An Enchanted Noel
Dan Kennedy’s solo piano holiday collection An Enchanted Noël is just the ticket for family gatherings, as it accentuates both the joy, fun, and celebratory nature of Christmas, as well as it’s more spiritual element. Some of the twelve selections (ten traditional carols and two originals) tone things down, while others are on the festive end of the scale.
“Angels We Have Heard On High,” which opens the album, illustrates my point. An at-times rousing rendition of the carol, Kennedy also injects some mild jazziness at times, which replaces the usual heavier gravitas of the song with some (much-needed, in my opinion), well, fun! “In the Bleak Midwinter,” however, gets the appropriate level of flowing somberness, and here Kennedy shows off his control of nuance and gentleness of tone/mood. It’s a terrific arrangement. “Carol of the Bells,” which I have heard on too many to count versions, marries both dark and light, the arrangement injecting some unexpected twists and turns, which add depth and a more pronounced feeling of emotion. His first of two originals follows. “For Those Not Here,” and, as might be inferred by its title, it’s a subdued piece that nonetheless has an air of peace and, later in the song, even hopefulness. For me, it fits in nicely with the abundance of holiday classics. One of favorite tracks, Kennedy’s take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” evokes a gentle nostalgia, and again, he displays uncommon deftness on the ivories.
In the middle of the album sits a 6+ minute medley of traditional carols, and Kennedy handles the transitions between each one with ease, as if the individual selections were meant to be strung together (like Christmas tree lights!). Later, “Sussex Carol” gets a subtle jump-boogie treatment and, yes, it works and works marvelously (to my ears at least). After one more carol and the second original, Kennedy closes with a perfect ending, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” His arrangement is restrained, but still sincerely evocative of the beauty of the season (both internally and externally). To be honest, you can’t go wrong with that Christmas-time staple, and Kennedy does justice to it, and then some.
One of the hallmarks of a great album, holiday or otherwise, is that as the last songs ends, the listener wishes there were more still to come. That’s how I felt at the end of An Enchanted Noël. Highly recommended, so download and/or stream it tonight and tomorrow.
All music performed by Dan Kennedy
All songs traditional/public domain except “For Those Not Here” and “Of Snow and Stars.”
Album produced by Dan Kennedy
Mixing and Mastering by Bill Aheam.
Recorded at Tapeworks, Hartford, CT