If you are a lover of Christmas music—carols, popular songs, and all manner of medleys and clever arrangements of such—and you miss this extraordinary recording by the first-rate Dallas Wind Symphony, then your holiday listening stands to be just a bit more dull, less festive, and more ordinary than it could have been. This is a terrific program, in exemplary sound, that not only celebrates the Christmas music tradition but exemplifies the best of the wind ensemble genre, with its unique sonorities and long tradition of both originality and sense of playfulness and humor on the part of composers and arrangers.
The program opens with the obligatory fanfare—suitably titled Festival Fanfare—a nifty arrangement by John WassonRead more commissioned by the Dallas Wind Symphony, not surprisingly a showpiece for horns, full of familiar Christmas tunes. A decent but kinda square Sleigh Ride follows, along with a straightforward arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring that beautifully exhibits the colors and rich textures of a first-rate wind band.
Among the highlights: my favorite, a celebration of the much-maligned minor mode—DWS saxophonist David Lovrien’s Minor Alterations: Christmas Through the Looking Glass, a “recasting” of favorite Christmas songs and carols (and even snippets of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker combined with Deck the Hall!) into a wonderful medley of minor-key madness (along with some melodic and rhythmic twists) that definitely calls for repeated listening. Another standout is The Christmas Song, with its fine alto sax solo by Donald Fabian, swingingly accompanied by the ensemble.
The big “classical” work is an arrangement simply called Russian Christmas Music, which apparently draws its sources from “Russian folk and Eastern Orthodox church music”. At almost 14 minutes, it’s by far the program’s most substantial entry, and it does show a wider range of technical virtuosity and different aspect of interpretive awareness than required in most of the other works, even if Alfred Reed’s arrangement begins to seem a bit long for the material after about 10 minutes. Never mind; any drift of attention is quickly recalled front and center with the concluding Christmas And Sousa Forever—the title giving away the concept. Wait until you hear how arranger Julie Giroux juxtaposes excerpts from such Christmas favorites as Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with The Stars and Stripes Forever (and a couple of other marches)—not to mention the way she accompanies Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with that famous piccolo solo! It’s tempting to use that well-worn line, “if you buy only one Christmas CD this season, this one should be it”—but I won’t; I’ll just say that if by chance it is the only one, you won’t be disappointed.
Meet Me in St. Louis (Martin): Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Festival Fanfare for Christmas
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (arr. A. Reed): Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Jesus bleibet meine Freude (arr. A. Reed)
I'll Be Home for Christmas: (arr. for wind ensemble)
The Christmas Song, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire": (arr. for wind ensemble)
Meet Me in St Louis (arr. for wind ensemble): Meet Me in St Louis: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (arr. for wind ensemble)
A Christmas Festival
Deck the Halls: (arr. for wind ensemble)
Jingle Bells Fantasy
Russian Christmas Music
Christmas and Sousa Forever! (after J.P. Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever)
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Enjoyable and highly audiophileFebruary 16, 2013By Niek van Rijsbergen See All My Reviews"Being essentially a recording of mostly Christmas-associated pieces, this compact disc can be safely played at other times of the year too, because of the attractive arrangements and good sound. It's amazing what a wealth of sound this harmony orchestra produces; you barely miss the violins and other instruments of a complete philharmonic orchestra. For audiophiles a must. Very enjoyable."Report Abuse
Horns for the Holidays a must!December 12, 2012By Dorothea Collins (Saline, MI)See All My Reviews"This is a fantastic Christmas album and I'm so glad that I added it to my collection. If you are a concert band aficionado, you will especially like the selections on this CD. I really like the Russian Christmas Music by Reed. A sonic spectacular!"Report Abuse
Hat off!December 12, 2012By G. Lewis (Wichita Falls, TX)See All My Reviews"This album will take your breath away. It is beyond reproach-both in the musical performance and in the recording. And let's not leave out the recording venue: the Meyerson in Dallas is one of the best acoustically-friendly concert halls in the world and it's sound is partly why this recording gets a 5-star rating. Mostly, however, it's hats off to the Dallas Winds, Jerry Junkins, Keith Johnson, and the Reference Recording Staff! This has become my favorite Christmas album."Report Abuse