Album: Forever Christmas
Artists: David Lanz and Kristin Amarie
Websites: and

 Forever ChristmasForever Christmas is a stunning collaboration by pianist/composer David Lanz and Norwegian-born vocalist Kristin Amarie (pronounced Christine) who are not only musical partners but life partners as well. David humorously refers to themselves as “the Sonny and Cher of New Age music.” I previously had the pleasure of hearing and writing a feature article about their gorgeous Silhouettes Of Love album, of which I said: “A master alchemist could not have come up with a more perfect blend of elements than the chemistry created in the music of David Lanz and Kristin Amarie – pure magic!” And that magic is very much alive within the heartfelt tracks of their Forever Christmas album. I will also refer readers to my feature article on Kristin’s debut album Notes From A Journey that introduced her powerfully expressive voice to the world.


While people have blamed the weather for many things, this is the first time I’ve heard it playing a role in the genesis of a recording – well, in part anyway. According to David: “We decided we wanted to do a Christmas record primarily because last winter was one of the worst on record. We were stuck in the house and it was snowing like crazy and I said, ‘Let’s write some Christmas music.’ That’s why most of the album ended up being original material. We picked two traditional songs because they’re our mothers’ favorites: Kristin really wanted to do ‘Oh Holy Night’ for her mom, and ‘Silent Night’ is my mom’s favorite.” And so, out of the manger of those stormy winter days, a new album was born.


As I wrote in my article on Silhouettes Of Love: “There is a spiritual focus that informs David’s Kristin and Davidmusic, both his solo work and recordings with Kristin.” This is evident in Forever Christmas as well. As Kristin shares: “It’s about the spiritual side of the holiday and a lot about love as well. I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas record since I was a kid. To me, Christmas is the most romantic time of year.” Although David and Kristin were the primary collaborators on this project, they also had some wonderful accompaniment from talented recording artists such as Nancy Rumbel on woodwinds, guitarist Eric Tingstadt, Keith Lowe on bass, cellist Walter Gray, and additional guitar by Gary Lanz and Alonzo Davideo. Gary Lanz, who is David’s brother also played a major role as co-producer, engineer, and mixer. David’s longtime associate Chip Westerfield recorded the original piano tracks.


The album features 14 songs, of which 11 of them are original songs. Three tracks are solo piano, while the rest include vocals, ranging from atmospheric wordless vocals to full lyrics. The opening track, “Winter’s Prelude,” may be just over a minute in length, but it beautifully sets the table for the musical feast to come. Although winter is usually associated with cold, this song radiates warmth and is as inviting as a cozy seat by the fireplace on a snowy day. I especially liked the bells that add a special quality to the piece. While this song integrates Kristin’s soaring wordless vocals, the next song, the title track, features her in a lyrical context, celebrating the joys and special traditions of the holiday. Among the things I enjoy most about David’s music are his chord progressions. I often find myself surprised and delighted with the unexpected direction they take. The accompanists perfectly accent the composition and provide warm support for Kristin’s heartfelt vocals. I could see this song becoming a holiday classic.


Like the opening track, a number of the songs are brief interludes, and are like sorbet between the courses of a lavish meal. The next piece, a piano solo entitled “Snow Dance” is one of them. The first of the traditional songs, “Oh Holy Night,” spotlights Kristin’s crystalline voice as it opens with her singing, almost acapella, with just the slightest hint of orchestration far in the background. As the song builds, adding piano and other instruments, Kristin’s voice raises to a crescendo that is sure to evoke chills in the listener. No less evocative is David’s stunning solo piece entitled “Jubilate,” that illuminates his considerable skills as a composer and pianist.


349c491c929f592bfddfe25d99a74724The song “What Is Christmas” harkens back to what I wrote earlier about the spiritual dimension in David and Kristin’s music. As she shares: “Christmas has become so commercialized. That’s why in one of the lyrics we ask, ‘What is Christmas?’ At the very end the answer is: peace within. That’s what the real message is supposed to be.” While there are no lyrics in “Winter Star,” David’s piano is eloquently expressive in this impressionistic tone poem which is accompanied by Kristin’s Enya-like vocalizing. And speaking of accompaniment, I could not help but be impressed by Nancy Rumbel’s haunting woodwind playing on “A Thousand Lights (Nu Tändas Tusen Juleljus)” a traditional Scandinavian Christmas song, which Kristin sings in both English and Swedish.


Perhaps the most well known song on the album is the classic “Silent Night,” which is rendered here in a version that is indeed “tender and mild.” Kristin’s vocals vary between whispered and more full-voiced, and the song is beautifully accented by Walter Gray’s soulful cello. The next to the last track is an instrumental version of “What Is Christmas?” that features a duet between David on piano and Keith Lowe on bass. It provides an interesting contrast to the earlier vocal rendition with strings. Often times when a song has lyrics, they draw the attention of the listener and the instrumentation becomes more of a background. Here, it was interesting to have David’s piano be the focus and remind us why he is one of the most highly regarded pianists in the new age genre. The album concludes with “Heavenly Peace,” a lovely interweaving of piano and Kristin’s ethereal echoed vocals that relies less on melody and more on creating a spacious ambience. It is a wonderful conclusion to the album that leaves the listener in a serenely drifting space.


I never fail to be impressed with David’s abilities as a composer, instrumentalist, and arranger, all of which are abundantly on display here like beautifully wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. However, working with a vocalist, especially one as uniquely gifted as Kristin, has been a different experience for him. As he describes: “I’d start with a lyric and Kristin and I would talk about things and then we’d turn it into music and she would come in. She’s really good at helping to shape the melody, so once I had a basic idea it was really a co-write. It’s kind of like I’m reinventing myself through Kristin.” And the feeling is mutual for Kristin as well. The blending of their distinctive talents has created something of exquisite beauty that is greater than the sum of its parts. While there are many lovely holiday music releases, every once in a while, one comes along that has that stands out as having a particularly special quality. Forever Christmas is such an album.



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