Whether it’s a collection of original compositions, an album of children’s songs, or a Christmas CD, I’m always deeply impressed by the grace, emotion, and beauty that Christine Brown brings to her music. "A Classic Christmas" only underscores those impressions with her solo piano arrangements of fourteen Christmas songs and medleys, some of which incorporate familiar classical pieces in ways that I find intriguing - AND thoroughly enjoyable. Medleys can sometimes feel a little forced or unnatural, but Christine effortlessly flows from one piece to the next as though they belonged together all along. Many artists eschew the more secular carols, but Brown has included a Santa Claus Medley and some of the other non-religious carols in addition to the hymns of the season, and I find them delightful! All of the music is arranged in a peaceful, flowing style that is perfect for relaxing, decorating the tree, sharing a holiday meal, driving from place to place, etc. Actually, I’d go as far to say that this album is just about perfect in every way. It was recorded and mastered at Joe Bongiorno’s Piano Haven Studio, ensuring a flawless piano sound that is warm and inviting.
"A Classic Christmas" begins with “Carol of the Bells,” which was chosen for inclusion on the Christmas Whisperings album that will be released November 1. This is one of my favorite Christmas carols, so I’m a little picky about which arrangements I really like, and I really like this one! Brown’s arrangement of “Joy to the World” is slower than usual and more thoughtful than exuberant, but it becomes “Pachelbel’s Canon” and then alternates between the two pieces. “What Child Is This?” includes some gorgeous improvisations between the verses that make this a standout. “Christmas Medley” includes “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” O Christmas Tree,” “Christmas Time is Here,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” beautifully put together in a little more than four minutes. It must be a daunting task to come up with an original version of something like “Amazing Grace,” but Christine has done it with original sections that bring this song into the present while keeping the simplicity of the melody intact. “O Holy Night” was a total surprise combined with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” but it works wonderfully well! I think this is my favorite track. I’ve heard “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in a lot of different settings, but combined with “Coventry Carol”? Again, it’s seamless and perfect, and this is one of the most beautiful versions of “Coventry Carol” I’ve heard - another favorite. Another WOW! moment is “Fur Elise” leading into and interwoven with “We Three Kings.” Christine Brown included one original in the collection, “Winter Stars,” a gentle piece of musical tranquility. The closing song is a very peaceful “Silent Night,” ending this wonderful collection with a sigh.
It looks like this is going to be an exceptional year for solo piano Christmas music, but I’m sure "A Classic Christmas" will remain a top favorite for the year and for years to come. I give it my highest recommendation.