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Other reviews from Binkelman's Corner by Bill Binkelman:
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Christmas Beyond
By Steven C
Label: Self Released
Christmas Beyond tracks
1. The Angel Gabriel
2. Sing We Now of Christmas
3. Still, Still, Still
4. Ah Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind
5. In the Bleak Midwinter
6. Blow, Blow, Thou Wintry Wind
7. Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
8. Carol of the Birds and Bells
9. Little DRummer Boy
10. Beyond a Midnight Clear
11. Ave Thanksgiving
12. Angels Heard-Do You Hear? I Heard!
13. The Road Home
Steven C - Christmas Beyond
For reviewers, it is difficult to critique albums that are obviously incredibly personal efforts from musicians, which is just what Christmas Beyond is to pianist Steven C. Reading the artist-written liner notes about how the project came to pass and the profound impact it had on him, one cannot help but be deeply moved as one listens to this "old world Christmas music" (per Steven C). Throw in the fact that the album was recorded in The Cathedral of St Paul, and, as a result, has turned what could be a good album into something incredibly intimate in sound and effect, and you have as heartfelt and sincere a Christmas music recording as you will likely ever hear. I personally don't know that I have ever heard a piano recorded in such a way that it felt as if I were there in person as much as this one. Credit is obviously due to co-producer Aimée Harmel and recording mixer and mastering engineer Greg Townley. How they achieved such a personal evocation from a recording space as cavernous as the Cathedral (I have driven by it often enough to marvel at what was achieved on this album) is a testament to their talent, skill and perseverance.

Some of these carols feature orchestral strings, some are solo piano, and one features cello by Rebecca Arons. In every instance, the arrangements (which, depending on the carol, are by Steven C himself, Sean Turner, or Adi Yeshaya) are creative and use the original carol melodies as starting points, but these never spin off into anything that is not beautiful to hear, no matter how little of the "framework" is recognizable. Because some of these selections are less associated with Christmas and could be considered more seasonal instead, this is an album with staying power well past the special day itself. The highly original arrangements only underscore this aspect. Perhaps that is part of why the album's title is Christmas Beyond? Regardless, it's a special recording and will likely hold the strongest appeal for classical music lovers, although any fan of solo piano playing should also positively check it out.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 12/21/2015
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