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EX-MASS
David Rees-Williams Trio

 

 

 
1. Rees-Williams, David [06:06]
Gabriel's Message

2. Rees-Williams, David [04:42]
Personent Hodie

3. Rees-Williams, David [06:47]
Bethlehem Down

4. Rees-Williams, David [05:23]
Quem Pastores

5. Rees-Williams, David [03:29]
Der Tag....

6. Rees-Williams, David [06:10]
Rocking

7. Rees-Williams, David [04:09]
Erbarme Dich... (DRW 911)

8. Rees-Williams, David [03:32]
Zither Carol

9. Rees-Williams, David [06:37]
Stille Nacht

10. Rees-Williams, David [04:31]
King Jesus hath a garden

11. Rees-Williams, David [06:21]
O come O come

12. Rees-Williams, David [05:24]
Il est ne le divan enfant

Artist(s):
David Rees-Williams Trio,
David Rees-Williams, Piano


In the spirit of Yuletide David Rees-Williams takes Christmas melodies and transforms them via his eclectic musical sensibility - a kind of musical alchemy.

The David Rees-Williams Trio was formed in 1988 and features David Rees-Williams, Neil Francis and Phil Laslett. Based in Canterbury, they have performed at a variety of concerts and festivals over the years and now specialise in a programme that unites the best of classical and jazz.

From earliest times, Christmas has been a period of mixing disparate things together. A pagan celebration of the winter solstice gets appropriated by Christian Rome and Christmas springs into life. The ancient German pantheistic worship of winter greenery is tarted up with baubles and tinsel by the Victorians and becomes the beloved Christmas tree.

These transformations include Stille Nacht usually suggesting a peaceful snowy scene, but this rendition plays on the carol's alter-ego as cold, scary and full of mystery.

Gabriel's Message, based on passages from St Luke's Gospel, tells the story of Gabriel's annunciation to Mary that she will be the future mother of Christ. The arrangement of this poignant tune almost touches on the feel of a soft "progressive rock" style ballad.

Bach's sorrowful Erbarm dich mein is turned into a no holds barred humorous arrangement. Canonic patterns, improvisation, eastern European folk modes, film music, and jazz are all parts of the Rees-Williams musical engine too.

This recording brings together a wide range of Christmas melodies allowing medieval tunes to rub shoulders with prog-rock, street samba, and blues here as only the David Rees-Williams Trio can.

Although the title "Ex-Mass" is a word play on the obvious "Xmas", the Latin prefix also suggests that the music is removed from its normal place. The compilation avoids the obvious and concentrates on other beautiful and seasonally relevant melodies, from the ancient to the more modern. 


 

 


The modus operandi of my trio has been largely about the re-invention and re-working of well-known music from a multitude of eras and styles. For this project, the challenge was to produce an album based on the festive season of Yuletide. I must admit to a sense of trepidation at first, as this part of the year already sees many newly-recorded, and countless re-released, versions of seasonal fare in many guises.

The title "Ex-Mass" is a word play on the obvious "Xmas", but the Latin prefix also suggests that the music is removed from its normal place, i.e. in church. So in compiling the material, I decided it wise to avoid the all too obvious "chestnuts" (excuse the pun) and concentrate on other beautiful and seasonally relevant melodies, from the ancient to the more modern, which could be coloured effectively by adding the cherished Hammond RT3 organ and the purity of the vibraphone to the basic sound of the DR-W trio. The beautiful pipe organ flutes and voix celestes to be heard occasionally are amazingly those of the Nord C2 digital keyboard. Their sound is particularly effective in my "spoof" version of Bach's "Erbarm dich mein.." which, I hope, suggests the inside of a baroque church. Apologies to the purists on this one, but on certain occasions practicalities play a part!

Perhaps for me though, the most surreal and poignant moment of all on the disc is the brief inclusion of my very own treble solo of forty years ago on "King Jesus hath a garden" recorded at New College Oxford....a "ghost of Christmas past" you might say.

As usual, recording at Champs Hill was a pleasure and an inspiration, and many thanks must go to David & Mary Bowerman for their continuing support and generosity. Thanks also must go to Neil Francis and Phil Laslett for their tireless support and input into all things bass and percussion, the slick and skilful work of our engineer Richard Sutcliffe, and to Alexander Van Ingen for, among other things, the general co-ordination, needling, pushing and humorous encouragement on this project.

Finally, I hope that this compilation may be considered "all year, not just for Christmas".

David Rees-Williams

CHRISTMAS MUSIC

From earliest times, Christmas has been a period of mixing disparate things together. A pagan celebration of the winter solstice gets appropriated by Christian Rome and - hey presto! - that odd hybrid Christmas springs into life. The ancient German pantheistic worship of winter greenery is tarted up with baubles and tinsel by the Victorians and becomes the beloved Christmas tree. A traditional Christmas pudding is a mix of savoury beef suet and sweet dried fruits. Even the very name of the celebration is - bear with me here - a Middle English version of an Old English word derived from a Greek translation of a Hebrew term with a Latin suffix. All clear at the back?

So it's very much in the spirit of the festival that David Rees-Williams takes these Christmas melodies, transforms them via his eclectic musical sensibility, and creates a joyous tertium quid. And as fans of his music will know, "eclectic" is something of an understatement when applied to DR-W. Medieval tunes rub shoulders with prog-rock, street samba, and blues here. Bach's sorrowful Erbarm dich mein is turned into a humorous parody. Canonic patterns, improvisation, eastern European folk modes, film music, and jazz are all parts of the Rees-Williams musical engine too.

The results are surprising, moving and entertaining. But perhaps the most touching mash-up of all is between David R-W and himself. When the adult musician accompanies his own treble solo of forty years before in King David hath a garden, the concept of Christmas transformation reaches a new level of wonder. Thanks, David - and long may the transformations continue.

Warwick Thompson



"Successfully mingles sentiment, intelligence, cheesiness and reverence."

"One of those rare beasts - a Christmas disc which you can imagine listening to after the event."

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk


"The playing and/or arrangements ... are as imaginative as they are tasteful and stylistically eclectic."

Gramophone


"David Rees-Williams and his Trio take a left-field slant on Christmas."

Andrew Stewart, Sinfini


"this CD deserves to be heard all the year round"

"David makes his interpretations flow as smoothly as a mountain stream, thanks to his legato approach to most tunes"

Tony Augarde, Music Web International


"Full marks to Champs Hill for bringing us this terrific disc. These fine musicians bring a freshness to this well-known music. It is a real joy. 

I can see this being a favourite Christmas disc for many – a real winner."

Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer

   
   

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