Richard Carr is a new age pianist strongly reminiscent of George Winston. “Christmas Fireside” is his first holiday offering (his second,”Crystalline Christmas,” is also reviewed on this site), and it presents marvelous mood music for any holiday setting.
This is a substantial album, containing over 63 minutes of music and 17 holiday songs. Three of these are Carr originals (“Bells in the Valley”,“Sleigh Ride Across Open Fields”, and “Christmas Fireside”); I especially enjoyed “Bells in the Valley” which has a driving beat and the dramatic feel of fast-chiming bells over new fallen snow. The title song creates a quiet, introspective atmosphere; you can imagine yourself lost in thought in front of a crackling fire. The remaining tracks are holiday standards, and Carr does fine new age interpretations of these classics. The feeling is serene, yet spirited. For me, the most effective numbers in terms of emotion are the slower, thoughtful pieces such as “All Through The Night” and“Greensleeves.”
If you enjoy new age music and the stylistic approach of George Winston, then Richard Carr’s Christmas Fireside may be a welcome guest this winter. – Carol Swanson, Christmas Reviews.com
As a piano teacher who teaches Christmas music from late October until the end of December, the release of a new Christmas album normally doesn’t set my toes to tingling! Happily, Richard Carr has managed to breathe new life into a set of fourteen traditional holiday pieces and three original songs composed for “Christmas Fireside”. This solo piano collection is comprised mostly of carols composed in minor keys (my personal favorites!), giving it a serious and slightly somber feel – reflective, but certainly not joyless. Most of the songs have a fairly straightforward play-through, and then Carr improvises and embellishes in his own very distinctive style, bringing a fresh and personal interpretation to some well-worn holiday gems. Of those, I especially like Carr’s versions of “The First Noel” (sweet and gentle), “Gesu Bambino”, “Away in a Manger”, “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” (dark, highly improvised, and very moving), “O Christmas Tree” (lighter and upbeat), “Shalom Cheverin”, “We Three Kings” (a lovely waltz that drifts into the deep bass with great effect!), “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”, “Coventry Carol” (darkly beautiful), and“Greensleeves”. Wow! That’s most of the songs!
Since I play almost all of these songs and have my own favorite arrangements, sometimes I tend to bristle when I hear arrangements that sound or feel wrong to me. This album rings true from start to finish, and there are no tracks that I dislike. The three original pieces fit well into this collection.“Bells in the Valley” is an exuberant celebration, and is probably the most joyful piece on the album. “Sleigh Ride Across Open Fields” is also fun and upbeat – this sleigh seems to fly! “Christmas Fireside” is much quieter and more introspective – a loving description of the feelings that come from sharing a warm, peaceful moment in front of a fireplace as the flames start to diminish.
So, if you believe that Christmas is so much more than Santa Claus, I think you’ll really enjoy this album. I rarely wholeheartedly recommend a Christmas album but I really like this one! It is available from www.richardcarr.com and www.amazon.com. – Kathy Parsons, Solo Piano Publications
Just in time for the holidays, New Orleans pianist/composer Richard Carr has assembled a collection of 17 seasonal songs, including three original compositions. Among the holiday favorites included here are “The First Noel”, “O Holy Night”, “O Come O Come Emanuel”, “Away in the Manger”and “We Three Kings”, along with some lesser-known international traditional folk tunes. My personal favorites are the last three tracks on the CD,“All Through the Night”, “Coventry Carol”, and “Greensleeves”.
As on all of his other records, Carr plays solo piano but unlike the previous releases, we’re hearing mostly familiar melodies on this disc. It conjures up all the right images and memories of holidays past and thus has a timeless quality about it. Carr’s style is subdued, yet distinct, demonstrating equal proficiency with either hand. Because most of the songs are so instantly recognizable, this CD would make an excellent Christmas gift; then, once unwrapped and opened, an even more excellent musical backdrop for that big holiday dinner. – Dean Shapiro, Offbeat Magazine, December 2000
Return to the Christmas Fireside album page.