Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Christmas Music: Love>>>Begotten

Now that we’re in the Christmas season I have officially lifted the moratorium on playing Christmas music. The moratorium is generally in effect from Jan 1 through Thanksgiving. I’m particularly concerned about those who insist on listening to Christmas music in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, thank you.

One new Christmas CD that I have really been enjoying is Love>>>Begotten produced by local music collaborative Pageant Music. Singer/songwriter Hiram Ring is at the center of this project, similar to last year’s Word>>>Flesh. Both of these CDs are worth adding to your Christmas music collection, and both feature a great group of Lancaster based musicians.

Love>>>Begotten begins with the original song “Just a Single Season” which will soon be offered as a free My Morning Download from WXPN. Songs like this are perfect for Ring whose strength is in the accessibility of his voice. There is a sense of vulnerability in the way Ring presents these songs. He teams up with pianist Matt Monticchio and bassist David Green for traditional carols “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

17th Century carol “The Burning Babe” is up next with the unique presentation and arrangement of Cliff Lewis’ band, Trash and Glory, featuring some Dylanesque harmonica. Claire Battle then brings us a mellow, jazzy version of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” followed by Hiram and gang on an upbeat instrumental version of “I Saw Three Ships” complete with some interesting percussion and sax. Next up is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” performed beautifully by Bethany Brooks on piano. Brooks is a local native with a Master's Degree in Piano Performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London. This is a slightly different arrangement of the familiar carol, so it might throw you a little bit.

Hiram, Matt, and David return with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and a very jazzed up, loungy version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Loungy, but without the cheese. Then it’s the pleasantly organic sound of Trash and Glory again with “Christmas Pines.” “The Coventry Carol” is up next from Clair Battle. “The First Noel” is a real treat from Katie Becker, who probably should have been featured a bit more here. Pianist Matt Monticchio then offers a short interlude on piano with “The Genealogy.”

The CD closes out as the entire group joins together for “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” from which the album gets its name. Katie Becker’s lilting vocals are at the forefront of this wonderful song which is one of my favorites on this very strong collection.

Head on over to Hiram's website to purchase this CD, and pick up a copy of last year’s release, Word>>>Flesh while you’re at it. Copies of the CD are available at a few local/Central PA retailers, including Central PA Borders locations, and will soon be available for download on iTunes (hopefully by the end of this week, so check back often!)

And if you want, Hiram will be playing some of his music and promoting the CD around the area over the next few weeks. He'll be at the Borders in Harrisburg on Sat., 12/13 at 1pm, and then at the York Borders that same day at 4pm.

Then on Saturday, December 20th, there will be a full Love >>> Begotten concert at Wheatland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster at 7pm. A great way to prepare yourself for Christmas!

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