Presence... a Sneak Preview

Here is a little personal touch of each song that will be a part of 'Presence'... I pray it is a joyful celebration of Christmas for each person who hears.  To me, it is the perfect blend of nostalgia and tradition, each selection with a distinctive style all its own.  May it shine the light of God's love brightly on you this Christmas!

O Come/Joy to the World.....

Last year on WTGL, The Good Life (TV45 in Lake Mary, FL) I had the privilege of introducing one of the very first arrangements we wrote for this project. With the help of Doug Pierce from First Orlando, we put together two arrangements in the space of an hour, and this is one of them. It started as 'Joy to the World' with a little bit of a celtic twist, driven by acoustic guitar, but with plenty of room for added percussion, piano accents, and acoustic bass. As I rehearsed the arrangement, I found that a violin solo of 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' led into it well, not just with a musical foreshadowing, but also with the message. The Old Testament yearning of Israel for their promised Messiah led to this 15th century plainsong chant that has become a beloved Christmas hymn, 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel.' 'Joy to the World' then states, 'The Lord is come! Let Earth receive her King!' So we begin with the request, and we end with the answer. I love this arrangement... thank you Doug!

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen......

In the Singing Christmas Trees at First Orlando, the arrangement of this song, originally arranged by George Livings and Robert Elkins, was introduced in the scene where Scrooge was having his classic heart and life change. When I was working with Robert Elkins on this arrangement, we discussed using jazz elements for the song itself, but I asked him what he thought of bringing in the arrangement from 'Trees,' which wraps a 'Carol of the Bells' motif in with a TransSiberian-esque version of the melody of 'God Rest Ye.' Right in the middle, we slam on the brakes for a little swingin' jazz section with solos through the band combo, and then zoom back into the original theme for a slam-bang finish. I love this one too... (You might say I love them all...) Thank you Robert and George and all the expert playing on this song... it has been a blast to put together.

Bells
a pairing of one melody of 'I Heard the Bells' and 'Ring the Bells' by Harry Bollback

I was not planning on recording these two songs...Here is the story that brought them to mind. I was at Word of Life in Hudson, FL in March of this year, and Harry Bollback (for which the Performing Arts Center is named, and one of the co-founders of the Word of Life Bible Fellowship) happened to be there for my concert. He is 87 years young... at heart!! We were back in the sound booth, just joking and talking afterwards. In the middle of that conversation, he said to me, 'Do you think you might be able to put my song, Ring the Bells, on your new Christmas CD?' My reply was non-committal, but it put a little thought in the back of my mind. One day not long after that, I was walking by my piano, and in a moment of inspiration, I just started playing this nostalgic melody of 'I Heard the Bells' with a little bit different feel and meter. After that, a way to tie the two songs together came to me... and that was the seed of the arrangement that came about in the writing session with Doug Pierce resulting in this rather original rendition of 'Bells.' It has turned into one of my favorites... very warm and nostalgic, featuring violin with acoustic guitar and piano.

Christmas Concerto Concerto Grosso No. 8 in G Minor, Op. 6, V. Allegro and VI. Largo (Pastorale)
Arcangelo Corelli, 1690

Speaking of nostalgia, this piece takes me back to college. We were performing the Messiah at Christmastime my freshman year, and in addition, the chamber orchestra was given an opportunity to play an opener... and this was it. I played the first violin part back then... and now. The Concerto Grosso form goes back a long way (No dyslexia in the date above... it was really written in 1690, not 1960.) The form consists of two solo violin parts and a solo cello part accompanied by harpsichord and 'tutti' strings. Typically a concerto form was considered a 'duel' between the soloist(s) and the rest of the orchestra. This particular concerto grosso was nicknamed the 'Christmas Concerto,' and to me, it was fitting to put a little bit of my history on this project. Hope you enjoy it! (no arrangement was necessary, although Robert Elkins did an amazing job playing the harpsichord!)

Breath of Heaven/Mary, Did You Know?

First I'd like to say that my husband Tim requested these two songs... and suggested that we put them together in the same arrangement. It is brilliant... Not to mention that working with Robert Elkins on this arrangement was a joy, and recording it was even better. Weaving in and out of these two beautiful songs feels amazingly natural. Keeping the original feel in the piano, we added some beautiful cello lines, beautifully played by my mom. Breath of Heaven is a song Mary sings to the Spirit of God, 'Breath of Heaven' for strength on the journey to Bethlehem to give birth to our Savior. 'Mary, Did You Know?' is a song to Mary... even in the first line, the lyric is captivating. 'Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?'... One can definitely imagine her pondering all of these things in her heart (Luke 2), especially what was in store for the life ahead of Jesus. We added some ethereal vocals weaving in and out of the violin melodies... fading to a minor unison at the end. It's really beautiful...

I Wonder as I Wander

When I was growing up, my parents gave me my very first Sandi Patty cassette (did I put that in print?) for Christmas, and it happened to be one of her Christmas recordings. She had recorded this song with no accompaniment, just a lone soprano. Since then, I have loved this song, and I thought it would be a treat to play it on this special project... unaccompanied violin. It is very meditative and thoughtful... as if really wandering under the midnight sky. I enjoyed playing it... I hope you enjoy hearing it!

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear/Gesu Bambino

This one is a really fun duo between my violin and James McKey on shakere and dumbech. Yes, it's a jig... rather a surprise for these two serene songs. Maybe it's that second wind I get after midnight that inspired me to take this one at a faster clip... both of these songs are very melodic and fit together quite nicely.... and it was a blast to put together. Thank you James!!

(we're almost halfway through!)

A few more insights on the next songs in the sequence...

What Child is This?

This was another of the two songs that Doug Pierce and I collaborated on for our Channel 45 WTGL appearance last December, and Socrates Perez even got in on this one. When we wrote this, we were in Doug's office at church. It's always a good idea to make a little recording when you have a great idea... so Doug played guitar, I played violin (of course) and Socs, well... he played the chair. For lack of a more proper percussion instrument in the room. How would I describe this one? A little celtic, a little serenity, a few surprises, and a lot of acoustic folk make up this tune. Last year on Doug's tour, he invited me to perform this song on his Homecoming Concert at First Baptist... what an honor! And by the way, it's another one of my favorites!

Away in a Manger

Now for more strings... 'Away in a Manger' has two melodies, and I happen to be a fan of the lesser known one. When I was inspired with the concept for this one, it was another day I walked by the piano to lock in the idea. It starts with solo violin and adds layers of viola, cello, and bass as it progresses through the melody, adding harmony in counterpoint. As that melody finishes, the next melody begins. 'Dona Nobis Pacem', which is Latin for 'Grant Us Peace.' This song is naturally set up in the form of a round... so again the violin takes the first line, adding viola, cello, and double bass playing each individual part. As that closes, the violin takes the melody on the more popular tune for 'Away in a Manger,' simply accompanied by acoustic guitar. The viola reintroduces the original idea, and the string quartet finishes the lullaby in rich harmony.

White Christmas/The Christmas Song

I almost called this one 'White Christmas Song'... It is such a great combination of the two songs. It starts with violin and piano meditating on the little opening verse of 'White Christmas,' originally unveiled in the Christmas classic, 'Holiday Inn.' The bass takes us into a really cool swing tempo for the all-familiar chorus. As that song ends, James introduces a latin groove for 'The Christmas Song,' and then the tune is bookended with White Christmas once again... OK, I won't spoil it any further... you will just have to hear it. I don't think it gets much better than this.

Let it Snow/Winter Wonderland

Pure joy and fun... those are the two words that describe this arrangement best. Another pairing of two of my favorite Christmas songs ever... with a little shuffle groove on the acoustic guitar to kick things off. Add bass, piano, and a drum set... maybe a little Hammond B3 and a touch of country... and there you have it.

Four more and you'll have the complete picture... then you'll just have to get the CD!!



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