Based in Muskegon, Michigan, singer Abigail Winzer released in October 2016 the aptly titled Christmas album Rejoice. Its seven tracks, including an instrumental one, are folk- and Celtic-inspired reimaginings of familiar holiday classics. Serene arrangements, peaceful, crystalline vocals, and the use of instruments not always associated with the genre – such as the duduk and the Irish harp – make this album unique amidst countless others in the genre.
Most of the songs are already, by nature, serene and peaceful, though of course, we have been privy to arrangements that make them quite lively and upbeat. Winzer goes in a completely different direction, inviting listeners to sit back and listen to the words of the songs, creating an atmosphere that encourages reflection on the real meaning of Christmas. Of course one first has to get over the fact that the powerful vocals are emanating from a young woman who is turning 17 only this coming December.
Christmas favourites are all treated with the same formula. Delicate arrangements include strings, bells, a harp, and a piano, amongst other instruments. For listeners who do not know of the duduk, “Silent Night” and “O Come O Come Emanuel” make excellent use of this instrument, giving the tracks an almost historical feel. This helps set the scene of Christmas night back to over 2,000 years ago.
One of the most interesting things about this album is the way that each number sounds so familiarly different; no doubt even hardcore fans of the original versions of these songs will thaw to some of these offerings. Placed at the halfway mark, the instrumental version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” adds to the overall impression that Winzer is inviting listeners to meditate about a spiritually significant time of the year, rather than providing them with an entertaining set of songs. Tracks are available for streaming on Hear Now. More information about Winzer is available on her official Facebook page.