Jo Morrison,
Christmas Gifts
(Triharpskel, 2003)

For an elegant Christmas, be sure the candles are lit, the pine is fresh, the wrapping is crisp and the soundtrack comes from Jo Morrison's Christmas Gifts.

Morrison, an accomplished Mid-Atlantic harper, displays her deft and delicate touch on 18 tracks featuring 50 minutes of mostly familiar holiday fare. Primarily known as a Celtic performer, she exhibits classical precision on well-known pieces including "What Child is This," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Wexford Carol/Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Away in a Manger," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "The Friendly Beasts," "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "The First Noel," "In the Bleak Midwinter/He Smiles in the Cradle" and "I Wonder as I Wander," as well as a few less-common tunes, "Let All Mortal Flesh," "Angelus ad Virginem/The Angel Gabrial from Heaven Came," "A La Naninta Nana" and "Christ Child Lullaby."

On a few tracks -- "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Over the Hill & Over the Dale" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" -- the harp is joined by shuttle pipes in the adept hands of her spouse and musical partner, Wayne Morrison. On an album consisting almost entirely of solo harp, the pipes are jarring at first ... simply because the sound is unexpected. By the second rotation, the match is more familiar, the sound less of a surprise, and the Morrisons certainly make them a compatible pairing of instruments.

Although all arrangements are credited to Jo Morrison, she drew her material from a wide range of traditional sources dating back, in one case, to the 4th century. The music likewise comes from a broad geography, including Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Spain and the American Appalachians. It all meshes together exquisitely, flowing from piece to mellow piece without pause or hesitation; left on repeat, this CD could play all evening and never grow tiresome.

Unwrap this Christmas gift early and invite the Morrisons into your home for the holidays. You'll have them back again each year.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 13 December 2003

[ visit the artist's website ]