There is something scene setting about this latest creation from Gary Schmidt, one of the finest cross performers on piano in the new age and classical genres. Schmidt’s desire here is to create a place of peace and serenity for us, in this current oasis of chaos.
Christmas, and the memory palace of such winter festivities, usually springs forth beautiful family reflections for us to bathe in, like the bright and classic Carol of the Bells, or probably one of the most well-known pieces of all time Silent Night, both are given a makeover here, and a fresh energy can be enjoyed from both compositions.
There has never been a better time to go within and reflect on all that has gone by this year, and Schmidt’s arrangements are a wonderful vehicle with which to do so, like the very uplifting O Little Town of Bethlehem (with "Sheep May Safely Graze,” J.S. Bach) or a fan favourite in I Saw Three Ships, the latter I found particularly effective, as I live on the coast.
Meditation is a beautiful thing, but some get confused as to what it means or does, as a teacher of different styles and types of meditation, I would say focus on the moment and enjoy the reverie from it, I will give an example, I live in a very warm climate, so Christmas time here is very sunny and sometimes hot, I was just playing this album whilst gardening, and found the following four pieces quite inspirational.
Appropriately Lo How a Rose, a soothing musical narrative with such a charming aged signature to its construction, Ave Maria versions 1&2, how can one, regardless of what they’re doing, not be moved by this classic piece? Then into the arms of Angels We Have Heard, a happy manifestation of joy and seasonal bliss, and lastly as I once more entered my home, It's the Most Wonderful Time. Once more Schmidt creates such a wonderful arrangement, one that exudes a smile from every note played.
Why Schmidt has done so well here is because he has tapped into specific pieces that all have a different, but meaningful resonances with each of us for some reason or another, and made them all so open and accessible, like In the Bleak Midwinter (with "Jesu, Joy," J.S. Bach), this is a clever rendition and one really appreciated.
Do You Hear What I Hear is a sparkling reverie that contains a wonderful array of notes that hold a childlike energy within its construction. Then he takes us on a musical moment that is filled with the essence of the dance on Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (with "Gigue," G. Telemann), a track that has so much passion and joy.
Our penultimate offering is the memory filled opus of Little Drummer Boy, I must commend Schmidt here, I have often appreciated this piece for its major minor emotional touches, here the artist has truly excelled into emphasising that and then some, and into a composition that must be close to being in my view the best version of this song I have heard for decades.
The final piece is a hope we all have, especially with the chaos the world is currently in, and entitled I'll be Home for Christmas. A musical hope here, to finish off a truly grand album, one that manifests happiness, joyful memories, and the one thing we all need right now a little balance a little optimism, and a world in which our wishes can come true again.
Christmas Meditations by Gary Schmidt is a glorious album, I know you may have heard this before but it’s true, here is an album that takes a fresh look at the classics you all know, and ends up manifesting a collection of some of the most empowering arrangements you will have heard for quite some time, Christmas Meditations by Gary Schmidt is certainly something for your musical Christmas stocking, without a shadow of a doubt, and if you are a pianist yourself, you may also like to get a copy of the companion music book with all the scores in it, it’s available on Amazon.
Thank you Steve for such a wonderful review. I am very humbled and grateful.ReplyDelete
Thanks Gary, I always love your creations :)ReplyDelete