Brian Knowles Christmas Tidings for the theater crowd
This is a Christmas album that will appeal to some, but not to all. If you enjoy Broadway musicals, then “Christmas Tidings” is for you. Seriously, I thought I was listening to an original cast album for “Creche: The Musical.”
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the selections. Brian Knowles knows how to write engaging melodies, and he knows how to write for the human voice. All these selections sounded like they would be fun to sing (and even choreograph).
I loved the opening track, “Dancing in My Heart.” It was upbeat, with fresh imagery and harmonies. And many of the selections are like that. Knowles writes in a modern, tonal style similar to contemporary music theater.
But in some of the selections, the musical theater element overpowers. And for me, that’s when the message of the music sounds inauthentic.
“Skydiving,” for example, imagines the Heavenly Host swooping through the air as they sing to the shepherds. Great idea. But the vaudeville setting of the music had me picturing dancers in flowing gowns and tap shoes.
The Celestia Singers directed by David Ogden do a terrific job. They sing with enthusiasm and really sell the music. Some of the selections have brass accompaniment, but most just have a piano.
That’s unfortunate. After a while, I felt like I was sitting in on a rehearsal rather than a final performance.
As I say, if you enjoy musicals, this release is for you. I like — but don’t love — the musical theater genre. So my reaction was mixed. And that’s on me.