Christmas favorites for marimba, arranged and performed by Nathan Daughtrey, with Wiley Arnold Sykes, djembe and dumbek, Andrew Dancy, bells and marimba, & Michael Lasley and Sara Wood, marimbas. C. Alan Publications CAP15430. $9.95.
If you're looking for music that soothes frayed nerves without the medicinal effect of wall-paper stuff at the mall, add this to your collection of holiday favorites. Nathan Daughtrey, an award-winning composer, arranger, and marimba player who has performed everything from Paganini to works by Paul Lansky turns to greatly-loved Christmas melodies and delivers a gift that will surely please anyone who enjoys the gentle, beautiful tones emanating from rosewood bars.
Inside the package are dressed-up versions of European lullabies, Franz Grüber's "Silent Night" arranged for solo marimba plus a second, richly-textured quartet version (performed with assistance from Andrew Dancy, Michael Lasley, and Sara Woods). And evoking the pastorale setting, there is a cradle-rocking arrangement of "Bring a Torch, Jeaneatte, Isabella," a French provençal carol attributed to Emile Blémont that is tender yet dance-like. But don't go to sleep — wait, there's more!
Daughtrey's subject takes on an international flavor, and that's why I find it so appealing. Assisted by Wiley Arnold Sykes on djembe and dumbek, "Deck the Halls," with the reputation of a rowdy Welsh drinking song, gently sways with a Caribbean beat. Closing my eyes, I could almost feel the welcoming arms of the warm tropical breeze. And Gustav Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter," with text by Christina Rossetti, resonates as if it were intended for a mallet instrument all along.
Maybe Daughtrey had in mind the young, Middle Eastern family who nestled together under the stars. Listen closely and you will hear the universality of story and song — the importance of art and the meaning of life. But from my rocking chair in a dimly lit living room late last night, I was in touch with the enchantment of the marimba. If you're in love with the sound and ready to turn the calendar page for the New Year, check out Nathan Daughtry's website and sample some of his more adventurous pieces.