13 Songs, 48 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

MDiamond ,

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus

For his “Christmas Beyond” album, multi-platinum composer and pianist Steven C (a.k.a. Steven C. Anderson) wanted the space to be as much a part of the recording as the instruments. To fulfill this desire, Steven was granted permission to record this project in the iconic 100-year-old Cathedral of Saint Paul in Minnesota. Steven is by nature a deeply spiritual person, and the experience of playing music in that sacred space went “beyond” just recording an album.

“Christmas Beyond” consists of an intriguing blend of 13 classically arranged pieces that include well known traditional holiday songs as well as a number of songs and carols that may not be as familiar, all rendered from Steven’s heartfelt musical perspective. Some of the songs are solo piano renditions, while others include orchestration. Steven had the good fortune to collaborate with internationally–known arranger Adi Yeshaya, who has worked with world- class artists such as Whitney Houston and Prince, among others.

As the album opens with “The Angel Gabriel,” the soft tinkling of single notes in the upper registers evokes an image of snowflakes falling gracefully to the earth. As the melody blossoms, a sense of quiet majesty is embodied in the song. On a richly orchestrated version of “Still, Still, Still,” the elaborate arrangement by Adi Yeshaya elevates this stunningly beautiful composition to the highest level. The next three songs are not traditional Christmas carols but are part of what Steven calls “A Winters Magic Medley.”

In what I might call a “re-imagining” Steven has created an interesting rendition of the classic “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” and re-titled it “Beyond A Midnight Clear,” in keeping with the theme of the album’s Christmas Beyond title. It is quite lovely and demonstrates the range of Steven’s creative vision. One of my favorite tracks is a piano and cello duet that integrates elements of “Angels We Have Heard On High” with “Do You Hear What I Hear,” and is pure magic.

I can only imagine what it was like for Steven to hear the sound from his fingers on the keys expand out into the vastness of the Cathedral space. I found that listening with headphones enhanced my appreciation of that aspect. I can’t help feeling on some level that in addition to the physical sound, the spiritual energy the space is imbued with after a century of devotion and prayer is part of the listening experience as well. Steven has certainly fulfilled his long-standing desire to create a Christmas album in grand fashion.

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

"Christmas Beyond" is pianist Steven C’s second Christmas album, but this one is quite different from his 2010 "On Christmas Night" which featured some jazzier arrangements as well as sacred Christmas carols. "Christmas Beyond" was recorded in The Cathedral of Saint Paul (MN) using Steven’s magnificent Bosendorfer concert grand with additional instrumentation by live musicians. I have reviewed all of Steven C’s albums over the past several years, and all of them have been a real treat, but there is something very special about this one that goes “beyond” the notes and arrangements. In the liner notes, Steven C describes the recording experience and explains what this “special something” is: “The hours spent sitting inside the Cathedral at my Bosendorfer piano were mesmerizing. I felt a rainbow of emotions and it became my personal catharsis. To hear, feel and play with the Cathedral’s deep natural acoustics left me speechless. The sound from the space became another instrument and creative partner. And as the music came out of me, often not even as I had rehearsed, the joining of sound was breathtaking. It resonated through me in a way I’ve never experienced before.”

Steven C has chosen a wonderful selection of traditional “old world” carols, some familiar and some not. Some are combined with other carols, giving them a fresh interpretation. Some are solo piano and some are more orchestrated. It’s a wonderful collection of thirteen tracks, all of which express the spiritual, contemplative side of Christmas rather than the harried shopping/partying frenzy it has become for so many. The songs were arranged by Steven C, Adi Yeshaya, and Sean Turner.

All of the songs on "Christmas Beyond" are excellent and soul-stirring, but I’ll mention a few favorites. “The Angel Gabriel” is the opening track, arranged for solo piano. The haunting melody is allowed to sing in its beautiful simplicity, evolving into a more complex arrangement that is both soulful and poignant. Three pieces make up “A Winter’s Magic Medley”: “Ah Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind,” a peaceful piano solo; “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which includes the Cathedral pipe organ and strings in addition to the piano; and “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind,” a gorgeous piece for piano and strings based on a poem by William Shakespeare. “Carol of the Birds and Bells” is a medley of two very different carols (“Carol of the Birds” and “Carol of the Bells”), with their melodies woven together to create a stirring piano solo - love it! “Little Drummer Boy” is a newer carol, and Steven created a spontaneous solo piano improvisation that captures the innocence and simple honesty of the song. Another unusual combination is titled “Angels Heard - Do You Hear? I Heard!” pairing “Angels We Have Heard On High” and the more contemporary “Do You Hear What I Hear?” for piano and cello duet - gorgeous! The last track on the album, “The Road Home,” is a tribute to composer Stephen Paulus, who passed away near the completion of the album.

"Christmas Beyond" could easily be the standout Christmas album for 2015 and will be a treasured tradition for many years to come! Very highly recommended!

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