Recorded by M.P. Kuo, Kilgore Sound & Recording, NYC &
Scott Lehrer, 2nd Story Sound, NYC
Mastered by Oscar Zambrano / Zampol Productions
Art Direction by Stefan G. Bucher for 344 Design.com
Photo: Helane Blumfield | Hair & Makeup: Maria Miliotis | Stylist: Prince Riley
© 2021 Gramercy Nightingale Music Co. All Rights Reserved.
ABOUT THE SONG
Holiday Bells Medley
Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
Sony/ATV Harmony OBO Famous Music Publishing
CAROL OF THE BELLS
Mykola Leontovych & Peter J. Wilhousky
Based on the Ukrainian folk chant “Shchedryk”
Carl Fischer, LLC
WALTZ #2, OPUS 99
G. Schirmer, Inc.
Medley arrangement by Jon Weber
Trumpet, French Horn and Woodwind arrangements by C.J. Camerieri and Steve Kenyon
Celia Berk, Vocals
C.J. Camerieri, Trumpet and French Horn
Steve Kenyon, Woodwinds
Jon Weber, Piano and Keyboards
For my first ever holiday recording, I had the idea to combine Silver Bells and Carol of the Bells. I wanted it to have a jazz sensibility and reached out to Jon Weber to help me bring it to life. We began by discussing how to combine them, and Jon quickly suggested we use the lesser-known Silver Bells verse as a way to move between the two. When I mentioned that I wanted to include some vocalese, he spontaneously suggested Shostakovich as the basis for that section. Inspired and completely unexpected!
The original plan was that I would record the medley during sessions for my third album, due to start under the supervision of producer Scott Lehrer in April 2020. With the onset of COVID-19, those plans were derailed. When New York City began to reopen in June, I reached out to Scott to explore how to record the track in time for the 2020 holiday season. Following stringent safety protocols, Jon and I recorded at Kilgore Studios in Midtown Manhattan. Scott then brought in C.J. Camerieri and Steve Kenyon to add trumpet, french horn and woodwinds remotely. Like everyone else on the planet, we coordinated ourselves on Zoom calls.
At the oddest of moments, it was the happiest of collaborations. I think you can hear our pleasure to be making music together.
I first learned the rarely-performed Silver Bells verse in 1997 when Jay Livingston commissioned me to record 40 of his songs written with Ray Evans. Maestro Livingston welcomed my re-harmonization, and Celia’s voice sounds excellent over my variations. Her classical background compliments her jazz vocals exquisitely.
I remember being stopped in my tracks upon hearing a carillon in Oslo’s Rådhus (City Hall) on Christmas Eve 2003. A wonderfully nostalgic melody rang through the square and side streets of Pipervika. I asked a musicologist friend, “What is that? It sounds so familiar.” “Shostakovich’s Waltz #2.” I was delighted that Celia wanted to include a jazz chorus based upon the waltz, which was introduced in Shostakovich’s 1938 Jazz Suite #1 – a magnum opus filled with frisky, fun and subversively satirical energy – way over Stalin’s head. (Stalin outlawed jazz in the USSR in 1932.) Though not a jazz composition per se, Shostakovich uses saxophone, marimba and a heartwarming feeling of spontaneity and childlike wonder. Our scat chorus was inspired by clarinetist Eddie Daniels’ 1985 album “Breakthrough” – on which he improvises on symphonic motifs. I scribbled a clarinet-like variation while on an airplane and sang it in my mind’s ear in Celia’s vocal range. It’s filled with challenging riffs and intervals, but I knew Celia would channel her inner Sarah Vaughan and triumphantly rise to the occasion.