Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Spotlight: Christmas Plain & Simple III by Michele McLaughlin

Michele McLaughlin is a self-taught pianist and composer who relays musical storytelling via her instrument. One listen to any of her albums and it becomes evident right away that she was simply born to play and compose on the piano. The third installment of her Christmas trilogy, entitled Christmas: Plain & Simple III, is comprised of 12 compositions that includes one original piece. Literally absent of any fancy bells or whistles, Michele artfully distills the essence of these wonderful Christmas classics. 

The album opens on a cheerful note with a rendition of the popular English carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Adding her signature touch, Michele employs a rippling effect on the piano between takes on the main melody. Following next is one of my favorite carols entitled “Good King of Wenceslas”. A song written about a Bohemian king who embarks on a journey amid the harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant, Michele’s unique take on this classic seemingly transfers the feeling of a long-distance traveler braving the cold. Here she opens the piece with drifting solo notes in the higher register, before introducing a galloping motion on the keys with her left hand and then applying a tapping effect on the main melody with her right hand. Imparting a resonating sound, these particularly intriguing aspects lend the piece a great deal of added dimension and color. 

Michele also recreates “What Child is This?” (a carol adapted to the melody of the traditional English folk song, “Greensleeves”) on her piano, while lending her own improvisation with an added touch of opulence from about the middle of the piece onwards. Also notable is Michele’s gentler, more introspective take on the typically cheery and upbeat “Jingle Bells”, in which she begins the piece with her own melodic introduction before transitioning into the main familiar chorus. 

One of the livelier moments on the album includes the song “Christmas Canon”, of which Trans-Siberian Orchestra originally set to the melody of Johann Pachelbel’s "Canon in D Major". Applying a more dynamic assertion on the piano, Michele similarly captures the nostalgic feel conveyed by the original tune. Perfectly closing out the album on a personally comforting, calming note is “Peace”, of which Michele composed. 

Capturing the true spirit of Christmastime along with all its uniquely special moments, memories and often bustling nature that each holiday season brings, Christmas: Plain & Simple III would make a wonderful addition to any Christmas music collection. I could almost smell the hot cocoa, spices and evergreen while listening! ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album can also be purchased at Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Google Play.