Can a Hoosier make your Christmas special? Apparently so as the CD Christmastime Is Here clearly demonstrates. The Indiana University Singing Hoosiers under the direction of Dr. Michael Schwartzkopf open the album is spectacular chorale fashion with a jubilant Christmas medley titled "Sing With Us of Christmas." The songs in this medley are too numerous to mention, but to whet your appetite they include "Good King Wenceslas," "We Three Kings" and "What Child Is This?"
Erich Kunzel directs the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, which accompanies the Indiana University Singing Hoosiers. Kunzel and the orchestra have enjoyed a 40 year relationship that was formalized in 1977 when he was officially named conductor for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
One of the best trained and emotive voices in music today belongs to Ann Hampton Callaway, who is stunning in her performance of "I Wonder As I Wander." The shadows cast by the orchestral arrangements of Steven Reineke set the stage for Callaway’s dramatic reading. Over the years, I have heard a lot of very talented singers provide superb performances of "I Wonder As I Wander," but none surpass Callaway’s rendition.
Glide over fields of snow, close your eyes and catch snowflakes with your tongue like you did as a child while the voices of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts Children’s Choir under the direction of Laurie Wyant sweep you away and accompany your imagination. This is a pretty presentation of "Christmastime Is Here" and I suspect it is how Charlie Brown imagines Christmas should be.
The choir appears again on track ten a lively youthful medley titled "Caroling Fun". The medley opens with "Here We Come a Wassailing," takes a musical journey to grandma’s house, weaves its way through assorted other favorites and ends with wide-eyed observation "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
I didn’t know about the Indiana University Singing Hoosiers prior to this CD, but I do now. After listening to the aforementioned medley as well as "It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "I’ll Be Home For Christmas," "We Need A Little Christmas" and "It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas," they just added another fan. These are vocals that make you want to open your window and shout MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Grammy nominee (2005) Tierney Sutton provides a moving vocal experience as she sings "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" backed up by those same Indiana University Singing Hoosiers.
Erich Kunzel and the wonderful players and vocalists who appear on this album have not sought to do a complete makeover of cherished tunes and hallowed carols, but have preserved what we hold close at this time of year. They have infused the notes with emotion, passion and at times energy.
The King’s Singers "Silent Night" is quiet, gentle and prayerful. John Pizzarelli’s smooth vocals bring the album to a close with "Silver Bells".