Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Season! Donovan Johnson 2009 / The Boxhouse Music Company 45.8 minutes
"Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Season!" is a collection of nine traditional and two original winter and Christmas pieces arranged and performed for piano and keyboard by Donovan Johnson. Sometimes smooth and lyrical, and sometimes more upbeat and rhythmic, this album provides an excellent assortment of Christmas pieces suitable for holiday get-togethers, background music for a Christmas meal, kicking back by a fire, or simply to enjoy for the music itself. Most of the stylings would be classified as “new age,” but there are pop, classical, and Celtic influences as well. I also hear hints of Mannheim Steamroller here and there, but just hints. Many recent “new age” Christmas albums are very slow and quiet, but this one is much more celebratory, as the title implies.
"Winter Solstice" begins with a lovely arrangement of “Silent Night.” String washes create a soothing backdrop for the piano, making this a very peaceful opening. “Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” is arranged for piano with wordless vocals by what sounds like a children’s choir - a very sweet arrangement. “O Come Emmanuel” has some interesting changes to the melody while keeping the haunting quality of the original song. “The Holly King” kicks up the tempo with a playful rhythm in a piece that swirls and dances for joy. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a lovely duet for oboe and guitar with string accompaniment (all keyboard, I think). “I Saw Three Ships” brings in crashing drums, bagpipes, penny whistles, and bells, in a spirited Celtic arrangement that’s really different. “Northern Lights” is one of the two original pieces, this time for piano with keyboard washes for color and atmosphere. The flowing rhythm and beautiful melody make this one is a favorite. The second original is “Winter Nocturne,” which I love! The passionate piano blended with keyboard vocals and atmospheric sounds create an intense mood of mystery and magic.