A Child's Christmas (EP)
2020 / Kris Baines
Review by Kathy Parsons
"A Child’s Christmas" is a six-song solo piano Christmas EP by New Zealand pianist/composer/pastor Kris Baines. The father of eight children, Baines has had quite a bit of experience with children and Christmastime! Intended to be a collection of soft and soothing lullabies for children and their parents (and anyone else who could use some calming music), these pieces are referred to as “Dreamy Felt Piano Lullabies.” This “prepared piano” technique has become very popular among many pianists over the past few years and consists of placing felt cloth between the piano strings and the piano hammers to soften the percussive sound of the piano to varying degrees. Because the impact of the hammers hitting the piano strings is so much quieter, often the sounds of the inner workings of the piano action and various atmospheric overtones become a part of the music. It creates a very soft and gentle sound that is especially well-suited to music like the pieces Baines arranged for this album.
"A Child’s Christmas" begins with “Ding Dong Merrily On High,” a light and joyful carol that originated as a French dance tune in the 1500’s. The lyrics were written in England in the early 20th century and the song was first published in 1924. Baines’ arrangement is uncomplicated, which allows for many sounds to come from inside of the piano besides the notes being played - a lovely arrangement! “O Come All Ye Faithful” (“Adeste Fideles”) is played slowly, expressing a prayerful reverence. “Little Donkey” is a Christmas carol I was not familiar with. It was written by English songwriter Eric Boswell and became a hit in England in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The simplicity of the beautiful melody is gentle and sweet and is perfectly suited to this album. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is a song that adapts to an amazing range of styles of music and instrumentation from quiet and thoughtful like Baines’ arrangement to big and rocking like Mannheim Steamrollers’ version - and everything in between. Baines’ version is a reminder of just how haunting this song can be in its purest form. “Silent Night” is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever written, and this arrangement is hushed with a lot of quiet atmospheric sounds behind the melody. You can almost see snow twinkling with the reflections of a starry night. “Away In a Manger” is the first Christmas carol many children learn in Sunday school, and Baines’ arrangement overflows with sweet innocence and tenderness - a beautiful ending to a very gentle EP that celebrates the Christmas season on the softer side.
"A Child’s Christmas" is available from Amazon as well as streaming sites like Spotify.
December 4, 2020