Clarion's wildly varied body of music comes with the attitude that as much as we love holiday music and it's traditions, they don't have to be the same every time we hear them. It is fun to find and highlight the underlying character, or at least some characteristic, in each one of these songs which resonates with brass and percussion overtones. So we rethink all of these carols and songs in a way which renders them unique to Clarion - sometimes serious and gorgeous, sometimes . . . not so much. People should be able to ho-ho-ho at Christmas, shouldn't they? Some explanations may be in order, beginning with the title track. Reindeer Games is really Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman as they would sound if they had been orchestrated by John Williams for an action adventure movie. Williams' film scores have certainly kept brass players busy and earned their love, so this selection is written as a tribute to his beefy writing. Since Jingle Bells is the best-known winter song in America, taking liberties with the tune might be welcome. The lyrics are about going out in the snow to race sleighs and pick up girls. Really. So we get in touch with our wild side and play it fast and close to the edge. At Clarion's concerts, we have been featuring the talented soloists and sections from within the group, which is everybody, and some of those are represented here. What Child Is This?, on the Greensleeves tune, has been sung for half a millennium, so doing something new with it means quoting some more Renaissance music, opening it up for jazz improvisation, and turning Andy loose with his flugelhorn. Larry has a trumpet sound as big as Santa's workshop, so letting him soar on the big ballad, Have Yourself a Larry Little Christmas, is a slam-dunk. The rich Irish Wexford Carol is worthy of Clarion's horn quartet, with just a little help from their friends. Kirk chose the song Karen Carpenter made famous, Merry Christmas, Darling, so we feature his sweet and precise, high trombone floating over us all. The piccolo trumpet can sound like a clarinet, and is used as such in two different contexts. Clarinet is an essential element in traditional jazz, so I bring the stand-in to the mix in the old New Orleans break-out section of the mostly new New Orleans Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and since klezmer music would be incomplete without a wailing clarinet, the pseudo version is featured in our Hanukkah tribute. Sevivon is a dreidl song, which is why this arrangement quotes You're the Top. Michael Moon Bear joins us on a few tracks, including soloing on God Rest Ye Merry and providing the frame drum heartbeat, from a traditional Middle Eastern rhythm, for Lo, How a Rose, transforming the old hymn into a mesmerizing arch. Oh, and the last clap . . . yes, that's supposed to be there, because that's how we did it that time and it's exactly right. Clarion gets many requests each year to, ah, mess with more holiday music, and there is plenty of great material that we have yet to Clarionize. To accelerate the process, many of these requests were combined and mashed into We Need a Little Christmas + 53. Really, you can hear them all. Maybe not all at once the first time through, but with a couple of listenings, they will make themselves known. If you want the crash course, check out our video on YouTube, which gives the titles to this ultimate Christmas medley as they go by. Finally, Kum Ba Yah is not holiday music per se, but has become our perennial encore because it really fits the spirit of the season. - WB I am grateful for the musicians whose talents have brought my sonic dreams to life. It takes people of substantial talent and commitment to get the music out of my head into the ether. Extreme thanks as well to David Sams, photographer and graphic artist, and Carol Dorsett who doesn't get named often enough because the job description goes on forever. And I extend my gratitude to you who listen - the Christmas tree falling in the forest can make no joyful noise if there is no one there to hear it.
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