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Christmas Then and Now

Notes & Reviews:

Gifted arranger/composer and local Atlanta musician Beth Michaels again delivers a wonderful compilation, this time of festive Christmas tunes with resounding impact. It is here that she presents her charming personality behind the keys. Some of the melodies are colorfully arranged, and many of them are played with not only a touch of Christmas cheer, but also deep somber resonance. Michaels creates these tunes with a new kind of shimmering power, and does so with such grace and easy. Many of the arrangements are pointed in the classical direction, though some have hints of jazz and new age. Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber's "Silent Night" is played with a sweet and soothing passion, as to provide the listener the chance to meditate and relax. So is the next tune, Richard Willis's "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," a popular standard retold in a refreshing way. The traditional carol, "Angels We Have Heard on High," leaves the listener breathless and chanting for more. By now, half way through the record, who with Christmas in their heart wouldn't be in a festive mood? Uplifting and majestic in its form, these compelling Christmas tunes can provide the festive caroler a feeling of good cheer, renewed faith, and a brightened sense of hope for a new and better year ahead. The fervent and pleasing "Christmas Waltz," written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, shines through with brilliant effect. It only gets better with a stirring rendition of Oscar Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things." Thrown right in the mix of the classic Christmas standards, "Deck the Halls" and another take on "Silent Night" is the affectionate melody, M. Martin and R. Blane's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," played with an enduring classical finish. This compilation is sure to put a happy, merry go lucky Christmas follower in a grand mood to celebrate the season. ~ Shawn Haney


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