Rebecca Kragnes’ second release, Joyful Noel
, is easily one of the best Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. Part of the genius of this recording is Kragnes’ grouping of Christmas carols and songs into thematic medleys: travel, angels, night, and joy. All of the arrangements are solo piano, and David Lanz is executive producer, assuring a very high level of quality. In keeping with the title, most of the songs are played in a joyous but elegant style, and all are of a spiritual nature (no Santa songs or “Jingle Bells”). “Carol of the Bells” stands alone as a singular piece (as opposed to a medley), and is exceptional. As a piano teacher who tends to dread the onslaught of holiday music, I especially appreciate approaches to traditional music that are different. While this album meets that “need” for me, the arrangements are still traditional enough to not put off those who are looking for an accessible, easy-to-digest collection. Another wise move on Kragnes’ part when compiling the medleys was the inclusion of some not-so-familiar songs mixed in with the standards, helping to keep the music sounding new and fresh. For example, the “Night” medley contains, Kragnes’ own “On a Holy Night” (the only original piece in the collection, and it is gorgeous!), “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Still, Still, Still”, “Coventry Carol”, “Silent Night”, and “O Holy Night” all woven together seamlessly. Medleys are not a new approach, but this one is especially well-done. Brava, Rebecca Kragnes! You’ve created a Christmas joy!
is available from Rebecca’s website at rebeccak.com