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Album Review: Christmas Beyond
Steven C.
Cover image of the album Christmas Beyond by Steven C.
Christmas Beyond
Steven C.
2014 / Steven C. Music
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Christmas Beyond is pianist Steven C’s second Christmas album, but this one is quite different from his 2010 On Christmas Night which featured some jazzier arrangements as well as sacred Christmas carols. Christmas Beyond was recorded in The Cathedral of Saint Paul (MN) using Steven’s magnificent Bosendorfer concert grand with additional instrumentation by live musicians. I have reviewed all of Steven C’s albums over the past several years, and all of them have been a real treat, but there is something very special about this one that goes “beyond” the notes and arrangements. In the liner notes, Steven C describes the recording experience and explains what this “special something” is: “The hours spent sitting inside the Cathedral at my Bosendorfer piano were mesmerizing. I felt a rainbow of emotions and it became my personal catharsis. To hear, feel and play with the Cathedral’s deep natural acoustics left me speechless. The sound from the space became another instrument and creative partner. And as the music came out of me, often not even as I had rehearsed, the joining of sound was breathtaking. It resonated through me in a way I’ve never experienced before.”

Steven C has chosen a wonderful selection of traditional “old world” carols, some familiar and some not. Some are combined with other carols, giving them a fresh interpretation. Some are solo piano and some are more orchestrated. It’s a wonderful collection of thirteen tracks, all of which express the spiritual, contemplative side of Christmas rather than the harried shopping/partying frenzy it has become for so many. The songs were arranged by Steven C, Adi Yeshaya, and Sean Turner.

All of the songs on Christmas Beyond are excellent and soul-stirring, but I’ll mention a few favorites. “The Angel Gabriel” is the opening track, arranged for solo piano. The haunting melody is allowed to sing in its beautiful simplicity, evolving into a more complex arrangement that is both soulful and poignant. Three pieces make up “A Winter’s Magic Medley”: “Ah Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind,” a peaceful piano solo; “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which includes the Cathedral pipe organ and strings in addition to the piano; and “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind,” a gorgeous piece for piano and strings based on a poem by William Shakespeare. “Carol of the Birds and Bells” is a medley of two very different carols (“Carol of the Birds” and “Carol of the Bells”), with their melodies woven together to create a stirring piano solo - love it! “Little Drummer Boy” is a newer carol, and Steven created a spontaneous solo piano improvisation that captures the innocence and simple honesty of the song. Another unusual combination is titled “Angels Heard - Do You Hear? I Heard!” pairing “Angels We Have Heard On High” and the more contemporary “Do You Hear What I Hear?” for piano and cello duet - gorgeous! The last track on the album, “The Road Home,” is a tribute to composer Stephen Paulus, who passed away near the completion of the album.

Christmas Beyond could easily be the standout Christmas album for 2015 and will be a treasured tradition for many years to come! It is available from www.stevencmusic.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!
August 31, 2015
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