If you’re tired of hearing what seems like the same tired, played out, department store Christmas music every year, than this CD is for you. The Ghosts of Christmas Past is a beautiful, ethereal collection of inspirational seasonal music; poetic, often spiritual, these songs are sure to be a staple of your December soundtrack.
The arrangements are lush with an emphasis on beauty, and feature silken female vocals floating over softly played acoustic guitar and a bed of strings, flutes and bells. This particular collection of compositions features 5 different, talented singers whose diversity adds further beauty and texture to this compilation.
The disc opens with an airy, celtic interpretation of “Silent Night,” featuring Cara Leiurance over a bed of strings with a wood flute taking over the melody in the bridge. Originally a German hymn, Stille Nacht, this carol was written in 1818 by Joseph Mohr with music accompaniment provided by Franz Gruber.
The second track is an original, poetic, wintry ballad called “In Winter” and features the silken voice of Leslie Boughton over soft guitar strumming and a soothing arrangement of strings and choir voices. While not specifically a Christmas song, it is certainly a seasonal composition, and one to revel in whilst the year’s first snow falls all around you and paints the landscape white.
Next is a gorgeous medley of songs of the season, blending together the brooding carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” with the soft lullaby “All Through the Night.” Inspired by and featuring classically trained vocalist Debra Netz, this arrangement features some lovely vocal harmonies over acoustic guitar, and a blending of strings, flutes and oboes. The lyrics of the first verse are the traditional words penned by Christina Rossetti’s Christmas poem, the second stanza was written by Matthew Ervin to take some of the religious edge off the remaining original lyrics and bring it back to the seasonal description of the season created in the first verse.
The fourth piece on this collection is a true Christmas original, a romantic and sentimental ballad called “Holly Leaves & Mistletoe” composed by Matthew Ervin and featuring vocalist Aziza Amy Poggi on vocals. This song is a reminder to lover’s to take off their mittens and hold hands and kiss often beneath the mistletoe this holiday season.
“The First Noel” brings us to the half-way point in this collection of holiday ditties, but with a wholly unique interpretation, combining Pachelbel’s Cannon in D, arranged with a string quartet backdrop, with the serene voice of Amy Kozak serenading the traditional refrain of this classic holiday carol, the end result is a glorious and tender rendition of a Christmas favorite.
Next up is another original wintry ballad, this one a re-make of the band’s early recording with some re-worked lyrics for the chorus refrain. “Winter Gardens” features Cara Leiurance on vocals who seduces the listener with her romantic musings on this pretty winter serenade.
Debra Netz returns to sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” over a backdrop of cathedral bells, flutes, strings and a bed of softly played acoustic guitar. The lyrics alternate between the original latin Adeste Fideles and the English translation many of us are more familiar with.
Up next is always a crowd favorite, a soft and contemporary rendition of “Welcome Christmas” from the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, featuring Leslie Boughton on vocals over a tight rhythm section and symphony of strings and bells. This song is worth the price of admission alone.
Track 9 is another original piece and the only instrumental on this collection of December melodies and hymns. “December 24th” warms the listener like a cup of hot cocoa after sledding and melds together bright strings with bells that fall around you like snowflakes.
Finally, “En Hiver” rounds out this collection of December ditties, and compliments its English language counterpart “In Winter,” though this time with a more electronic flavor, without guitar and instead a drum machine in slow motion, like soft falling snow.