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If you remember 'chestnuts roasting by an open fire' then you'll certainly admire this rendition of The Christmas Song [listen -- track 13, 0:08-1:07] by jazz singer/pianist Mel Tormé. The arrangement by Christopher Mowat gives it full-blown jazzy-bluesy rendering. My only niggle: the marvelous trumpet and trombone soloists are not credited. It would be impossible to find better anywhere!

Simon Wills, of London's Guildhall School of Music has two arrangements here. The first is A Prelude and Fugue for Christmas which uses nine carols all told. Some of them are carefully and cleverly hidden, others obvious. In concert appearances, the BRB has been known to offer a prize CD to anyone in the audience who can correctly identify all the ingredients. As you might expect of a prelude and fugue, it's very organ-like in places. Listen for the little gracenotes from the trumpets just before the final notes begin to fade away.

Wills' second arrangement is my second favorite of the group. Silent Night, Holy Night [listen -- track 12, 1:16-2:19] would certainly rank high on any list of favorite Christmas carols. This version is not at all disrespectful of the beloved carol, while changing it to a waltz rhythm. Amazing! It's totally charming. There's a lovely trombone solo in the midst of the fun.

Percy Grainger was born in Australia, but lived in the UK and the US, and is usually claimed by all three nations. His contribution here is A Sussex Mummer's Christmas Carol which was noted in that county in the late 1800s. Although it is all instrumental, with no sung words, still the famous chorale tune is 'sung' by the instruments. You'll recognize it immediately [listen -- track 3, 1:05-2:12].

Even folks who don't speak German will recognize the music of Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns die Stimme of J S Bach. This version by Peter Reeve maintains the chorale sound of the organ in one of the most familiar and beloved works by the great organ master.

In Dulci jubilo is one of the oldest of all carols. Feza Zweifel used the organ version of Marcel Dupré as the basis for his meditative, tranquil, and very lovely rendition.

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Copyright © 18 December 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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