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Christmas albums can be so hit or miss in my opinion. Many end up twee or sickly sweet, driving you crazy before you're half way through. Others are just too staid - fine if you want a choral concert but not that good for creating atmosphere. Then there's the party albums... best left alone!
Winter Magic, in many ways, breaks those moulds and offers something that's just a little better. It's atmospheric, uplifting and undoubtedly Christmassy without being twee or contrived.
Hayley Westenra has, over the last few years, built quite a following, the young New Zealander managing, successfully, to capture the hearts of both classical enthusiasts and those who prefer something a little less heavy, adding a modern slant to much of her work. To my mind she's a much more accessible artist than the likes of Katherine Jenkins, who, despite her arguably more technically adept voice, tends still to fall on the side of the classicists. Westenra is also certain not to fall into the pit that seems to have swallowed Susan Boyle. Where Susan fails to really master a mixed stlye Hayley embraces it.
The album is a mixture of popular carols, Christmas songs and new works written specifically for the album by Hayley. A mixture of styles is also evident throughout the album with some pure classical tracks and others, such as the excellent "Peace Shall Come" which are far more contemporary and would not seem out of place in the charts. Each track is treated to Hayley's enviable tone and maturity beyond her 22 years. Music is sung with conviction and feeling and it is commendable that none feels contrived nor overstated.
This is the kind of Christmas album that will create a festive spirit. Lose yourself in its indulgence or simply use as background music - both will work.
The Christmas market seems to be saturated this year with seasonal offerings but I think that this album is one which should be considered. It offers a maturity that many do not and a sense of peace.
If you like Eva Cassidy's "Songbird" then you'll like this. If Michael Buble is your thing then you might also like to give this a go. If you are a fan of Katherine Jenkins then the comparison should be made. If you like a Christmas party album then this is not for you (but you knew that anyway)!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Veni Veni Emmanuel
3 The Little Drummer Boy
4 The Christmas Song
5 Silent Night
6 Sleigh Ride
7 The Little Road to Bethlehem
8 The Coventry Carol
9 Love Came Down At Christmas
10 Peace Shall Come
11 All With You
12 Christmas Morning
13 Corpus Christi Carol
14 Winter's Dream