Various Artists

A Windham Hill Christmas

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A Windham Hill Christmas celebrates the season as it should be -- crystal clear and elegant in its simplicity. It brings together Windham Hill's original roster of artists, including Will Ackerman, Alex de Grassi, Liz Story, George Winston, Barbara Higbie, Michael Manring, and the Celtic band Nightnoise. A Windham Hill Christmas is the perfect respite from the mediocre commercial holiday music that dominates store shelves. It's both gorgeous and moving, evocative of crisp winter nights and quiet evenings. Steve Erquiaga's guitar rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High" breathes new life into the familiar hymn. Jim Brickman's piano arrangement of "O Holy Night" is splendid, letting the song's moving melody take the forefront rather than cluttering it with the overwrought orchestral arrangements frequently heard of this tune. George Winston's take on Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Is Coming," made famous in the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, is great fun, while "Deck the Halls" is almost unrecognizable, taking on a relaxed, subdued elegance in Liz Story's hands. Tracy Silverman and Thea Suits' take on "Silent Night" is haunting and timely, faithful to the melody while bringing it into the present with the underscoring of Silverman's electric six-string violin. A Windham Hill Christmas is the holiday as it should be: calm, relaxing, relevant, and joyful.

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