CD: Katherine Jenkins - This Is Christmas | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Katherine Jenkins - This Is Christmas
Welsh crossover diva's seasonal offering
Does this disc succeed in doing what it sets out to do? Yes, it does, which makes my minor carpings irrelevant. It’s already selling in industrial quantities. But, to quote a review of another Christmas album on this site, “an album full of tunes you’ve been hearing all your life needs to be adept at reinvention”, and too many of the traditional numbers featured here follow the same template – gloopy, synthetic sounding production values and glacial tempi. Experience has convinced me that carols can be most emotionally potent when they’re sung by untrained, youthful voices. We’ve all welled up watching school nativity plays.
Jenkins’s light mezzo voice never sounds forced, and you wonder how she’d cut it in opera. But she rarely sounds fully engaged. Understandable, given that these tracks were probably recorded on a hot summer’s day. O Come O Come Emmanuel and Away in a Manger exemplify the album’s shortcomings. Both are slow and resolutely earthbound, despite Sally Herbert’s classy backing orchestra, full of A-list orchestral players. But turn to the lighter fare and the mood abruptly lifts. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire is undeniably sweet, and Jenkins even manages to make Santa Baby her own, without eclipsing Eartha Kitt’s original.
John Rutter’s I Wish You Christmas’s schmaltzy harmonies confirm its place as a modern classic, and Sally Herbert’s arrangement of the Wexford Carol will induce a few tingles. The sensitive may wish to avoid the CD's two closing numbers. Come What May has been hyped as a duet with Placido Domingo, though it’s clear that his heavily-accented, vibrato-laden contribution was added afterwards. In a different country, presumably. O Holy Night, pairing Jenkins with Nathan Pacheco, is yet more saccharine. This is not a classical CD, though it's riding high in the classical charts. Jenkins herself would be the last to claim that she's a serious classical artist. And as such, it's fine.
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