The songs and traditions of Christmas speak to us mysteriously
from across the ages, as a gift from our ancestors. I never tried
to learn any of these tunes, they just came in and made themselves
at home. Every year I work up arrangements of my favorites, only
to forget them for 11 months and start over. They have quietly
evolved into this collection of instrumentals: some for solo guitar,
some for autoharp; some simple, some somber, some improvised,
some carefully planned...There are no sleigh bells, drumbeats,
synthesizers, or choirs of "angels" here, and no studio
trickery. Just the unadorned sound of the steel-string guitar
and the autoharp­p; and music that certainly needs no other
Guitars, Autoharp, Mandolin, Vocal: Harvey Reid
Produced by: Harvey Reid
Recording, Mastering: FISHTRAKS Studios, Portsmouth NH
Engineering: Jeff Landrock, Tom Daly, Rick Watson(*)
Mixing: Harvey Reid
Guitars: 1974 Gallagher mahogany dreadnought, 1984 Taylor 810 (*)
Autoharp: 1973 Oscar Schmidt 21-chord Appalachian
Design and Graphics: Aphro- Graphics, Fil Kennedy
(*) Recorded direct to digital
(^) A Third Hand Capo in Esus configuration was used on the guitar. (Standard
tuning except where noted.) Contact
(+) An additional instrument track was overdubbed.
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is ©1934 (J. Fred Coots/H.Gille
spie; SBK Feist Catalog, ASCAP), "The Little Drummer Boy" is ©1958
(Davis/Onorati/Simeone, Mills Music Inc. ASCAP). Both used by permission. All
other titles are Public Domain, arrangements ©, ® 1984, 1987 by Harvey
Reid. (Quahog Music, ASCAP.)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Trad.)(2:56) A traditional
English carol, and a personal favorite. I try to remember to let
nothing me dismay. Solo guitar, tuned 1 step flat. (*)(^)
Deck The Halls (Trad.)(3:21) A Welsh carol with lots of
pagan flavor; solo autoharp.
Angels We Have Heard On High (Trad.)(2:55) Origin unknown,
guitar solo, capo 3.
Greensleeves (What Child Is This?) (Trad.)(4:26) Traditional
English melody, later made into a Christmas tune. Guitar, autoharp
duet. Conveniently both a Christmas tune and a "normal"
one, so you can play it year-round. It's in everybody's top 10
favorite tunes list.(+)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Gillespie)(2:21) Quite
a mood change from the lovely stuff, but an irresistible flatpicking
piece, and Santa's only appearance on this recording. He seems
like more of a parole officer than a jolly old elf in this song...
Capo 2, rhythm guitar added. (+)
Silent Night (Trad.)(4:58) Written by Franz Gruber in 1818
for guitar because mice had eaten the organ bellows. Autoharp
solo with rhythm guitar, mandolin overdubs. (++)
The Little Drummer Boy (Davis/ Onerati/ Simeone)(5:06)
I was surprised to learn, while obtaining permissions, that it
was not traditional; it was written in 1958. Not knowing this,
I gave it a Scottish pipes and drum feel I thought it needed.
NOTE (and vindication): I have since met
the author of the words and arrangement of the tune, Harry Simeone,
who informed me that the melody was indeed a medeival French tune
after all, called "Le Jongleur". HR (1996)
Away In A Manger (Trad.)(2:50) Often called "Luther's
Cradle Hymn," for unknown reasons, since apparently he didn't
have anything to do with creating it. A very, very old melody.
Good King Wenceslas (Trad.)(3:13) A traditional English
carol, guitar solo tuned 1/2 step flat. I never liked the rousing,
boisterous way it's usually sung. (*)(^)
Ode To Joy (L. Beethoven)(3:20) The theme from Beethoven's
9th Symphony, not exactly Christmas, but close enough. Joy is
a big concept at Christmas time. Autoharp solo. (*)
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (Trad.)(2:54) By Felix Mendelssohn,
guitar solo, capo 2.
O' Tannenbaum (Trad.)(3:18) Of German origin, one of the
oldest European melodies. It's been many songs over the last 1000
years, including drinking songs. Autoharp solo. (*)
Jingle Bells (J. Pierpont)(2:32) Written by someone named
James Pierpont in 1857. The silly words after verse 1 are part
of the reason this project is instrumental. Guitar solo, capo
The Carol Of The Birds (Trad.)(6:02) I believe it's a Welsh
carol. I learned it from the Simmons Family dulcimer recording.
Autoharp solo, rhythm guitar added. (^)(+)
The Heart Of The Minstrel On Christmas Day (H. Reid)(4:25)
Accidentally written in the middle of mixing the project, it fell
out of the sky while I was driving. Our society's mass-merchandising,
"more is better" approach to Christmas and its music
tends to make folk musicians feel insignificant. There actually
may be no happier time to be a musician. (*)
Much of the material on this recording was originally released
in 1984 as "The Christmas Project" on FISHTRAKS records.
It has been re-mixed to digital, and combined with 6 new, all-digitally
recorded tunes. Neumann and Sennheiser microphones, Lexicon reverb
and SONY digital recording equipment were used.