is a collection of sacred Christmas music arranged for solo piano and performed by Solomon Keal. What is especially nice about this collection is that several less-common pieces are mixed in with the well-known songs, creating a beautiful change of pace from the overplayed holiday songs that often become stale and tiresome after awhile. All of the arrangements are quiet and peaceful, and are intended for unwinding, relaxing, or for a backdrop to an elegant dinner or worship. All of the songs have enough complexity for active listening, but there are no hard edges or discordance. Keal keeps the melodies in the forefront without a lot of fancy fingerwork or showmanship. He is confident enough in his capabilities to keep the songs simple and honest - and very heartfelt. Keal purposely arranged each of the fifteen songs in a different key - an interesting approach!
Highlights include lovely versions of “What Child Is This?” and “O Come, Come Emmanuel.” I always love their haunting melodies, and Keal does a beautiful job with them, adding some personal touches between the verses. “Blessed Night” was a new song for me, and a great discovery. The melody is gentle and sweet with just a touch of melancholy. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” has such a sense of grace and dignity, and this is a especially nice arrangement. “When The World Was White With Winter” is another new one for me, although it is an old French carol. Another beauty, Keal’s spare arrangement creates a chill as well as a sense of stillness. “The Wexford Carol” goes back to the 12th century. Its simple melody is given minimal accompaniment and is very touching. Keal also includes two African-American spirituals, “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” and gives them the gentle treatment he has bestowed upon the other songs. I think the melody of “The Coventry Carol” is one of the most heartbreaking melodies ever composed, especially knowing the history of the song. Keal’s version is exceptional and deeply moving. The CD closes with a sweet and tranquil arrangement of “Away In a Manger” - such a gentle lullaby.
is a great addition to your collection of Christmas music to enjoy as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of the holidays - a cup of musical hot cocoa! It is available from solomonkeal.com
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