions. "We Come Together" is Joe's original composition and overflows with love and tenderness. "We Three Kings" is Amy's third arrangement and is the most dramatic piece on the album. I just love this version which is sometimes quiet and reflective and sometimes very dark and powerful with accents in the deep bass of the piano - a very emotional and expressive arrangement! Joe's "Deck the Halls" is one of the smoothest and most graceful arrangements I've heard and makes me think of the magic of tiny twinkling lights and sparkling Christmas ornaments. The album closes with a beautifully soulful version of "Jingle Bells." Sentimental and heartfelt, it's a lovely ending to a great new collection of Christmas piano solos!

Joe Bongiorno and Amy Janelle have put a lot of Christmas love into A Candlelight Christmas 2! Fellow pianists should know that sheet music and songbooks are available from Joe's site! The recording is available now as a CD or a download from Joe's site and is also available for digitally from Amazon, Apple/iTunes, Spotify and other sites. This is great Christmas music for the quieter, more meaningful times of the holidays!
November 6, 2021
This review has been tagged as:
Holiday AlbumsHoliday Albums & Singles: 2021
Contributing artists:
Amy Janelle
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