Christmas / Sean Smith, guitar

Audio Samples

>Traditional, Christmas : The First Nowell (English)
>Traditional, Christmas : Good King Wenceslas (Piae Cantiones, 1582)
>Davis, Katherine K. : The Little Drummer Boy "Carol of the Drum"
>Handel, George Frideric : Joy to the World (theme by Handel)
>Gruber, Franz : Silent Night
>Hopkins, John Henry : We three kings
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing"
>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning I, improvisation for guitar
>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning II, improvisation for guitar
>Guaraldi, Vince : Christmastime is Here
>Traditional, Christmas : O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (German)
>Wade, John Francis : O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste fideles)
>Traditional, Christmas : Deck the Halls (Welsh)
>Willis, Richard Storrs : It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
>Traditional, Scottish : Auld Lang Syne

Album Summary

>Traditional, Christmas : The First Nowell (English)
>Traditional, Christmas : Good King Wenceslas (Piae Cantiones, 1582)
>Davis, Katherine K. : The Little Drummer Boy "Carol of the Drum"
>Handel, George Frideric : Joy to the World (theme by Handel)
>Gruber, Franz : Silent Night
>Hopkins, John Henry : We three kings
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing"
>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning I, improvisation for guitar
>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning II, improvisation for guitar
>Guaraldi, Vince : Christmastime is Here
>Traditional, Christmas : O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (German)
>Wade, John Francis : O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste fideles)
>Traditional, Christmas : Deck the Halls (Welsh)
>Willis, Richard Storrs : It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
>Traditional, Scottish : Auld Lang Syne
Performer Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Accomplished Bay Area guitarist Sean Smith has released several albums under his own name, and has produced and contributed to the compilations Berkeley Guitar and Beyond Berkeley Guitar. His latest album, Christmas, is a gorgeous contemporary acoustic guitar recording featuring fourteen well known Christmas classics and two Sean Smith originals. Considering the vast amount of syrupy instrumental music in this genre, Christmas is a most welcome holiday album, and one which could well become a classic for many years to come.

"Glancing over his shoulder at the guitarist John Fahey’s Christmas album, “The New Possibility,” Sean Smith offers spare solo-guitar versions of public-domain carols, often playing slowly and using just one or two strings at a time for melody and drone while his six-string guitar resonates. Two improvisations of his own are equally centered on folky tunes, with “Christmas Eve (Improvisation II)” moving into some Fahey-like picking. The music is homespun and sure, serenely reverent and humbly concise." -New York Times

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA (05/2010/07/2010).

Sean Smith sets himself up for a clear challenge with a Christmas album -- it's not only one of the most crowded fields in general (and that's just counting solo acoustic performers on many different instruments) but there's one inevitable figure he can't escape fully from: John Fahey, whose work helped create the space for performers like Smith to thrive and whose own Christmas albums, however generally formal in comparison to his more experimental approaches, remain among the best holiday efforts, period. Smith's approach on the baldly titled Christmas is to wisely and immediately aim for his own path; there's a rough resonance that starts things off with "The First Noel" that's much different from the elegantly descending introduction Fahey started The New Possibility with. With that as a signpost, Smith's exploration of numerous standards often -- not always, but often enough -- conjures up an air suspended between tradition and, almost, isolation. There's something suggestively forlorn in the long pauses on "Good King Wenceslas," the slow, deliberate stateliness of "Joy to the World" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," the quieter beginning to "O Come All Ye Faithful" before picking up the speed toward the end of the performance. No extended medleys or fantasias appear on the disc, and a number of tracks barely break two minutes or even one, including his own two original pieces, self-described improvisations both entitled "Christmas Morning," one a slow, reflective performance, the other a sprightly romp that adds sudden light to the album. Perhaps one of the most inspired of his interpretations is "Little Drummer Boy," darker notes setting the necessary rhythmic heft for the song, but his take on Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas masterpiece "Christmas Time Is Here" is equally moving, bright tones and slower pacing bringing out both the song's elegant beauty and perfect, fragile melancholia. It's a lovely microcosm for the warm yet still shadowed feeling of the album, one where the cover photo of Smith in a church suggests he could be playing for the lonely soul in the pews, searching for holiday cheer while the cold remains outside. ~ Ned Raggett



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Works Details

>Traditional, Christmas : The First Nowell (English)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 48 sec.
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: by 1823

>Traditional, Christmas : Good King Wenceslas (Piae Cantiones, 1582)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 6 sec.
  • Period Time: Renaissance
  • Written: circa 1582

>Davis, Katherine K. : The Little Drummer Boy "Carol of the Drum"
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 43 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1958

>Handel, George Frideric : Joy to the World (theme by Handel)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 53 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: 1742

>Gruber, Franz : Silent Night
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1818

>Hopkins, John Henry : We three kings
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: 1857

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Festgesang "Hark! The herald angels sing"
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Notes: Composition written: 1840.
  • Running Time: 4 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: 1840

>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning I, improvisation for guitar
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 15 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Christmas

>Smith, Sean [Guitar] : Christmas Morning II, improvisation for guitar
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Christmas

>Guaraldi, Vince : Christmastime is Here
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Christmas

>Traditional, Christmas : O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (German)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 4 sec.
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: circa 1820

>Wade, John Francis : O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste fideles)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 58 sec.
  • Period Time: Classical
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1751

>Traditional, Christmas : Deck the Halls (Welsh)
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: by 1784

>Willis, Richard Storrs : It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 4 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Christmas
  • Written: 1850

>Traditional, Scottish : Auld Lang Syne
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Classical
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1797

>Gruber, Franz : Silent Night
  • Performer: Sean Smith (Guitar)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1818