Sunday, December 18, 2011

CD Review – Christmas Joy, by Fiona Joy Hawkins

A trend in the Christmas albums I’ve reviewed so far seems to be subtlety, and Fiona Joy Hawkins continues that mood with her latest yuletide offering, a humble piano offering that in its quiet amplitude and tranquil peace truly captures the spirit of the season.

Perhaps artists are realizing that calmness best exemplifies what the holidays are all about, especially as an antithesis to the loud overbearing commercialism of this time, which sometimes also comes through in some overbearing, over-the-top Christmas music.

And yet Hawkins’ musical effort is no dispirited or disinterested downer. Rather, it is full of hope and celebration. After all, Joy literally is her middle name.

Hawkins’ gentle piano is augmented by equally softly tendered instrumentation by other musicians on didgeridoo, Paraguayan harp, soprano saxophone, and electric guitar. The result is an ensemble that provides solid support and adds to the palpable therapeutic effect of the music.

In addition to Hawkins’ own engaging compositions, the traditional tunes on the CD are given new life with interesting arrangements that make them seem almost original. Two in particular that come to mind are the beautiful “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and a very unique take on “Jingle Bells.” It is also interesting to hear Hawkins’ interpretation of “The Holly and the Ivy” in light of fellow pianist Bill Leslie’s recent version of the classic.

This album is definitely worth picking up if you want Christmas music that’s different yet familiar, providing for a refreshingly unique experience.

--Raj Manoharan

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