Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Canadian Christmas Music - Martin

In the December 1st issue of Christian Week, I have reviewed new Christmas albums by two talented Canadian recording artists: Jacob Moon’s This Christmas, and Kelita’s Heavenly Night. In this blog, I’ve chosen to share with you four of my favourite Canadian Christmas CDs from previous years.

Bruce Cockburn — Christmas — True North Records 1993
Every year, this CD gets heard often around our home. You won’t hear any silly seasonal ditties here, but Cockburn’s renditions of classic carols such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Silent Night”, and the wonderful Sam Phillips minor-key arrangement of “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”. He also sings carols in Spanish, French, and virtually-extinct Huron. Cockburn’s own composition “Shepherds” is a faithful retelling (in more than one way) of the story of the angel choir announcing Christ’s birth. He includes some beautiful lesser-known songs — and bookends the album with brief guitar instrumentals of carols, that leave you wanting more. Cockburn brings his depth of thought and integrity to Christmas music.

Steve Bell — The Feast Of Seasons — Signpost Music 1995
There are only a few well-known carols on Steve Bell’s seasonal CD (originally called The Feast). It isn’t until track five that you’ll recognize “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” which is then followed by a medley of three familiar carols on solo guitar. The album is arranged liturgically, beginning with the Advent song “Ready My Heart” and moving through to Epiphany with the original composition “Old Sage”. One highlight is “Every Stone Shall Cry” — originally a poem by Richard Wilbur — which carries our thoughts beyond, to Easter, and back again. If I could have only one Christmas CD, this would be it.

Lianna Klassen — Once Upon a Time Forever After — Dawntreader Productions 2002
There are even fewer carols on Lianna Klassen’s Christmas album — only two in fact (“O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Huron Carol”) and yet she has made a disc that clearly brings the story behind the season to mind. Several of the songs, which she self-penned, are built around characters from the Biblical account. Klassen’s music has an atmospheric, Celtic quality — featuring traditional instruments and subtle synthetic sounds — that complement her strong voice well. My favourite cut is “Gloria Deo”, a soaring, multi-layered angel song of praise that announces the birth of our Lord. Beautiful.

Ali Matthews — On Angels’ Wings — Shake-a-Paw Music 2005
On her album, Ali Matthews sings original songs, traditional carols, and a few fluffy seasonal songs such as “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. I believe there’s method in such madness; Matthews knows how to disarm an audience that may not think they want to hear “Christian” music. She delights us with Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here”, from the Charlie Brown Christmas special — opening listeners to carols and her own truth-laden songs, which are so honestly written that she can slip from the pleasantly sentimental to the profoundly spiritual virtually unnoticed. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”!

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at www.dsmartin.ca

1 comment:

Bonnie Grove said...

I have listened to Steve Bell's music for years. This Christmas album is fantastic. I highly recommend it.
Bonnie Grove

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