2013 / Ryan Marvel Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
As a longtime piano teacher and music reviewer, I think you can imagine how much Christmas music I listen to every year, so when I hear a Christmas album that is truly original, it’s a big deal! Ryan Marvel’s Winter is one of those albums. It isn’t new this year, but is Marvel’s most recent release. The thirteen tracks are a mix of single songs and medleys, all but one of which were arranged by Marvel, and most were performed as piano solos (a few tracks include other musicians). It’s a beautiful blend of familiar traditional and popular Christmas songs and some that are less well-known. There are also a few somewhat startling surprises that are smile-inducing, and isn’t that part of the holidays? Marvel included one original composition, the title track. Most of the pieces are fairly low-key and quiet to balance the meaning of the season with the stillness of winter. It’s a beautiful album!
Winter begins with “Three Good Kings,” a medley of “We Three Kings” and “Good King Wenceslas” plus some original touches - a peaceful yet sparkling arrangement! When I was growing up, it seemed like all of the arrangements of “O Holy Night” were very big and dramatic, but that trend has certainly changed over the past few decades. Marvel’s arrangement for solo piano is expressive, but also very soothing. “Walking In the Air” from The Snowman has become one of my favorites. I have heard a lot of great arrangements of this haunting song, but George Winston’s is probably the best-known. Marvel pays homage to Winston in the middle section - a wonderful arrangement! “Arran Boat Song/Holly and the Ivy” is a lovely duet for flute and piano that features Leslie Anne Nielsen on Celtic flute. I’ll be honest here - “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is one of my favorite Christmas songs, but “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” is not. Listening to Marvel’s solo piano medley was unusual in that I thought, “Wow, this is really nice!” Good job! “Coventry Carol” is one of the darkest of the traditional Christmas pieces (another favorite of mine!), and this arrangement is a duet for piano and cello (Heidi Mausbach) - absolutely stunning! “Winter,” an original piano solo, beautifully captures the stillness as well as the magic of that time of year. A Colorado native, I’m sure Marvel is an expert on the winter experience! This 8 1/2-minute piece is one of the highlights of this excellent album. A big surprise is “Little Didge Boy,” an arrangement of “The Little Drummer Boy” for piano and didgeridoo (Doug Powell)! Really? Yep - and it works amazingly well along with being lots of fun! “Silent Night” begins as a simple and somber piano solo but later becomes a sweet vocal piece with Marvel’s daughter singing the lyrics. The other titles include a medley of “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “O Sanctissima” (Liz Story’s arrangement), “The First Noel” (with just a little bit of “Jingle Bells”), “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Auld Lang Syne.”
Winter will be a wonderful addition to your collection of Christmas music that focuses more on reflection than Santa and loud parties. It’s available from Amazon and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
October 23, 2016
with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project