Christmas Present – Liner Notes

Photo by: Paul Greco

Photo by: Paul Greco

Amici Cantanti’s latest album, Christmas Present is now available on iTunes and CD Baby.

This stylish conglomeration of melody, harmony, and rhythm is inspired by reflections on the late year…Christmastime.

The source of our winding musical stream is in England. It wanders through Wonderland and Neverland and finally reaches its full measure in Vienna. One may hear flowing through its tributaries the sounds of Irving Berlin, John Jacob Niles, and Mel Tormé, and music of Debussy, Holst, and Richard Strauss is often heard just around the bend. The performances were recorded live in Schultz Chapel at Concordia College, Bronxville, New York. The order of the compositions and/or their parts was devised entirely by AMICI CANTANTI.

Our wish is that you, the listener, may enjoy hearing this spirited music gleaned from Christmases Past, which has, we hope, been fashioned into a CHRISTMAS PRESENT.



Bells and Carols: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, music by John Marks, arranged by Roy Ringwald; Angels We Have Heard On High – French Carol; Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach, arranged by Gary Norden; Christmas Day – by Gustav Holst; Do You Hear What I Hear – words and music by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne, arranged by Harry Simeone.

Still, Still, Still – Austrian Carol; lyrics by Marilyn Keith and Alan Bergman, arranged by Norman Luboff

Carol From An Irish Cabin – Unknown Author, arranged by Dale Wood

The Star: Tu scendi dalle stelle – words and music by Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori,  arranged by Gary Norden; I Wonder As I Wander – melody and words by Jacob Niles,  arranged  by John Rutter; Morgen by Richard Strauss; When You Wish Upon A Star – words by Ned Washington, music by Leigh Harline, arranged by Pete King

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – words by Sammy Cahn, music by Jule Styne, arranged by Kirby Shaw

The Christmas Song – by Mel Torme, Robert Wells, edited and arranged by Walter Ehret

Jingle Bells – Old folk tune, arranged by Ray Charles

Winter Wonderland – words by Dick Smith, music by Felix Bernard, arranged by Leo Arnaud and Charles Naylor; Clair De Lune by Claude Debussy

Love: You’re All I Want For Christmas – words and music by Glen Moore and Seger Ellis; Merry Christmas, Darling – words and music by Richard Carpenter and Frank Pooler, arranged by Kirby Shaw; I’ll Be Home For Christmas – words by Kim Gannon, music by Walter Kent, arranged by Steve Zegree

Prayers: Night Of Silence – words and music by Daniel Kantor; Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel – by Engelbert Humperdinck; Silent Night, Holy Night – by Franz Gruber, words by Joseph Mohr, arranged by Mark Hayes; O Holy Night – by Adolphe Adam, setting by Todd J. Barber; The Lord’s Prayer – by Albert Hay Malotte, arranged  by Carl Deis

Celebration: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – words and music by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; White Christmas – words and music by Irving Berlin, arranged by Gary Norden; Let’s Have An Old Fashioned Christmas – words and music by Charles Pellegrini, Jr. and Jerry Sernau, arranged by Gary Norden; I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, music by John Marks, arranged by Roy Ringwald; Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss

In Between – Liner Notes

Photo Credit: Paul Greco

Photo Credit: Paul Greco

Amici Cantanti’s album, In Between, is available on iTunes and CDBaby.

This innovative collection of noteworthy American lieder was compiled, cobbled together, and performed by Amici Cantanti, a superb vocal chamber ensemble that inhabits a land located somewhere betwixt and between The Manhattan Transfer and the St. Olaf Choir.

In Between… is, of course, the title of this collection. Those two words seem accurately to connote the pushing and pulling always operative in its makeup; e.g. this project is what its members worked at in between classical music gigs. The music itself is in between echt classical and pop.  As one can hear, many of the tastiest harmonies, be they written by Alban Berg or Duke Ellington, are not so much major or minor, but in between.

Most of this great music speaks for itself, and so do the odd juxtapositions of themes when the reasons for them are clarified. The average listener probably hasn’t the same ken for Chopin as for Rodgers and Hammerstein, unless that person’s general taste lies “in between.” To wit: the brief allusion to Bach’s Prelude in C Major from The Well-Tempered Klavier (also used by Charles Gounod in his famous setting of Ave Maria), seems to convey the essential emotion set forth by Porter in his unforgettable “True Love.” Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu became, of course, the well-known “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” the tune of which is quoted twice in this collection. A cacophonous piano prelude by Berg seems to be a fine illustration of Seventh Avenue mayhem at rush hour, encountered by one hurrying toward Penn Station to catch a train bound for Chattanooga; and the sheer silliness of adjoining Bach’s choral prelude Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” came to Gary one day while trying to figure out a way to get Regina to sing a sustained high C for this recording. The first melodic notes of Wachet auf!  when realized in a different rhythm become “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”!

The whole shebang was recorded impeccably by Jonathan Schultz not in a studio but a concert hall, where the group was more at home and felt less confined. Not one drop of reverb has been added to the mix. The subtle acoustic ambience one can hear is that of the hall.

The personaggi of Amici Cantanti were all trained in the classics. Individually they have performed in many of the world’s most prestigious venues. They met in New York while studying with the great Cornelius Reid. As they themselves say, they’re a pretty good garage band!

The Amici are: Regina Leon, Donna Reid, James Higginbotham, Larry Long and Gary Norden. Special thanks goes to our astute producer and engineer Jonathon Shultz, exceedingly generous acoustic consultant Christopher Brown, miraculous photographer Paul Greco and very patient and talented Web and CD designer Nellie Beavers.


Embraceable You / It Had to be You Embraceable: composers George and Ira Gershwin arrg. by Teena Chinn; It had to be you: words by Gus Kahn, music by Isham Jones; arrg. by Russ Robinson

Cole Porter Medley-True Love, So In Love, In The Still of the Night Words and music by Cole Porter; arrg. by Mac Huff

Chattanooga Choo Choo Words by Mark Gordon; Music by Harry Warren; arrg. by Mac Huff

Java Jive Words and music by Milton Drake and Ben Oakland; arrg. by Kirby Shaw

Mr. Sandman Words and music by Pat Ballard

The Lion Sleeps Tonight New lyric and revised music by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George Weiss and Albert Stanton; arrg. by Gary Norden

It Might As Well Be Spring Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, music by Richard Rodgers; arrg. by John Purifoy

Over the Rainbow Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, music by Harold Arlen; arrg. by Mark Hayes

Volare / Al di la Volare-music by Domenico Modugno, lyrics by Domenico Modugno and  Franco MigliacciAl di la-music by Carlo Donida, words by Mogol, E.M. Drakearrg. by Bill Cox

Gershwin Medley-Love is Here To Stay, The Man I Love, I’ve Got a Crush on You Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin; arrg. Mac Huff

Stardust Words by Mitchell Parish, music by Hoagy Carmichael; arrg. by Ed Lojeski

Duke Ellington Medley-Take The “A” Train, Mood Indigo, Satin Doll, It Don’t Mean a Thing Words and music by Duke Ellington; arrg. by Kirby Shaw