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Published: 2012/12/26
by Nancy Dunham

St. Agnes Fountain
Twelve Years of Christmas

Cuppity Records

Grinches beware – one listen to the “Twelve Years of Christmas” will likely cause your heart to swell “three sizes that day” as you realize, despite a plethora of indicators to the contrary, that all musicians don’t create holiday music as a means to a commercial end.

By combining a lovely swirl of angelic vocals with masterful acoustic power, St. Agnes’ Fountain adds fresh elements to traditional and contemporary holiday songs without taking them far afield. If music was visible, this would likely be lightly falling snow on Christmas morning. Different from your past experiences, but no less beautiful.

Creating such an album is clearly no easy task, even for master musicians David Hughes, Fairport Convention’s Chris Leslie, and award winning folk duo Julie Matthews and Chris While who annually combine to create St. Agnes Fountain.
Just consider how difficult it is to clear your memory of popular versions of J.S. Bach’s “In Dulci Jubilo,” which has been performed by everyone from Mannheim Steamroller to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Now consider trying to keep those memories at bay as you rearrange and reimagine its structure and you have one example of the challenges that littered the musical path that culminated in this album.

Yet it’s not just the care, creativity and restraint brought to that and other traditional tracks including “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” that set this album apart.

The sequencing is such that the mood never stays mellow too long without taking a sharp turn toward merry. The humorous “Christmas Thoughts and Prayers,” by David Hughes – all of us with 2,000 online friends will find lyrics that strike home – and “Turned Up Nice Again,” on which multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie uses his clearly loved ukulele to pay tribute to a member of the group’s musical family – are happy reminders that the holidays are a time for celebration as well as observance.

These musicians are obviously capable of creating any music that strikes their collective fancy within or apart from St. Agnes Fountain. How fortunate for listeners that they’ve turned their talents toward creating evocative songs that are truly precious gifts for the holiday season and beyond.

Rejoice.

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