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“The Christmas Album”
Felix Mendelssohn (arr. K. Turner): Weihnachten (from “Six Motets”, opus 79, n° 1)
Harry Wilson: Solo Didgeridoo Improvisation [1]
Kerry Turner: Symphony of Carols, opus 52 [4] – Hymnus [5]
Jacob Handl (arr. K. Turner): Aspiciens a Longe
Traditional German Carol (arr. R. Brooks & K. Turner): Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
George Frideric Handel (arr. C. Jones): ”For Unto Us a Child is Born” (from Messiah) [4]
William James (arr. E. Gregan): The Three Drovers
Mel Tormé (arr. W. Perkins): The Christmas Song [5]
Leroy Anderson (arr. C. Fry & K. Turner): Sleigh Ride [2]
Walter Perkins: Christmas Fiesta [3, 4]
Albert Hague (arr. G. Winter): You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch [5]

American Horn Quartet and Queensland Symphony Horns
Harry Wilson (didgeridoo) [1], Charles Putnam and Kerry Turner (percussion) [2], Lachlan Hawkins (percussion and drum kit) [3], Peter Luff (conductor) [4], Kerry Turner (conductor) [5]
Recording: Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia (November 1-3, 2015) – 49’34
MSR Classics MS 1650 – Booklet in English

Christmas in August? Please don’t turn the page! Move over Macy’s for these two brass ensembles got an early kick-start. Perhaps an ambitious Aussie tickle for yuletide was sparked by the continent’s upside down seasonality which prompted gestures towards the European counter-hemispheric contingent to conceive a grand opus for a grand occasion.

Brass is one of those pliable components…on one hand, it can display warmth and permeate religious overtones (as discovered in the first half) while, oppositely, it can release a more carefree, frivolous spirit (as displayed in the second half.) The Queensland Symphony Horns (QSH) and American Horn Quartet (AHQ) made an instantaneous connection during Brisbane’s 2010 International Horn Symposium, and they are headed up by legends of their own time: Luxembourg-resident composer/arranger Kerry Turner and Australian Associate Principal Horn Peter Luff.

Many songs are given refreshed crispness without being overwrought by surfeit, akin to adding dimensional hues to a saturated canvas. Kerry Turner’s arrangements have, contrastingly, remarkable lightness and depth. His use of quirky and quixotic chording permeates, for instance, inside Adeste Fideles while the same type of transformation prevails upon hearing Walter Perkins’ take on The Christmas Song by Mel Tormé.

Contemporary flourishes regale, particularly at Walter Perkins’ Christmas Fiesta. Here he cleans the slate to make way for a jazzy case of a West Side Story-esque medley. Both the AHQ and QSH members show they can have fun delving into the scores, and it’s enticingly infectious. Superb. A “Down Under” indigenous gift turns up with Harry Wilson’s apt but fleeting didgeridoo preamble segueing into Mr. Turner’s Symphony of Carols, and the apropos Australian carol, The Three Drovers.

That isn’t to say tradition isn’t properly treated nor respected. We find a sampling in Lo, How a Rose E’er a Blooming, Handel’s “For Unto Us a Child is Born”, and the effervescent Sleigh Ride, replete with Charles Putnam’s and Kerry Turner’s light and snappy percussion. The sound of majesty, synonymous with horns’ timbre, makes a first and lasting preface with the initiating Mendelssohn Weihnachten.

A broad respect for varying tempos heightens the experience. Conductors Peter Luff and Kerry Turner maintain a well-positioned balance of sound, paying attention to what particular brass horn(s) should be immeasurably represented while others should demonstrate restraint.

Well-meshed, the CD comes with bittersweet irony. Upon completion of “The Christmas Album”, the AHQ retires after 30 years of serving the brass community. But brass horns will prevail and continue to please. Luckily we have an early holiday reminder and a great stocking stuffer!

Christie Grimstad




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