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CD Review: Christmas with the Dale Warland Singers

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More than any other season of the year, Christmas is a time of shared memories, of holiday traditions passed down from family to family and hopefully a time for reflection in spite of the frantic holiday bustle. Often people talk about getting into the holiday spirit. As a child, this meant getting the Christmas decorations out after Thanksgiving and pulling out the Christmas music. Many of those old LPs were well-known choirs: names like Norman Luboff, Harry Simeone and the Mormon Tablenacle Choir, along with the classics by Bing Crosby and others. If you are looking to add to that tradition in your own family or maybe start a new one, Christmas with the Dale Warland Singers would be a sterling addition to your holiday collection. The Dale Warland Singers have a long tradition of great Christmas music and this album is a fitting final legacy, a gift of song to the holiday season.

One of the things I appreciate about this album is its variety of sources and influences. Along with some standards you are likely to recognize, the choir mines such varied traditions as French and German carols, the folk music of Sweden and Latvia and even Native American tradition in the beautiful, oboe-driven Huron Carol. The careful arrangements and technical brilliance of these pieces makes careful listening a treat, but the album also functions equally well as background music for wrapping gifts or hosting a holiday party. Listeners are rewarded on repeated listenings with subtle instrumental and vocal touches that are not apparent on first listen. Even on classics that you may recognize like The Holly and the Ivy, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, it’s the arrangements combined with supreme vocals that make these pieces come alive. The Carol of the Bells, a longtime favorite of mine that has been done by a lot of choirs, positively thunders here with the bass section underpining the delicate swooping melodies and crescendos. With 21 songs representing just over a full hour of music, it’s a testament to the variety and breadth of work here that the album flies by, leaving the listener ready for another listen.

As usual with the Dale Warland releases, there is a rich set of album notes that help explain the origin of each piece, the arrangement and other interesting tidbits. If you just can’t get enough Christmas music from the Dale Warland Singers, you can also check out Christmas Echoes Vol. 1 and Christmas Echoes Vol. 2. They have a few of the same songs, but it’s mostly just an additional treasure trove of Christmas favorites and new songs you’ll grow to love as well. If you are still looking for a soundtrack for Christmas this year, pick up this album for a joyful holiday season.

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