various artists, incl.
Pamela Morgan, Anita Best,
Amber Christmas
(Amber Music, 1998)

On one hand, it's a highly polished studio recording celebrating Christmas. On the other, it's a friendly gathering of musical Newfoundlanders who want to share some holiday fun.

Amber Christmas is a CD featuring some top Newfoundland artists as well as a bevy of family and friends. Topping the bill are Pamela Morgan and Anita Best, each with plenty of recording kudos under their belts; joining them are additional musicians Rick Hollett, Rob Mills, Dave Panting, George Morgan, Serguei Tchepournov, Brian Kenny and Robbie Sharp.

If that's not enough, you also have the Overtones (Erin Best, Alison Adams, Matthew Walsh, Gerry Stamp, Ainsley Mercer, Andrea Boone, Niall O'Dea and Tom Foran) and the Youngertones (Sara Meyer, Jessie Meyer, Maggie Meyer, Kayla England, Rhiannon Morgan, Andrew Evans and Kelly Morgan) providing additional vocals and layers of good will and festive cheer. (The album also credits "various wenches, rogues, beggars, minstrels, fakirs and thieves" ... but let's assume that's an exaggeration.)

The album blends Celtic and Christmas traditions, both the sacred and secular, and is sure to please even the most discriminating holiday enthusiast. Pamela Morgan and Anita Best both have excellent singing voices for this material, and the supporting choral groups make for plenty of diversity without sacrificing style.

Things get started with "Christmas Creatures," a mystical recitation, followed by a medley of "The Bleak Midwinter," "Down in Yon Forest" and "Coventry Carol." The youngsters in the Youngertones are spotlighted in a touching "Carol of the Beasts," with four children taking the parts of donkey, cow, sheep and dove in a delightful rendition, and Pamela Morgan setting the tone on a toy piano.

Singers continue to swap leads through a series of holiday favorites as well as lesser-known pieces: "The Cherry Tree Carol," "What Child is This," "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," "The Bell Carol," "The First Nowell," "The Angel Gabriel," "In Praise of Christmas," "The Holly and the Ivy" and "The Golden Carol."

The end result is a wholly satisfying, entirely enjoyable album with gobs of Yuletide spirit and an unusually large dose of personality. Amber Christmas makes for a super Christmas mood-setter!

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 21 December 2002

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