The Story of Christmas Presence
Although each classic song on Christmas Presence has a story that reaches our ears through the ages, the story of how the album came to be is the story of bells, piano, and improvisation. In my own life the story began when I was four and had the measles—my mother brought me a toy piano that set the course of my life. My formal education was completed with a scholarship to earn my Master of Music Degree at the SF Conservatory of Music. During the period of my life between 1988 and 2005 I did alot of daily improvising/creating. I was a Senior Musician in the Dept. of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at U.C. Berkeley. For fun I played Happy Hours at the Hilton and did shifts at Nordstrom SF Centre. On Sundays I worked at Saint Perpetua Church in Lafayette in the early 1990s, improvising hymns during the Preparation of the Gifts . I had begun gathering world bells as part of a piece I performed for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, earlier that year, in a collaboration with Mary Sano.
The story of the album begins with a hole in the roof. And a drop of water perilously close to the new grand piano, which had been donated by a Dr. Clarence Sheets in loving memory of his wife, Eleanor. The community began discussions about fundraisers to fix the roof, and I suggested making a Christmas album.
Mike Malone and Tom Jupille were familiar with my improvisational style and thought it would be good to have an album that was peaceful and relaxing, providing listeners with a tool for de-stressing. Whether it be while driving in holiday traffic or having quality time with family members, the concept was to provide centering music to enhance the experience of Christmas. They offered to be backers for a 4-hour recording session at Bay Records in Berkeley, and the rest is history. Our improvised fundraiser was a success!
The bells in my collection at that time included Mark Tree, Indian brass bells, and a Tibetan bowl bell. Over the years my bells collection has continued to grow. (Please see my world project “We Declare” on my website, spiralingmusic.com, which teaches about all sorts of world instruments and bells!) My life took me from Northern to Southern California. While at Bodhi Tree in Beverly Hills one day, I heard some very large B Flat chimes, and thought how beautiful they would be on “Silent Night.”
This year I re-mastered Christmas Presence, working both at Deva Productions in Lafayette and at Kokopelli Studio in Winnetka. I was delighted to be able to add many more bells. The 2008 album includes Kulingtang, Tingsha, Elephant bells, and tuned Woodstock windchimes (which I love!) I couldn’t resist adding track 12, a harmonious, 30-second cascade of bells, as a ringtone specially crafted for the holiday season!
Thank you for purchasing this lovely CD. I hope the story continues as it becomes your soothing soundtrack to many wonderful and peaceful holidays!