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Chistmas Carols, Old and New...
Let's start with the name. Angel? Singing Christmas music? Must be fate. British countertenor Ryland Angel has a fabulous voice (albeit with an interesting accent affected in part by the guy's extensive time in France). This grammy-nominated singer/songwriter is renowned for his classical chops, having graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and other famous venues world-wide. Do not, however, let the classical pedigree frighten you away (if classical music is not your thing). Angel's voice is open and warm, lacking the stultifying vibrato that can make some classically-trained performers difficult to digest. Interestingly, Angel is currently attempting a classical/pop crossover, and he may have the voice and presence to pull off the transition.
On The New Voice of Christmas: Favourite Carols Old and New, an album title that presumes quite a bit, the artist tackles 17 tracks, largely singing a cappella. His unadorned voice easily carries the day. Through the use of multiple tracks, Angel often harmonizes with himself, and not surprisingly, the "voices" match seamlessly, resulting in tight harmonies and flawless execution. The intensely beautiful results held me enraptured for 44 minutes.
The song selection mostly favors the more serious familiar carols, but includes some lesser known gems, as well as the upbeat and always excellent Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day. Some tracks are haunting and moody, like chants that place you in a far-away monastery (Gabriel's Message and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence fall in this category). Well-worn Christmas nuggets such as Away in a Manger and Silent Night are downright angelic.
As a die-hard fan of a cappella holiday fare, I warmly embrace The New Voice of Christmas and hate to let go. Since angels hover close by every holiday season, it would be only natural to include this fine countertenor as a classic and classy part of Christmas festivities this year. Viva Ryland Angel!
--Carol Swanson (Reviewed in 2007)
From the liner notes - written by Ryland himself:
I love Christmas carols and all types of holiday music. It was 95 degrees in mid-summer New York and I decided on a whim to do a Christmas album, with the majority of it a cappella. I really enjoy using the different ranges of my voice and decided to try and construct an album where the voice had to carry the album. Most of the takes on the album are the first one, as they are normally the most spontaneous.
I started with Gabriel's Message, using haunting drones to express the mystery of the Christmas story. Then I chose the rest of the songs, one by one, trying to find those that worked well together. I wanted to choose a selection of familiar and not-so-familiar carols from various eras, and to try out different styles of singing, from traditional church style to "country-folk" harmonies. I created the arrangements by singing the main line, then adding a harmony part that came into my head, and so forth, creating layers of harmonies.
1. Gabriel's Message
2. Gaudete - MP3 Song Sample
3. Away in a Manger
4. The Little Road to Bethlehem - MP3 Song Sample
5. Un Flambeau
6. Lully Lulla
7. Silent Night
8. O Holy Night
9. I Wonder As I Wander
10. The Truth Sent From Above
11. Brightest and Best
12. O Come, Emmanuel
13. Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
14. Be Thou My Vision
15. In the Bleak Midwinter
16. Infant Holy
17. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
18. What Child Is This
About Ryland Angel...
Think "countertenor" and certain images come to mind: white gloves, brass balustrades and all the dusty conventions of classical refinement. Ryland Angel knows all about it, having sung on many of the world's great concert stages. But there's another side to Ryland: busking in the Paris metro, riding a Greyhound bus across the Texas plains, trading quips with Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios and, above all, writing exquisite pop songs. With the release of his self-titled Manhattan Records debut, Ryland permanently reconfigures the classical crossover genre while establishing himself as an important new artist.
As a singer/songwriter, Ryland Angel fits easily on the continuum from James Taylor to James Blunt. But his affinity for renaissance and Baroque music gives him a unique edge!
Buy The New Voice Of Christmas by Ryland Angel from our Christian Music store - upc: 099944582123
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