Nathan Clark George & Mark Stoffel,
A Midwinter's Eve
(independent, 2006)

It was weird to be reviewing this album as the sun began to heat up on an Irish spring, but it is a test of the quality of the music that I was as impressed by it as if I had started listening in deep December snow.

As you may guess from the title, there is a distinctly Christmas motif here, but even with shades and sunblock, I loved it.

Nathan Clark George and Mark Stoffel open with a beautiful instrumental from Austria that I will not even try to pronounce. We are on slightly more solid ground with "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks," but the arrangement differs from your usual church choir, making this a brand new and wonderfully novel song.

Each new track here is a revelation. We read the title. We recall our youth. We play the track and it sounds so beautifully different. "Oh Little One Sweet" is a lovely old piece from Germany with a melody by Bach. They come up to the present with a new composition, "A Hundred Waters," and it fits beautifully into the collection.

What can you say about "Silent Night," the epitome of Christmas, other than it seldom sounded so beautiful as when this duo give the simple a simple but entrancing arrangement? Today, angels are everywhere, and not just spiritually -- we have shops dedicated to them or their merchandising. George and Stoffel get us into the angelic spirit with "Angels Medley." "What Child is This" combines the traditional tune "Greensleeves" with lyrics by William Dix dating from 1865. Christina Rosetti's words are to the fore on "In Bleak Midwinter."

Closing with "I'll Be Home for Christmas," this proves the sad fact that many people only dust off the festive songs for that limited period ... but why must we be deprived of them for 11 months each year? You don't restrict "Summertime" to the sunny months, so why not "Silent Night" in July? Go on be radical buy a Christmas album in summer.

[ visit Nathan Clark George's website ]

[ visit Mark Stoffel's website ]

review by
Nicky Rossiter

17 May 2008

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