Voices of Winter

Priscilla Herdman, Anne Hills &
Cindy Mangsen

Gadfly 235

Gadfly Records Inc.
P.O. Box 5231
Burlington, VT 05402
gadfly1@aol.com

_

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Rick Russell
(hodagg@aol.com)

Listen to voices of winter bright as the snow
clear as the wind
warm as the fires within

the longest of days
the darkest of days
we come singing winter's praise.

from Voices of Winter by Anne Hills

Voices of Winter is a collection of traditional and contemporary Christmas and winter songs by Priscilla Herdman, Anne Hills, and Cindy Mangsen. For those of us who love this season of the year, yet have tired of the same old holiday songs year in year out, this cd is a breath of fresh air. Though some of the songs are traditional and may be familiar to some ears, their treatment of all the songs contained on the cd are truly unique and a joy to listen to. Most of the songs were recorded "live" at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Silver Spring, MD, and these songs especially capture the tight harmonies and sheer pleasure that these ladies took in singing them.

The cd starts out with two a capella songs: Wintergrace and Snow in the Street and from there flows easily into a beautiful set of songs that are both sacred and secular, capturing the joy of the season. For me, the high points of the set included their version of the old traditional songs A'Roving on a Winter's Night and Serving Girl's Holiday. Though their harmonies were strong throughout the set, on these two songs they blended flawlessly.

The contemporary songs fit perfectly into the album, and if not for the songwriting credits listed inside, I would not have been able to tell the new from the old. Unto You This Night by Steve Gilette and Rex Benson is an especially beautiful song, as is The Wren by Jack Hardy. The most beautiful pairing of songs, however, was the Anne Hills original Voices of Winter and Red & Green which was written by Maddy Prior. It was a beautiful blending of a secular winter song with a Christmas song of hope. The arrangements are spare---just the sound of a concertina over an acoustic guitar----but once again it's the blending of the three voices that gives these songs their power and emotion.

There are sixteen songs on this cd, and thirteen of them are among the best winter/Christmas songs I've ever heard. The songs that I would have preferred to not have been included in this set were ones that completely broke the mood that the more beautiful, reflective songs had created: The Frozen Logger a semi-comic song done many years ago by The Weavers that tells the story about a logger who finally freezes to death when it hits 1000 degrees below zero; and ", a cute, funny song that I originally heard by Trout Fishing in America. In another collection, these songs would not have seemed as nearly out of place. They also do a re-worked version of Mr.Sandman, now called Mr. Santa, complete with the Ho-Ho-Ho harmonies. Again, the vocals are great, but it served to break the magical mood that rest of the cd inspired.

I would highly recommend this CD for people that want to curl up with a friend on a bearskin rug in front of a warm fire on a cold winter night. It is also recommended for people who enjoy tight harmonies of the kind we've come to know from the Roches. My hope after hearing this cd, is that this is just the first of many cd's by these three women.

Song List

  • Wintergrace (Jean Ritchie)
  • Snow in the Street (words, William Morris, music: Ralph Vaughn Williams)
  • Raise the Dead of Wintertime (Alan Rankin)
  • Witch Hazel (Tom Gala)
  • Serving Girl's Holiday (traditional)
  • Hanerot Halalu (traditional)
  • A'Roving on a Winter's Night (traditional)
  • Joy Health Love & Peace (traditional)/The Wren (Jack Hardy)
  • Unto You This Night (Steve Gilette & Rex Benson)
  • The Frozen Logger (James Stephens)/Proper Cup of Coffee (traditional)
  • Voices of Winter (Anne Hills)/Red & Green (Maddy Prior)
  • Hot Buttered Rum (Tommy Thompson)
  • Mister Santa (Pat Ballard)
  • Chickadee (words: Stan Scott, music: Ray Andrews & Ray Frank)
  • More Wood ( Dillon Bustin)
  • Lo, How A Rose (traditional)

Edited by David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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