Introduction to "The 12 Keys of Christmas" by Rich Smith
I've always loved playing in all 12 keys, whether in major or the relative minor. As there are twelve days of Christmas, it seemed natural to utilize each key and choose twelve different songs for this album; all to be further complemented by releasing it on 12/12/12. Yes, I love numbers, too, but the real passion and spirit is in the music - as will be apparent to anyone who listens to it.
I began this project in November of 2011. After deciding which songs and keys work well together, I made simple lead sheets of each song. I wrote my own new chord choices in many cases, to accompany the notes of the original melodies, and improvised to find my favorite interpretation of each piece. Thankfully, I had time to experiment and listen, and improve upon my performance of the pieces.
A few of my recordings in 2011 were quite inspiring, but for the final album, I only used one of my 2011 recordings: "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear". I don't claim perfection on any of my performances (I'm human!), but I just loved the feel and interpretation from this particular take. Sometimes so many factors have to be just right in order to get the perfect take (so to speak), and it can often be extremely difficult or impossible to recreate that moment once you've achieved it. That's a big part of what this album is - a collection of those moments that I thought were diamonds in the rough; the rough being the freedom of my playing which allows new ideas to flow.
The songs I chose have been a part of my life since I was a child. I've enjoyed listening to them and playing them through the years. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of hearing Christmas carols sung live by an entire congregation in a grand church: I would sing along, too, but it was hearing a full house of joyful voices singing that just lifts you into the air. I was also fond of playing the carols at home on our old turntable.
I revised the music of the songs to give them my own interpretation. "God Rest You Merry" was probably the one I changed the most compared to the original music. I basically turned the verse downside up, or minor to major. Something about the song never sat right with me, even when I was young. It wasn't until November of 2012 that I finally had the idea to make the change, which I feel is more in line with the original intent of the lyrics. Joy, rest, and merry are very "major" elements to me, and by the end of the piece as I rewrote it, I feel very much at peace and rest after listening.
Religiously, I actually come from a family of mixed races and religious beliefs, and think people can enjoy this album regardless of their beliefs. While my family celebrates Christmas, we also celebrate Hanukkah, the Chinese New Year, and more. I believe in tolerance / acceptance and appreciation of one another's different beliefs. I think the possibility for world peace depends on everyone's acceptance of our differences, and granting each other the freedom to think and believe differently. I sincerely wish for Peace on Earth, and goodwill to all!