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The Golden Age of Light Music – Christmas Celebration
Track-listing at end of review
rec. 1958-59
GUILD GLCD 5185 [77:57]

Experience Classicsonline

A Christmas Bentley adorns the front cover of this seasonal offering. It’s in British Racing Green, the finest colour in the world, and is bedecked with the choicest boxes of presents. It’s not unlike this CD in fact, which offers an Anglo-American Christmas in recordings culled from a tightly focused two years; 1958-59.

That said, the lion’s share is taken by Stateside bands. Percy Faith and Billy Vaughn score highly, and the Boston Pops come a strong third behind them. Britain throws up stalwart offerings from Melachrino and Mantovani and Wally Stott. Once again the compilers have gone very coy by calling the last named Angela Morley with the rider ‘Wally Stott on LP label’. Surely we all know by now that he had a sex change operation in 1972, but was previously known exclusively as Wally Stott. Wouldn’t it be more accurate and appropriate to write ‘Wally Stott (subsequently Angela Morley)’ or something like that?

Most of the recordings here are very popular indeed. Most of the tunes too, obviously. Listening to them again, a few things struck me. There’s a very Grand Guignol start to Percy Faith’s We Three Kings but it manages to turn nobly stirring too. His work on Angels from the Realms of Glory, a traditional nineteenth century English carol threatens at any minute to turn into a Ron Goodwin flypast march. A celestial choir appropriately enlivens Hark The Herald Angels Sing, albeit a portentous organ and cascading strings rather takes it away from its carol origins under a welter of business. It’s a recurring conundrum; how to clothe these well loved pieces? Melachrino’s answer is to submerge Good King Wenceslas under a blancmange of bells, brassy climaxes, stirring string/bell exchanges and then to lay on a Stokowskian blitzkrieg at the lines ‘gathering winter fuel’, before deciding to swing the thing to a conclusion.

In the face of this Stott’s (or Morley’s) arrangement of Snowfall is ingeniously subtle, whilst Percy Faith’s for The First Noel goes more for fulsome brassiness—itself attractive. Vaughn’s Adeste Fideles is reverential, devoid of kitsch, and his It Came Upon The Midnight Clear gets a chest swelling orchestration. Melachrino redeems himself via Philadelphia Orchestra-rich string tone in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, complete with chattering winds and harp. Mantovani unleashes his shimmering strings in Waldteufel’s Waltz and we end with Faith’s arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus.

This early Festive offering offers plenty of good cheer and as is well known, it’s never too early to slip something nice into your stocking.

Jonathan Woolf

Track-listing

Jingle Bells [1:36]
James Lord Pierpont, arr. George H. Greeley
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
We Three Kings Of Orient Are (An American carol from the 19th century) [2:08]
Reverend John Henry Hopkins Junior, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
Hark The Herald Angels Sing (An English carol with origins in the 18th century, although the popular version dates from a century later) [2:43]
Charles Wesley, Felix Mendelssohn, adapted William H. Cummings, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
Good King Wenceslas (Tempus Adest Floridum) (Music based on 13th Century Spring Carol 'Tempus Adest Floridum'; Words John Mason Neale) [2:47]
Traditional, arr. William Hill-Bowen
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Snowfall [3:03]
Claude Thornhill, arr. Angela Morley
Angela Morley and her orchestra as ‘Wally Stott’
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer [2:10]
John D. Marks, arr. Richard Hayman
Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus [2:09]
Thomas Patrick Connor
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
White Christmas (from the 1942 film "Holiday Inn") [3:00]
Irving Berlin, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
The First Noel (The First Nowell Believed to be based on an English carol, possibly Cornish, from the 18th century) [3:23]
Traditional, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
Joy To The World (Originally based on Psalm 98) [2:26]
Handel, Lowell Mason, Isaac Watts, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
Nazareth [3:12]
Traditional, arr. Cecil Milner
Mantovani and his orchestra
Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) (An English carol which may have originated in the 13th century) [2:15]
John Francis Wade, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
Deck The Hall With Boughs Of Holly (Based on a Welsh winter carol 'Nos Galan', dating from the 16th century) [1:35]
Welsh Traditional, arr. George H Greeley
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
Sleigh Ride [2:58]
Leroy Anderson
Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Fairy On The Christmas Tree [1:54]
Roma Campbell Hunter, Harry Parr-Davies
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Winter Wonderland [2:56]
Felix Bernard, arr. Jack Mason
Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Christmas Sleigh Bells (Romance and Troika from "Lieutenant Kije") [2:58]
Sergei Prokofiev, arr. Angela Morley
Angela Morley and her orchestra as ‘Wally Stott’
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town [2:38]
J. Fred Coots, arr. Jack Mason
Boston ‘Pops’ Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Christmas Alphabet [2:01]
Buddy Kaye, Jules Loman
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (English carol, believed to date from the 18th century) [2:55]
Traditional
The Melachrino Orchestra/George Melachrino
Carol Of The Bells (A Ukrainain carol, first performed in 1916) [2:14]
Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht) (An Austrian carol from the 19th century) [3:43]
Joseph Mohr, Franz Xaver Gruber, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear (An American carol from the 19th century) [2:30]
Edmund Sears, Richard Storrs Willis, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
I Saw Three Ships (An English carol with origins in the 17th century) [2:00]
Traditional, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
O Little Town Of Bethlehem (An American carol from the 19th century) [2:32]
Lewis Redner, arr. Billy Vaughn
Billy Vaughn and his orchestra
Angels From The Realms Of Glory (An English carol from the 19th century) [1:21]
Traditional, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
Christians, Awake! (An English carol from the 18th century) [1:26]
John Byrom, John Wainwright, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (A German folk tune with connections dating back to the 16th century; the most popular version today dates from the 19th century) [3:11]
Traditional, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra
The Skaters' Waltz [2:51]
Émile Waldteufel
Mantovani and his orchestra
Hallelujah Chorus from "Messiah" [4:19]
George Frideric Handel, arr. Percy Faith
Percy Faith and his orchestra


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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