Mary-Jess

All posts tagged Mary-Jess

Tis the season for Christmas music (oh yes it is) so today I’ve teamed up with Angry Baby Music to bring you some old and new favourite Christmas songs. Christmas albums don’t usually lend themselves to new music, perhaps because tradition is everything at this time of year and nostalgia reigns. However, we took a look through our version of the Christmas present cupboard and chosen a few tracks from a few artists, some of which may be familiar.

If you like traditional carols, then Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore’s take on O Holy Night will be to your liking; the combination of French and English makes it stand out from other, more familiar versions and the simplicity of Sean’s arrangement enhances the pure vocals from Michael. Beth Ford’s Silent Night has the same traditional yuletide sound. Beth’s voice, which is always described as ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and ‘mesmerising’ brings a whole new expression to this traditional carol.  Angry Baby and Beth are giving away a free download of Silent Night so click here to subscribe and get yours. Meanwhile, Gareth Malone’s own composition, A Child Is Born, Malone’s very first composition, with its traditional arrangement makes an excellent addition to the already full band of Christmas carols.

If you want a traditional song updated, then take a look at what Rachael Sage does with her cover of the classic Joy To The World. Weaving together her proven sounds of folk, pop, and jazz, Rachael brings new life to such a joyful song. As this time of year is also the time to celebrate Hannukkah and Rachael’s song, Hanukkah in the Village, a favourite with Rachael’s many fans is also beautiful.

Classical-crossover artist Mary-Jess last year released an album of Christmas songs that encompasses all types of Christmas music. I Fell In Love With A Snowman provides a theme-song for falling in love whilst Mary-Jess’s duet with Rhydian on The Sound Of Christmas maintains a refreshingly natural range and pitch within the mix. Prayer To A Snowflake , the title track of the album, brings something fresh to the seasonal catalogue. Easily the stand-out piece of a stand-out album, Mary-Jess’s juxtaposition of Chinese musicality and classical European vocals creates an addictively melodic offering.

Earlier we touched on Gareth Malone’s 2016 Christmas album and we return to it with a look at a song written by Malone and Kaiser Chiefs front man Ricky Wilson. Paradise Street isn’t actually very festive but fits in perfectly to a Christmas album as it instantly calls to mind the magnificent Fairy Tale of New York that has been a Christmas staple since Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues took it to number one. Wilson is of course an extremely talented wordsmith and his bittersweet lyrics combine effortlessly with the melody to take the listener on a musical journey.

Continuing the theme of not especially Christmassy festive offerings, Robb Murphy‘s North Star conjures an atmosphere of lives shared through the simple things. Contrasting a lilting beat with Robb’s laid-back vocal style, you’re invited to hum – or whistle – along. Glisteningly wintery, warm and fuzzy, the song holds an entire landscape in the simplest of arrangements.

We’ll end as we began with a Boe brother – Alfie. Alfie hasn’t recorded many Christmas songs (although he’s sung a fair few in live performances) but one that isn’t much heard these days is Home for Christmas, from his appearance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2012. Beautiful.

If you’re still contemplating Christmas shopping and are unsure what to get the music fan in your life, then Angry Baby have the solution! They have teamed up with Robb Murphy and Beth Ford to produce a couple of bundles of music that they love and know you will too. Click here for Robb and here for Beth.

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Sometimes you wait a while to review a really good Christmas album and sometimes two come along together.  A couple of weeks ago I told you about Gareth Malone’s Great British Christmas album and now I’d like to share Angry Baby’s review of Prayer to a Snowflake from Mary-Jess.

At this time of year, it’s easy to write off music as tacky or overly-sentimental, especially when the shops are blasting out Slade and Chris de Burgh as though there’s been nothing new since the 70s. Thankfully, in Prayer To A Snowflake, UK-based classical-crossover artist Mary-Jess has released an album that cuts through the cynicism and provides a perfect selection of seasonal songs. Whether you’re looking for something to play when the in-laws come round for turkey, or a playlist for romantic evenings in front of the fire when all the crazy-madness is over, this could be the top choice for the holidays.

Mary-Jess catapulted to international attention when she won a singing competition live on Chinese TV, in front of 70 million people. Her popularity in China continues, which is why her website blends text in English and Mandarin. Back at home, she is known to TV viewers as the voice of the theme to Downton Abbey. That’s quite a CV, but behind it all is a crystal-clear voice, perfect phrasing and deliciously emotional delivery. Add to that the writing skills and musicianship to create seasonal songs which sit comfortably alongside traditional standards on this album, and there can be no doubt that Mary-Jess’s success is well earned and well deserved.

Opening with two traditional carols, Prayer To A Snowflake ticks the box as something to please the vicar. Silent Night may have been done a million times, but Mary-Jess tingles the spine with her precise soprano, produced with the acoustics of a vaulted chapel. Similarly stripped-back and simple, In The Bleak Midwinter warms the heart. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and gather the little ones around to create the holiday memories we all crave.

I Fell In Love With A Snowman provides a theme-song for falling in love this year. Softly reminiscent of fun in the snow, this track will have everyone wrapping up warm and pulling their significant other out to play like kids. Hold On To Me continues the romantic theme, joining Mary-Jess’s charmingly engaging vocals in musical-theatre-ballad style with Jaden Cornelious’s rich tenor.

Opening with acoustic guitar, In December reveals Mary-Jess’s country style. A consummate story-teller through her song, Mary-Jess paints vivid mind-pictures of winter people “…wearing crimson and evergreen” and pain “I see you in the dark, all bruised and broken”. The story-telling continues as When Summer Comes creates a soundscape of loneliness. Exploring the relatable experience of break-up at holiday time, “I’m finding it hard to sleep alone, Table for one all on my own” Mary-Jess reaches out to anyone facing the festive season newly-single.  If you want to add this to your collection, Angry Baby and Mary-Jess are giving a free download of this song as an extra special Christmas present – just click here to get your free music.

Inserted between these tracks, the story of Christmas is told through the eyes of the biblical Mary, from magnificence and submission in The Angel Gabriel, to fear and and confusion in the classical-pop ballad Breath of Heaven. Simple arrangements support Mary-Jess’s vocals – controlled and exquisitely expressive – every note perfectly placed.

Rhydian is one of the X-Factor’s success stories. Breaking the mould of the popular artist with his classical style when he appeared in 2007, he strides across the boundaries of pop, classical and musical theatre, maintaining the integrity of his own sound. Performing a duet with Rhydian is likely to expose the weakness in any partner, so it’s a testament to Mary-Jess’s technique and talent that their voices blend effortlessly throughout The Sound Of Christmas . This is no trick of a clever producer; each singer maintains a refreshingly natural range and pitch within the mix, providing beautifully blended harmonies that beg to be heard in live performance.

Quirkily titled, closing track Prayer To A Snowflake brings something fresh to the seasonal catalogue. Easily the stand-out piece of a stand-out album, Mary-Jess’s juxtaposition of Chinese musicality and classical European vocals creates an addictively melodic offering. This deserves to become a seasonal standard.

Prayer to a Snowflake is available by clicking here.