This is solo pianist Dan Chadburn’s fourth CD. It features a Christmas holiday theme in which well-known Christmas songs are mixed with a few original songs that emphasize the cold winter season.
Chadburn begins with the lovely “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” an old melody from 15th century France. The original piano arrangement highlights the beauty of the melody. It is followed by another classic, “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella.” This 16th century French tune is in a lively 3/8 rhythm. Chadburn makes the most of the rhythms with some creative variations on the theme. The third tune is an original piece titled “Returning Home.” This song begins with a soft, sentimental feeling that gains energy as it goes along.
Track 4 “Silent Night” is one of the most popular Christmas songs. It was composed by Franz Gruber in 1818 in Austria with lyrics by Joseph Mohr. This song has been recorded by dozens of artists. Chadburn opens the song with a lengthy introduction, followed by a melodic and harmonic variation on this familiar hymn. He moves into a more familiar and simple rendition.
Track 5 “In the Bleak Midwinter” is, in spite of the chilling lyrics, a fairly upbeat song in a major key. It’s followed by Track 6 “What Child is This”. New lyrics were written for the elegant Elizabethan melody “Greensleeves” during the 19th century, giving it a fresh incarnation as a Christmas carol. Chadburn takes advantage of opportunity to shift modes and harmonic content, as well as altering the melody. The sheer elasticity of “Greensleeves” is probably why it’s been a cherished song for five hundred years.
Track 7 “Winter Waltz” is another original song. The ¾ rhythm is a gentle and pulsing accompaniment to the lyrical melody, and this song just about begs for lyrics. Another traditional Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger” follows. The lyrics originated in the 19th century in either Britain or America. The tune is old German song erroneously credited to Martin Luther. The music has not been found in his works, so the attribution was probably a marketing gimmick. Who knows? It’s probably an old drinking song. It begins with a delicate introduction and proceeds through the familiar carol in ¾ time.
Track 9 “Angels We Have Heard On High” shifts to a 4/4 time signature, a welcome change from three-quarter time tracks. This is more like a marching song, but Chadburn graces it with flourishes and additional moving tones to make it more lyrical. The CD ends with the title track, “Whispers the Falling Snow.” This is a soft, pensive song that uses descending sixths to convey the feeling of a snowfall.
This is a lovely collection of Christmas songs without singing. It’s a good CD to play on a cold December evening, or as an alternative to overly cheerful vocal renditions of these familiar tunes. Chadburn does a fine job of playing variations that give these tired holiday songs new energy and personality.
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Artist: Dan Chadburn
Dan Chadburn 2013
available on iTunes, CDBaby, etc.
MP3 $8.99, audio CD $14.22