New Recording by James Kreger

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Have Yourself a Merry Cello Christmas

CD cover

Listen or download on iTunes or order the CD from Guild Music, Presto Classical, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or Tower Records in Japan

Cellist James Kreger

Why should a cellist who has devoted his recording career over the decades to such works as concertos by Dvorak and Ibert and sonatas by Men­dels­sohn now be offering a program of Christmas music? To answer this question, I think I should offer a few words that show why this latest CD, Have Yourself a Merry Cello Christmas, also very much represents who I am.

I was born and raised in Nashville, also known as Music City USA, bastion of country music. My uncle's furniture store was next to the landmark Ryman Auditorium, where for years the Grand Ole Opry's concerts were broadcast live. I listened to the likes of Minnie Pearl, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys as well as other wonderful singers on the radio and on WSM TV's Noon Show. My great uncle, affectionately known as "Pop," lived in a converted attic in my uncle's house, a short walk from my place. I'll never forget the day I heard the intoxicating sounds of magnificent voices wafting down from Pop's upstairs bedroom radio. I was barely ten years old. It was my first exposure to the Metropolitan Opera's weekly Saturday broadcasts. I was smitten and hooked all at once. Just as with those soulful, heartfelt country and folk singers of the Opry, the Met Opera became yet another cornerstone of my vocal musical foundation.

At sixteen I moved with my family to Los Angeles, where I continued to be immersed in the rich musical culture of that city.

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After spending a year at the University of Michigan, I moved on to New York, played my Carnegie Recital Hall debut partnered by pianist Garrick Ohlsson, graduated with honors from Juilliard, garnered a top prize at the Fifth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and played my London Wigmore Hall debut partnered by pianist Ursula Oppens. I joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in my thirties and remain there to this day, where I continue to learn and be inspired by the grand vocal tradition of the artists who have performed within its hallowed walls, and whose collective spirit remains eternal.


Song list

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
    (Martin/Blane. arr. Ginsburg)
    Bill Mays–piano, Sean Harkness–electric guitar, Andrew Sterman–bass flute, William Galison–harmonica, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–synth bass
  2. O Holy Night!
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–clarinet and flute, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–synthesizer
  3. Away in a Manger
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Andrew Sterman–flute, Melanie Feld–English horn and oboe, Lynette Wardle–harp, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar, Bill Hayes–percussion
  4. We Three Kings / What Child is This?
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–flute, clarinet, and soprano recorder, Melanie Feld–English horn and oboe, Lynette Wardle–harp, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–harpsichord
  5. Go Tell It on the Mountain
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Bill Mays–piano, Sean Harkness–electric guitar, Andrew Sterman–bass clarinet, William Galison–harmonica, Ned Paul Ginsburg–synth drums and bass
  6. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–flute and clarinet, Bill Hayes–percussion
  7. I Don't Know How to Love Him
    (Lloyd Webber/Rice. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–flute, Melanie Feld–oboe and English horn, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar, Lynette Wardle–harp, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–keyboards
  8. First Noel
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Andrew Sterman–flute, Melanie Feld–English horn and oboe, Lynette Wardle–harp, Bill Hayes–percussion
  9. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
    (Wells/Tormé. arr. Ginsburg)
    Bill Mays–piano, Sean Harkness–electric guitar, Andrew Sterman–bass flute, Patrick Milando–French horn, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–synth bass
  10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Andrew Sterman–flute and piccolo, Melanie Feld–English horn and oboe, Lynette Wardle–harp, Bill Hayes–percussion
  11. Angels We Have Heard on High
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–flute and clarinet, Lynette Wardle–harp, Bill Hayes–percussion
  12. Little Drummer Boy
    (Simeone/Davis/Onorati. arr. Ginsburg)
    Alex Rybeck–piano, Patrick Milando–French horn, Andrew Sterman–flute, clarinet & piccolo, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar, Bill Hayes–percussion, Ned Paul Ginsburg–synth drums & keyboards
  13. Silent Night
    (Trad. arr. Ginsburg)
    Andrew Sterman–bass flute, Sean Harkness–acoustic guitar

The genesis for this Christmas CD is a logical outgrowth, coming of age realization, as it were, of just what singing, the voice and the musical line are all about. I have known the executive producer, a valued friend, Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou, for more than 35 years. He is a well-known composer/singer in his own right and a pioneer of the Campus Folk Song tradition in Taiwan. He suggested we do a Christmas CD.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the thrill of engaging the most profound and challenging cello masterpieces does not inhibit my deep affection for these Christmas melodies or my desire to "sing" them, as so many people around the world love to do. My aim is to present them from my own perspective, in fashions that maximize their beauty and bring out their unexpected qualities.

I feel privileged to partner with the wonderful artists on this recording. Recalling a few of the many unforgettable moments:

Ned agreed that on the cello parts from which I recorded he would place the original song lyrics before my eyes, above the written notes (this is not typically done). I am sure that having the lyrics visible added something — however indefinable. My great hope is that this and other intangibles that made this project a special experience for me, also come across to the listener.

James Kreger

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