Lorie Line,
Sharing the Season, Vol. 2: Piano Instrumentals
(Time Line, 1993)

Minnesota pianist Lorie Line continues her string of Sharing the Season holiday albums with this second installment. Combining familiar songs with the not-so, she is accompanied here by a few musicians that lend a varied touch to the keyboard-based instrumentation.

The CD begins with two relatively little-known tunes. "I am So Glad Each Christmas Eve" features the simple yet jaunty recorder of David Livingston. "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" is a steady and pretty piece. Line's singular arranging style begins to show in the medley of "Deck the Halls/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Here We Come a-Wassailing." The first carol is used as a foundation, while the other two are woven in as additional verses. "O Come All Ye Faithful" begins traditionally enough on the piano, and then Bruce Kurnow supplies an unexpected harmonica melody line. It works. His harmonica shows up later in "The Holly & the Ivy," which also includes stellar mandolin work by Peter Ostroushko.

With Livingston on recorder, Merilee Klemp on oboe and Marc Anderson adding a percussion beat, "We Three Kings" sounds like a troop of desert wanderers who come into view, perform in a minor key and then fade off beyond a dune. A similar desert sound surfaces later on the disc in "Brightest & Best (Star of the East)." Another haunting song is "O Come O Come Emmanuel," which introduces listeners to the rich baritone vocals of Robert Robinson. He intones the melody without using the actual words, leading us to imagine him riding in on a camel as one of the three kings. This is the first time Line includes Robinson in her lineup, and it won't be the last. Fans who purchase subsequent CDs or who attend her concerts will get a chance to meet Robinson again.

"Joy to the World" offers a mild but sudden jolt after the thoughtful melancholy of the previous tune. David Bullock's icing-on-the-cake violin, heard in the background of the other selections, advances a bit to the forefront here. Dean Magraw's guitar is featured for a verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem." "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," oddly enough, appears in the middle of the set list instead of at the end. Gary Bordner provides a nice trumpet accompaniment to the sentiment, as he also does later on "Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella."

"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" is probably my favorite German carol, and it's one that doesn't get nearly enough performance time. Here ethereal voices and Kenni Holmen's soprano sax lend a bouncy new-age feel to this old melody. It's a wonderful update and hands down the best version I've come across. Imagine Paul Winter with his own chorus of angels as backup.

After such an entertaining selection, the general tempo slows down for "The First Noel," which features Kurnow's delicate touch on the harp. "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine" is a relatively unfamiliar song that showcases here the interplay between recorder, English horn and French horn. I recognize "Noel Nouvelet" as the "Sing We Now Noel" piece we sang in chorus in high school. Line and her friends make it much sassier than we were allowed to, and it's as if a group of Slavic dancers is spinning around the room. The album ends with a simple piano rendition of "What is This Fragrance," one of the quiet signature songs Line likes to perform in concert.

This will always be my favorite Lorie Line album, because it was the first one I ever owned -- at first, on cassette. I now have two CD copies, one for the house and one for the car. This music is the perfect accompaniment to decorating the tree, looking out the window at a light-snowfall day, or driving to Grandma's house for the feast disguised as dinner. ("27 vegetables? No, I couldn't eat another bite.")

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review by
Corinne H. Smith

6 December 2008

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