I would love to say I had a chance to sit down with Jenny Oaks Baker to discuss her upcoming performance with the TSO, but there is little sitting going on her life. With 23 December concerts in 24 days, Jenny isn’t sitting; she is always on the move. I did, however, catch her while on the road about her new album, Noël: Carols of Christmas Past.
TSO: Where did you get the idea for this new album?
Baker: As soon as I finished recording my last album, “Wish Upon A Star: A Tribute to the Music of Walt Disney”, I knew that I wanted to record another Christmas album. I love Celtic music, so I originally envisioned doing an entire Celtic Christmas album. However my brilliant arranger, Kurt Bestor, was well-aware that there are countless Celtic Christmas albums, and he came up with a much more intriguing concept of doing an album that takes the listener in a bit of a musical tour through the exhilarating sounds of Old Europe-to distant lands and Christmas pasts. What we ended up with is the most amazing music I have ever recorded! The album features Irish Singer, Alex Sharpe, formerly of Celtic Woman, brilliantly singing “Wexford Carol” and ”Oiche Chiuin” – “Silent Night” in Gaelic. ”Ding Dong Merrily on High” and “The Holly and the Ivy” are also arranged in the Celtic style. The album also features the Eastern European Women’s Choir, “Kitka”, singing the Ukrainian “Carol of the Bells“, as well as a Hungarian Gypsy-esque version of “Patapan“. The carol, ” We Three Kings” has a very cool Middle Eastern vibe to it. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (which is one of the oldest Christmas carols) is reminiscent of Renaissance music. “In the Bleak Midwinter” is hauntingly icy and beautifully still (think ice field in Scandinavia). ”Angels We Have Heard” is written in a very buoyant Baroque style. The concept of the album is great, but it is really the way that the music came alive in the recordings that has me so excited! I love all the cool, ancient instruments from all over the world that are featured on the album-Irish Bones, lute, Middle Eastern drums, dulcimer, Kora, ney flute, and cymbalom just to name a few.
TSO: What does Christmas music mean to you?
Baker: I love Christmas music. People aren’t just listening to whatever pop is on the radio. They are listening to familiar melodies. It’s a time when it is okay to listen to our parent’s music. It is a time when the oldies come back. Also, it is great to hear sacred music on the radio. It is a time of gorgeous melodies with tradition and Spirit.
TSO: What was your goal for this album?
Baker: I do a lot of Christmas concerts. My first Christmas album, O Holy Night, came out 5 years ago, but not best for a live performance. It is the perfect music for listening to while trimming the tree, but not ideal for a live concert. I really wanted to have something that would be really good live. Aurally, emotionally, this really hit the mark. Visually, it is going to blow people away. I love Celtic music. Kurt not only did that, but picked up Middle Eastern (“We Three Kings”) and Eastern European (“Patapan” and “Carol of the Bells“). All the different styles are well thought out, yet musically and emotionally satisfying. Kurt is the pianist for “In a Bleak Midwinter”. It is fun to record with the composer.
Come back tomorrow for the rest of our interview with Jenny Oaks Baker. Tickets to the concert a selling quickly. Get yours right away.
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