Music that soothes frayed nerves without the medicinal effect of wall-paper stuff at the mall

I completely forgot until today that my Yuletide Marimba CD received a glowing (and quite humorous) review just after its release last year by Classical Voice North Carolina, an online arts journal for the Triad and Triangle area. Here are a few gems from the review by Karen Moorman:

"If you're looking for music that soothes frayed nerves without the medicinal effect of wall-paper stuff at the mall, add this to your collection of holiday favorites."

"Daughtrey...turns to greatly-loved Christmas melodies and delivers a gift that will surely please anyone who enjoys the gentle, beautiful tones emanating from rosewood bars."

"Closing my eyes, I could almost feel the welcoming arms of the warm tropical breeze."

"...from my rocking chair in a dimly lit living room late last night, I was in touch with the enchantment of the marimba."

Love it! Please check out the entire review at CVNC.org. You won't be disappointed. And if you haven't yet gotten your copy of the album, head on over to the iTunes store. Now.

'Tis the season for shameless self-promotion (& a free download)

Around this time last year, I inundated Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and my own website with annoyingly persistent updates about my holiday recording project. Well, according to T.V. commercials, shopping center decorations, and (most importantly) the beautiful red Starbucks cups, the holiday season has once again descended upon us. Therefore, I'm taking this as my cue to begin the shameless self-promotion of my (somewhat) new holiday CD, The Yuletide Marimba.

(By the way, you will be rewarded if you continue reading to the end. I supposed scrolling down now would work too, but where's the fun in that?)

The funny thing about a holiday recording project is that all of the arranging, recording, and CD mastering occur during holidays for which the music was not intended, such as Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, & even Thanksgiving (though radio stations may beg to differ). Me? I would listen to Christmas music year-round if it weren't for all the dirty looks (you bunch of Scrooges!). If my iPod is on shuffle and a Christmas tune sneaks in there, I will not skip past it, regardless of the season, so scowl away.  Anyway...

If you are a new friend/follower/fan, you can read the four blog entries from last year detailing the ins & outs of the Yuletide recording project (including the reasons I hate recording). Here's the track list including brief descriptions of each tune:

1. A Winter Prelude (a.k.a. the chorus to Jingle Bells played slowly by solo marimba)
2. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (would love some comments about comma placement)
3. Silent Night (with some slightly altered harmonies... don't get mad)
4. Carol of the Bells (with orchestra bells... imagine that!)
5. O Holy Night (new rhythmic setting)
6. Deck the Halls (with dumbek. yeah, i said it.)
7. What Child Is This? (which was recently reviewed as overly-dissonant. you be the judge.)
8. In the Bleak Midwinter (does anyone know this tune?)
9. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (or this one?!)
10. Silent Night (again, but in a setting for marimba quartet)
11. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (ditto)
12. Deck the Halls (ditto sans dumbek)
13. A Winter Postlude (lovingly referred to as "A Christmas Requiem" by the other members of the quartet)

My Christmas Gift to You...
Free download of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
* Right-click or Control-Click (for Mac) and choose Save File As or Save Link As)

Your Christmas Gift to Me (or where to buy my album)...
Electronic Download: iTunes

Physical CD: C. Alan Publications
or if you are in close proximity to me, I'll hook you up

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Yuletide Recording Session #2 & Wrap-Up

I am sorely behind with updating this blog that is supposed to be a source of up-to-date news. Especially since the 2nd and final recording session for my Christmas CD happened exactly 2 weeks ago. I have excuses though (don't we all?):

#1 - I spent the entire next day editing & mastering the CD with my audio engineer.

#2 - My best friend from TX arrived the following day.

#3 - I ran my first half marathon the following day.

(This was about 9 miles into the race)

#4 - Vegging on the couch for 2 days straight to recover from said half marathon.

Anyway, the CD project....

The 2nd recording session went well but was fraught with a cacophony of sounds from several sources: cars, trucks, motorcycles, planes, trains, church bells, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and even a shopping cart being rolled noisily down a hallway. I am not a fan of recording in a dry-sounding studio and adding reverb/ambient sound post-production. I would much prefer find a place with great acoustics that records well. In this case, I used a church sanctuary here in Greensboro that is located on a well-traveled road at an intersection with a stoplight, which explains most of the vehicular noises I mentioned. When I booked the space, they neglected to tell me Wednesday was lawn mowing day, so we side-stepped those noises with a well-placed lunch break.

The first half of the session was a blast. I was joined by a phenomenal hand drummer (and orchestral percussionist) from the area for two of the tracks on the album – God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen & Deck the Halls. When neither of us showed up to the session with a metronome to check tempi, I turned to my trusty iPhone, searched the App Store, and had downloaded a free metronome to my phone within 2 minutes. Thank you, Apple.


(Pics from the two recording sessions)

The latter half of the session left me all alone with my marimba and recording engineer for what ended up being a VERY stressful 4 hours. But we got it all and I'm very happy with the sound we ended up with. The CD shipment arrives Monday 11/3, so if you want to buy one (or 50), GO HERE.

Yuletide Recording Session #1

Hands down, recording is one of my least favorite aspects of performing. Whether it is the cursed expectation of perfection from future listeners (or myself) or the knowledge I only have a limited amount of time to achieve this "perfection," I do not know. Either way, I knew going into the first of two recording sessions for my Christmas CD this morning that I needed to check my aversion at the door. I remember recording this guy playing a solo clarinet piece I wrote back in my grad school days. He told me how much he loved recording ... that he actually found it fun and liberating. Me, I must have looked at him (and probably looked at him) as if he were nuts. Anyway, it was helpful to look back on how cool and collected he was as I mentally prepared for today, hopefully channeling his positive energy.

The purpose of today's recording session was to record the four marimba quartet arrangements that will be appearing on the album: God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night, Deck the Halls, and A Winter Postlude (Jingle Bells). I was surrounded by some of the best marimba players in Greensboro. With their consistency, accuracy, and musicianship, they certainly helped me to have fun and take my mind off the fact that we were surrounded by microphones and that the recording engineer kept pressing that blessed "Record" button.

After the quartets went off without a hitch, I was feeling confident (and we had time to spare), so I recorded a couple of the solo tracks: A Winter Prelude (Jingle Bells) and Carol of the Bells. I was joined by one of the quartet members on the latter of the two pieces on orchestra bells. Here's a sneak preview (read: unedited & raw) of that piece. I'm really happy with how all has gone so far.

The second session is all set for Wednesday morning and I have my work cut out for me. Here's the remaining solo track list:

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (w/ djembe)
Deck the Halls (w/ dumbek)
Silent Night
O Holy Night
What Child Is This?
In the Bleak Midwinter
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

Ugh ... hands are starting to sweat ... having trouble breathing. And the process starts all over again.

Yuletide CD Project

Apparently all it took to inspire my latest CD project was the confusion of one of my running group friends over my last blog entry. She thought that I actually had a CD filled with the Christmas marimba arrangements in my new book. I was planning to do lesser quality recordings of each tune for demo purposes, but if I'm going to spend time doing that, I might as well do it right. However, with it being October and all, I have had to fast-track the entire project in order to have it ready for sale at PASIC and just generally out in time for the holidays.

It will feature the 8 solo marimba arrangements from The Yuletide Marimbist, plus a short opening and closing track (based on Jingle Bells), and my three Christmas marimba quartet arrangements. I'm excited to have some first-rate guest artists playing with me on the album. Here's the current track listing:

1. A Winter Prelude (Jingle Bells)
2. Silent Night
3. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (w/ tabla)
4. O Holy Night
5. Carol of the Bells
6. Deck the Halls (w/ congas)
7. What Child Is This?
8. In the Bleak Midwinter
9. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
10. Silent Night (quartet)
11. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (quartet)
12. Deck the Halls (quartet)
13. A Winter Postlude (quartet)

Should be released by the first week in November. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Christmas in September?

Anyone like to celebrate Christmas all year round? I've had the pleasure of doing so whilst writing a new collection of Christmas arrangements for solo marimba! I've been chipping away at it since November of 2007. Actually, I arranged two tunes (Silent Night & God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen) and stopped for about 7 months. Here's a YouTube performance of "God Rest" at a clinic I gave in Salem, OR back in December. Please excuse the less-than stellar audio quality (and the wrong note at the end).

I started back up in July, planning to do a total of 6 arrangements for the collection until two of my always helpful colleagues (read: opinionated) told me that I needed to do 8 so that the book would be thicker (and therefore more marketable). I just finished the eighth and final arrangement and the collection is now reaching the final stages of the publication process. Here's the list of tunes and the beautiful cover designed by Ed Morgan of navyblue design.


Silent Night

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen

O Holy Night

Carol of the Bells

What Child Is This?

In the Bleak Midwinter

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

Deck the Halls

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about the release of this one. It'll be available from my publisher in mid-October, just in time for people to pick it up and learn some festive tunes for Christmas.