Eileen Mager, Ellen Brown (piano)
Looking for something classic, but different? You may well be
looking for Christmas Treasures: Wonderful carols you never knew.
The artists are Eileen Mager, an impeccably trained soprano, and
Ellen Brown, whose accompaniment is equally important to the success
of this disc.
True to the
title, this charming recording is chock full of holiday numbers
that are complete unknowns. Oh, there are a few ringers in the
group; most of us probably know Fum, Fum, Fum!, for example, but
the vast majority will have listeners scratching their heads.
There is tremendous value in the variety here.
is an accomplished soprano with a light, effortless voice. Her
tones are gentle, but emotional, and never overbearing. By recording
over the tracks, Mager creates lovely duets with herself on several
Ellen Brown is quite the chameleon-like magician, working a digital
keyboard to mimic a wide range of instruments. She arranged many
of the numbers here, and the arrangements are excellent. The instrumentation
is its own special delight; the mood changes with each number
to reflect the style and origins of each piece. Brown's support
truly enhances and showcases Mager's voice.
is quite the international affair. The smorgasbord includes carols
that are 14th century Latin, traditional Spanish, Provençal,
Glatz folk, traditional French, traditional Catalonian, 16th century
German, traditional Galician, Chinese, American Negro spiritual,
Polish, Scottish, Puerto Rican, etc., etc. One very nice touch
is that Mager sings almost all foreign numbers in a mix of English
and the original tongue, providing a more meaningful connection
for her English-speaking audience. The arrangements and accompaniment
are geared to reflect the unique culture associated with each
The album opens
with the sound of church bells, which created a "George Bailey"
moment for me. I could just picture George running through the
streets of Bedford Falls at the end of "It's a Wonderful
Life." My favorite tracks include Las Posadas, which is all-too-brief,
but is fun, bright, and beautiful; and the last two numbers, which
close the album especially well. Still, Still, Still is tender
and warm; Fum! Fum! Fum! uses castanets and a spirited "duet"
to good effect.
provides a fun exploration of relatively untapped holiday offerings,
and the journey does yield some fascinating finds. Have a good
Love and Laughter
Mager, Ellen Brown (piano)
Just the voice and piano, but done perfectly well. A great compilation
of your favorite songs sung by Eileen and played by Ellen. It
has a great selection of tunes like, "If I Were a Bell," "I Feel
Pretty," "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and "But Not For Me."
The combination of voice and piano without any overproduction
is very relaxing and refreshing. A great gift for any Broadway
by William Gregory, On the Turntable
Eileen Mager's talent is a
familiar one. She is no far-fetching Diva who sets up on a pedestal
above reproach. Ms. Mager is the girl next door who fins a song
for every occasion, whether it be "Agitato da due Venti"
from Vivaldi's La Griselda, from her Vivaldi
a Due Voce album, or "Ne Me Quitte Pas" by
Jacques Brel, from this Classic French Songs recording, and everything
in between. Classic French Songs is a delectable collection of
musical petits bijoux, made up from songs of Debussy, Duparc,
Ferre, Brel and a trove of other French Masters of the chanson.
Many other recent French chanson collections of merit come to
mind, but Ms. Mager's recording is something special. Her timbre
and resonance give these musical morsels a patina that is difficult
to duplicate. You know when those fools on the Antiques road show
take in a beautiful piece of furniture or pottery that they decide
to "beautify" or "polish" by making it "look
new again", only to find out that they have completely devalued
the piece? Ms. Mager's voice has such a patina, and it shoots
straight through to the heart of these french songs, or maybe
I should say Freedom songs. But seriously, this is especially
clear on "Les Feuilles Mortes", aka "Autumn Leaves",
"Blues", "Paris Canaille" and "Ne Me
Quitte Pas", aka "If you go away". Few singers
are as emotionally invested in their mots, words, as much as Ms.
Mager is. She sings with life, death, love, blood and scar. There
is no easy way to sing these songs, one must wear life's scars
proudly, and Ms. Mager does.
Love and Laughter
Mager, Ellen Brown (piano)
versatile singer has been featured On the Turntable before,
and this time around she's tackling the Broadway footlights and
its music. So many operatic singers have "crossed over"
by now that it has become de riguer for any classical or operatic
singer to follow suit. Unfortunately this venture does not always
bode well for the listener. Thankfully, Ms. Mager is not one of
these culpable singers. Ms. Mager manages never to forsake her
operatic training while "listening" to the composer's
true intent. I can only think of a handful of operatic singers
who have successfully made this transition, Eileen Farrell being
one of them, in case some of you don't know who that is, trust
me it's very good company to keep. The problem usually lies in
the placement of the tone, head, chest, throat, etc. Ms. Mager
knows when to have fun with the material as on "You Could
Drive a Person Crazy" or on "I Can Cook, Too".
Her operatic training is never far out of reach as on "I
Hate Men", and then she is capable of breaking our hearts,
as she does on "Losing My Mind". I am as dubious and
cynical as the next musical theater fan when it comes to "trained
singers", but Eileen Mager deserves your full attention when
it comes to any genre of music.