Let It Snow

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Chanticleer's collection of holiday music includes a mix of songs from about three categories: pop songs like "Let it snow!," "The Christmas Song," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; some classical selections like Schubert's "Ave Maria," and "O Holy Night"; and a generous selection of familiar carols. Most are sung a cappella, but several have instrumental accompaniment. The arrangements are mostly new and contain some ripe, jazz-tinged harmonies. As long as the listener isn't expecting straightforward, traditional versions, the new arrangements have a lot to recommend them -- they're definitely unpredictable, but they don't lose sight of the spirit of the originals. Among the more eccentric are a rhythmically disjointed "God Rest you Merry, Gentlemen," and the medley that closes the album, with snippets of dozens of carols, including "Jingle Bells," accompanied by "Augurs of Spring: The Dance of the Adolescents," from The Rite of Spring. ("How do they do it!?!," you might ask; you'll just have to listen for yourself.) Others, like "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" and "Ave Maria," are fairly unadulterated and conventional, not that that's a bad thing. Chanticleer performs all the songs with its characteristically pure, warm tone; gorgeous blend; and high level of expressiveness. The sound is full and warm. The album should be of interest to listeners looking for traditional Christmas repertoire in a variety of genres who aren't afraid of some surprising but artful departures from the standard versions.

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