The pianist/arranger responsible for this album relates how he feels about the process of assembling these pieces on the album.
"I had the most wonderful time arranging, revising, and reliving special moments of my life with these "Christmas Rhapsody" timeless masterpieces, the musical treasures of Christmas. Some songs so simple and yet so complex in feeling – “Silent Night” with “Oh Holy Night”.
The beautiful Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria”, simplicity at its core and yet so deeply profound. With these arrangements I wanted to stay true to the basic thematic and harmonic structure – not to venture too far away from the original.
With “Winter Wonderland” combined with “Jingle Bells”, however I did venture into the land of Rachmaninoff and the Russian landscape covered with snow, speckled with tiny little diamonds, the white birch trees, and of course the Russian troika, with bells jingling as it races down the path.
I love combining different styles and periods to make a fresh new piece. On this album “I’ll be home for Christmas” is combined with the “Largo” movement from Dvorack’s New World Symphony. This classical piece is often referred to as “Going Home” and what more appropriate Christmas song to combine it with.
There are two selection on this album that are theatrical in nature. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – combined with “Let it Snow” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Upon arriving in New York City from Texas to go to the Juilliard School of Music, one of my greatest thrills was, and still is today, to go to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Show.
With these wonderful songs I have created my own mini Radio City experience - the Christmas Rhapsody. Compete with the high stepping Rockettes. I’m sure if you close your eyes you’ll see and hear what I mean.
In my version of “The Christmas Song” I had the opportunity to wander into the world of Jazz. Using this style and sound was particularly fun and satisfying for me to create.
This one of the greatest Christmas songs ever written. So rich in its imagery and harmonic structure. Every time I play it or hear it, it is like I’m experiencing it for the first time.
Growing up in the wind swept plains of West Texas and being the youngest church organist in the state, I had the incredible opportunity to learn and perform great sacred music. The Christmas season of course is one of the biggest musical experiences in any church, and no less in mine. I created every Sunday leading up to Christmas, fantasies and medleys on all of the carols.
Combining, altering, changing, mixing the different styles of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and the late Romantic composers, improvising these beloved carols in these different styles. I chose however for this album - Christmas Rhapsody - to present, these Carols in their purest form.
Straight from my heart, during the time I was church organist, many different musical ideas emerged and one of the most memorable was one Sunday for the offertory, I combined "Jesu joy of Man's Desiring" and the great hymn "Amazing Grace"
I put both songs together simultaneously with "Amazing Grace" played on the pedals and "Jesu" on the keyboard. This caused quite a stir, and it became my signature "Theme Song" if you will, for years to come.
My feelings about Christmas and the true essence of what Christmas means is captured in this transcription. The birth of Jesus, His amazing Grace for all of us, and the promise of Everlasting Life with Him.
Every Christmas, while growing up, my mother (who was my first piano teacher) always sang this particular Negro Spiritual for church. She was known far and wide for her interpretation of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy".
When I think of those years and Christmas, I hear her in my mind singing this beautifully haunting song. Recently my mom found a tape of her singing it at a family reunion in 1978. 1 created a special arrangement of "What Child is This?" with "Away in a Manger" with mom's voice singing "her song" woven throughout this piece.
What I love about Christmas music is the memories associated with it, the beautiful melody and the sentiment it evokes. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is so simple and honest in its feeling both lyrically and musically. It is no wonder that this song is and remains a classic.
A Christmas album would not be complete without the most beloved Christmas song ever, "White Christmas". In my rendition of this monumental , classic I used the lyric to inspire the mood and character of the opening, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas".
As my transcription develops and unfolds, the improvisatory transition provides the necessary building for the climax of this timeless melody.
As the piece ends, so does our journey together through this wonderland of our "collective experience", our musical memory and the "Blessed moments" in our lives that make up "Christmas" for each of us.