#ChristmasInJuly Christmas album review redux: Warmer in the Winter by Lindsey Stirling

(courtesy Lindseystomp/Universal/Concord)

There are quite a few festive things that, right at home in the depth of a northern hemisphere winter, are almost comically out of place in a southern hemisphere summery Christmas.

Take chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Or walking in a winter wonderland perhaps? Or even dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh.

Or albums called Warmer in the Winter, the fourth album outing by US violinist Lindsey Stirling, quarter-finalist on America’s Got Talent 2010?

Well, maybe, but just as Aussies cling defiantly, contrary weather be damned, to a slew of festive traditions, there’s a very good chance we’ll embrace the wonder and fun of Warmer in the Winter.

For a start, and in the pantheon of much-loved Christmas albums this is almost obligatory, Stirling, who combines violin playing with dance and performance artistry to dazzling effect (check out her video clips sometime), manages to bottle that esoteric, damn near indefinable quality of “Christmasness”.

Essentially something that you know when you feel it, Christmasness is that gloriously good sense that everything is warm and rosy – again in an Aussie summer incongruous but still highly sought-after nonetheless – a contentedness that suggests that for all the Trumps, racists and climate change denialists in the world, that everything is going to be all right.

That, by some miracle, despite the rancid state of geopolitics or less-than-ideal personal circumstances, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Maybe it is a sweet, sweet, candy cane-augmented delusion but in the hands of someone like Lindsey Stirling, already highly-accomplished at summoning the most uplifting of emotions out of thin air with her music, you’re more than happy to go along with it.

Pretty much from the first track in fact.

Take the instrumental delights of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” which Stirling invests with her own particular branch of magical feyness while maintaining the robust verve of Tchaikovsky’s original “The Nutcracker” composition.

As seeing-the-scene album openers go, this is a winner, setting up exactly the right kind of mood for tree-decorating and tinsel-hanging – I tried it in person and can confirm it works a festive treat – and remarkably for the second track “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch” featuring the vocal delights of Sabrina Carpenter.

At first glance, the two opening numbers may not seem like amenable album mates but somehow Tchaikovksy’s mesmerisingly magical music and a number from the 1966 cartoon special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, work together beautifully, summoning that all-important intangible quality of Christmasness with effortless, playful abandon.

Next up is the first of three original numbers, “Christmas C’mon” (featuring Becky G) – the title track “Warmer in the Winter” (feat. Trombone Shorty) and “Time to Fall in Love” (feat. Alex Gaskarth) round out the list of beautifully-articulated non-classics – which is all danceable joyful exuberance, “watching the fire glow”, celebrating the fact that a hard year has given way to the companionship of festive bliss.

There’s an infectious invocation to get anyone listening to join in with Stirling’s upbeat playing adding the kind of vibe that will have you dancing around your tree with the kind of happiness that only stepping away from the harsh realities of life and embracing Christmasness can bring you (and yes, just go with it, even in the Aussie heat; that kind of giddy abandon is worth all the sweat, trust me).

For all their pop fabulousness though, it’s Stirling’s trademark instrumentals that really shine.

Shaking off the inertness of pretty much any other Christmas instrumental album you can care to name, and go on I dare you to name any, tracks like “Carol of the Bells”, “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Let it Snow” possess majesty, emotional-resonance, vivacity and the kind spirit-lifting beauty that makes the season feel as wonderful as it often does.

These tracks add an exceptional loveliness to proceedings, irrefutably proving you can eschew the lyrics of most Christmas classics, integral though they may be, and still come up with Christmas music that sets the scene, ushers you in that rare and special place that is the most wonderful time of the year.

Lindsey Stirling has triumphed with Warmer in the Winter, winningly combining the kind of traditional festiveness she told a BBC interviewer she unashamedly embraces, with her trademark spark and fun, delivering up exactly the kind of Christmas album anyone could ask for, even in the midst of a sweltering Australian summer.

Related Post