Review Archive

'A Sound Of Christmas Past' - Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer - unfailingly wonderful

(September 23, 2014)

“I’ve always thought of Christmas-time when it comes round, as a good time, a kindly, forgiving charitable time. A time when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts.” I for one, wholly agree with Fred Hollywell. As a self-confessed lover of ‘traditional Christmas’, I Sounds of Christmas pastloathe its ever-increasing commercialisation, I also pity those that decline its charisma, preferring to emulate his uncle Ebenezer. However, for those that enjoy Christmas traditions, I strongly suggest a listen to ‘A Sound Of Christmas Past’ by Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer.

‘A Sound Of Christmas Past’ is a collection of carols to both evoke the spirit of ‘Christmas past’, and hopefully retain some resonance in ‘Christmas present’. Many of these carols are well known, some are not instantly recognisable but Swann and Dyer use their considerable talents to deliver a lovingly-crafted album to convey the essential sounds of Christmas. The carols are mixed with gentle musical explorations, tune refrains and subtle arrangements, from a delightfully traditional version of ‘I Saw Three Ships’ combined with a lively Swedish polkette, to a splendidly vibrant take on ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ brimming with a fresh appeal. Taking J.M. Neale's arrangement of the Latin original In Dulci Jubilo translated into ‘Good Christian Men, Rejoice’ they reveal an absolute gem, and blending in the dance tune ‘Rum in the Pudding’ makes it priceless. Each carol receives the captivating Swann and Dyer treatment – the familiar ‘The Holly and The Ivy’ and ‘Silent Night’ and some of the rarities ‘Essex Wassail’ and‘Past Three O’Clock’ – and they’re unfailingly wonderful.

The traditional Christmas includes many pleasures - gathering friends, love of family, prevalence of goodwill and sharing music and song. Simple, unworldly joys that endure. This year our musical celebrations will definitely include ‘A Sound Of Christmas Past’.

And before someone tells me the Dickensian ‘traditional Christmas’ is an invention, I know. It matters not one jot. It’s a tradition to both love and respect. So to all the‘Bah humbugs’ out there, beware the third ‘more mercurial’ spirit. And should he not alter your aspect, listen to this.

Find Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer plus ‘A Sound Of Christmas Past’, releasing in time for Christmas, here: www.swan-dyer.co.uk

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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