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Imagine Christmas
rec. 2016/17, Solo Luminus Studios in Boyce, Virginia; The Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hills, Massachusetts
SONO LUMINUS DSL-92216 [38:16]

A wonderful collection of holiday tunes, re-imagined in new arrangements and performed by an intriguing group of musicians and ensembles.

Country songwriters Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson composed Frosty the Snowman in 1950. The song gets a rousing make-over by Ensemble Galilei, a band of musicians performing Celtic rhythms and harmonies with drums, violas, fiddles and flutes. The classic White Christmas, written by Irving Berlin for the 1942 film Holiday Inn, is performed by the duet of violinist Irina Muresanu and pianist Matei Varga, with the piano providing an interesting tonal counterpoint to the lush violin melody. Percussion jazz artist Lydia Lewis is based in Winchester, Virginia. She joins the fabulous Cuarteto Latinoamericano string quartet in Joy to The World, adding a colorful multi-rhythmic dimension to the classic traditional tune.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and sung by Judy Garland in the 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis. The Skylark Vocal Ensemble is an outstanding group of singers from the greater Boston area who sing their own fabulous version of the song in four-part harmony. Toronto-born pianist Stewart Goodyear has performed with major orchestras around the world, and is well-known for his Beethoven Marathon, playing all 32 of Beethoven’s sonatas in a 10 hour period. His version of Good King Wenceslas covers each end of the keyboard, with a low booming bass line, a repeating series of high trills, and a melody line that tries out every octave in between. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town was written by Haven Gillespie and John Frederick Coots and first recorded in 1934. Cellist Kathryn Bates, who performs regularly with the San Francisco-based Del Sol Quartet, performs a vibrant and imaginative version which showcases her outstanding technical skills as a soloist.

Jazz pianist Caleb Nei is a native of Huntington, Indiana and specializes in jazz, folk and contemporary church music. He currently performs and teaches in Virginia. Caleb plays a melancholy version of Christmas Time Is Here, a tune written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson for the 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Caleb adds his personal touch, re-imaging the song by inserting a jazzy verse of Oh Christmas Tree. The American Contemporary Music Ensemble is a group of top New York musicians, and have performed both at home and abroad since 2005. They play a haunting string version of Silent Night, with an unending bowed bass and cello section supporting a lightly plucked melody line. Pianist Bruce Levingston is one of the leading concert pianists in the world today, and is based in New York City and Oxford, MS. He performs December:Christmas from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, Op. 37b, written in 1876. Bruce’s performance of the holiday number is classically precise, bright and colorful.

The Jasper String Quartet, based in Philadelphia, perform a rich and lively string version of the classic A Holly Jolly Christmas, written in 1962 by talented songwriter Johnny Marks, who also penned Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Master lutist and composer Ronn McFarlane was born in West Virginia and raised in Maryland. He travels and performs frequently in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Ronn performs a sensitive and poetic version of Walking in the Air, written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film The Snowman. Percussionist Cory Hills is a popular and creative musician based in Los Angeles, and is well-known for his Percussive Storytelling programs for children. Cory performs his charming version of the 1823 poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, written by Clement Clarke Moore, and recites the poem while accompanying himself on bongos.

The sound quality is excellent. A 16-page booklet is included, with notes and commentary by Doyle Armbrust.

Bruce McCollum
Frosty The Snowman- Ensemble Galilei (2:36)
December: Christmas- Bruce Levingston (4:08)
White Christmas- Irina Muresanu & Matei Varga (3:41)
Holly Jolly Christmas- Jasper String Quartet (2:15)
Walking In The Air- Ronn McFarlane (2:54)
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas- Cory Hills (3:56)
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town- Kathryn Bates (2:32)
Christmas Time Is Here- Caleb Nei (3:06)
Joy To The World- Cuarteto Latinoamericano & Lydia Lewis (1:45)
Good King Wenceslas- Stewart Goodyear (2:55)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas- Skylark Vocal Ensemble (2:42)
Silent Night- American Contemporary Music Ensemble (5:54)



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