Strings for a Season - Richard Gilewitz
GillaZilla Records/ GZ7070/ October 1, 2008
GillaZilla Records has released Strings for a Season, a collection of favorite seasonal tunes, gathered up by fingerstyle guitarist Richard Gilewitz. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with Grammy award winning sound engineer Tim Roberts, and co-produced with Grammy nominated artist Tim May, Strings for a Season is a flurry of sounds from a family of strings from guitar, cello, violin, mandolin, banjo, and piano.
This 15-track release features nine guitar arrangements from Mel Bay Publications author Stephen C. Siktberg’s 1993 book, Christmas Music for Acoustic Guitar along with a John Fahey arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, and five arrangements by Richard Gilewitz, inspired by John Fahey’s earlier popular Christmas albums.
Each track contains the signature 6 and 12-string guitar sounds of Richard Gilewitz as he shares the spotlight with the ambiance of cello from Laurie Jarski and Deidre Emerson, piano and keyboard from David Webb, and the violin of Gretchen Priest. Tim May, recording artist who has played with the likes of Patty Loveless, Eddie Rabbit, and Charlie Daniels, adds his touch with mandolin, tenor banjo, acoustic guitar and resophonic guitar. All solo guitar performances are by Richard Gilewitz except for a guitar duet with Tim May on “Angels We Have Heard on High”
According to Richard, his leap into the commercial arena of holiday music for his 7th recording “began nearly a year after first hearing Stephen Siktberg’s CD filled with utterly brilliant and tasteful guitar arrangements of popular seasonal tunes. These pieces from his release simply titled Christmas Music for Acoustic Guitar, stuck with me long enough to get my attention and never let go.
“Convinced that I heard two guitars playing simultaneously, one day just out of curiosity I examined the music and realized these were arrangements for one guitar. I was floored and hooked! I believe the first piece I attempted was “Deck the Halls” and after four more years I selected my favorites from the book, along with some of my own arrangements inspired by John Fahey’s earlier popular Christmas albums.”
Strings for a Season is also available from www.richardgilewitz.com and other retail outlets.
1. Deck the Halls* (Traditional Welsh Carol) 1:56
2. O Tannenbaum/We Wish You A Merry Christmas* (Traditional German Carol/ English Folksong) 3:19
3. O, Holy Night* (Adolphe Adam) 4:14
4. O Come, All Ye Faithful* (J.F. Wade) 1:56
5. Silent Night (Franz Gruber) 2:56
6. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing* (Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) 3:02
7. Angels We Have Heard on High (Traditional French Carol) 2:18
8. What Child Is This? (16th Century English Melody) 2:44
9. Joy to the World* (George Frideric Handel) 1:40
10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (19th Century English Carol) 2:48
11. The First Noel* (17th Century English Carol) 2:16
12. We Three Kings of Orient Are (John H. Hopkins, Jr.) 2:30
13. O, Little Town of Bethlehem* (Lewis H. Redner) 3:00
14. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear* (Richard Storrs Willis) 2:40
15. Jingle Bells (J. Pierpont) 2:15
*Guitar arrangements by Stephen C. Siktberg from “Christmas Music for Acoustic Guitar”, Mel Bay Publications 1993
Track 10. Guitar arrangement by John Fahey
Tracks 5, 7, 8, 12, 15. Guitar arrangements by Richard Gilewitz
All solo guitar performances by Richard Gilewitz, except for guitar duet with Tim May on Track 7
The perfect backdrop for almost any holiday event
The ChristmasReviews.com website has many holiday music reviews featuring solo acoustic guitar albums, and these are some of my favorite offerings. The warm and winning sound of a well-played guitar is a natural organic match for Christmas carols; the familiar and accessible guitar voice embraces and enhances the nostalgic joys inherently associated with the holidays. Richard Gilewitz's Strings for a Season is an exciting addition to the instrumental guitar genre; even more importantly, it provides more layers of interest. In addition to Gilewitz's virtuosity on the 6 & 12-string guitars, he welcomes several musician friends who contribute a family of strings (guitar, cello, violin, mandolin, banjo, and piano). The result is a richer, fuller sound that largely retains the intimacy of the solo guitar, and this fine recipe makes Strings for a Season a great entertainment option for the holidays.
I reviewed this album at 5 AM on a frosty October morning in Minnesota, and the music's friendly companionship certainly made the early hour easier to accept. The arrangements are exceptional; Stephen Siktberg provides the bulk, but the late John Fahey contributes one, and Gilewitz presents his own freshly-minted, Fahey-inspired constructions. The well-worn carols dance with color, light, and heat--almost as though the music is its own holiday hearth, rewarding the listeners with comfort and bliss. The music is cheery, but never frenetic; this album is the perfect backdrop for almost any holiday event.
Although all players make important contributions here, I particularly love the cello's low voice (Laurie Jarski, Deidre Emerson); for me, the cello speaks straight from the soul. Every track is excellent, and it is difficult to pick out "favorites" from the group. Even so, the highlights must include Gilewitz's solo guitar on Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, the jazzy flourishes (and banjo excitement) on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and the full interplay of strings and piano on We Three Kings.
Impressive! Richard Gilewitz has created a classic Christmas album that should endure; Strings for a Season will be warmly received by diverse holiday music aficionados for many, many years to come!
--Carol Swanson - 2008
by Mark S. Tucker
for the Folk and Music Exchange
I was enamored with Richard Gilewitz's *Live at the Second Street Theater* in 2006 (here), where the fingerpicker showcased a dazzling schedule of compelling cuts. The guy's a favored performer in the California Guitar Trio's fancy, so you know we're talking about unusual skill and quality. Christmas CDs, though, are often a dicey affair, what with so many New Age goop fests and pop banality tending to surfeit the market, but Gilewitz only decided to produce his after listening to Stephen C. Siktberg's Christmas Music for Acoustic Guitar and the bracing arrangements contained therein. It was a wise choice as the guy managed to also avoid the oft smotheringly wooden recitals seasonal songs receive when rendered in a classical vein. Part of this departure from rigid orthodoxy derives from the guitarist's love for John Fahey's work.
The disc, however, is not solo, as Gilewitz chose a quintet of backing musicians (second guitar, two cellos, keyboards) with nicely attuned ears, a gathering managing to straddle the rarefied airs of both Beethoven's time and the Windham Hill label (the most successful New Age imprint yet produced), ending up with, as Gilewitz himself puts it, a flurry of sounds. Mostly the atmosphere is of the sort Fahey would've favored, along with refrains of Jan Akkerman's baroque solo stylings and tastes of William Ackerman's famed imprint. Don't take that as gospel, though, as the arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman smacks deliciously of a cow poke's Christmas, embodying an absolutely unique interpretation. Matching it, closing the CD is a version of Jingle Bells that would do a barnraising proud. These two cuts, in fact, for all the warmth of the classicalist approach, prompt me to urge Gilewitz to consider next year doing a completely countrified Xmas release:, the pair here being so devastatingly good.
Throughout Strings for a Season, the mix is sometimes thick and lush (The First Noel for instance), other times spare and pensive (O Holy Night) but always rimed with the stateliness of antiquity and a number of innovations the years since have evoked. Credit Tim May and Tim Roberts for partial credit as well. May provides the complementary back-up guitars (banjo and mando included) while producing and Roberts engineered a sound as clear and shining as the light atop a yule tree.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
host of the Dr. Christmas radio shows
on WRST-FM University of Wisconsin
"I am lucky enough to have a copy of a 20-year-old CD full of Stephen Siktberg’s Christmas arrangements for guitar, but it existed only as a Musical Heritage Society release available to members alone. Despair not! Richard Gilewitz uses some of Siktberg’s excellent arrangements on his new “Strings for a Season.” His CD also stands out because of the use of cello, violin, mandolin, banjo, and piano to provide effective settings for his guitar playing. Given Richard’s fine playing, I hope he will record ALL of Siktberg’s arrangements for wider distribution."