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"You Are My Christmas"

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyPat Hamilton's first performance was part of a trio in the first grade, covering an Elvis Presley song for second-graders. She's moved on to original work, and is known especially for her Christmas songs. Her new album, "You Are My Christmas," is on sale locally now. It's both melodic and haunting, and leaves commercialism behind.
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“There’s always some kind of rhythm going on with me – humming or tapping,” she said. “It drives my family crazy.”

“You Are My Christmas” is a melding of traditional and original music. Hamilton wrote eight of the 15 tracks, and didn’t confine herself to one particular style. Gospel, soft jazz, old-school balladry and Celtic influences all find their way onto a track or two, complementing her highly harmonic style. Peter Vavra, local pianist and teacher, accompanies Hamilton on all but one track.

After opening with a contemplative “Angels We Have Heard on High,” the album moves to Vavra’s favorite song on the album, “Bluebells in the Snow.” Hamilton sings:

“We all have our worries, some more than a few / That’s why I’m making this Christmas list for you.”

It’s a Christmas list for all of the loved ones in her life – such small things: falling snowflakes, laughter, Christmas lights, and Bluebells peeking up through the snow.

“It was inspired by people in my life that deal with big worries and big problems,” she explained.

Hamilton favors minor chords on several tracks, lonely sounds that underscore the wonder of the season for many people. There are no jingle bells to be found. “Hear in the Wind” is one such example, with a haunting “alleluia” thread running throughout the melody. Vavra’s piano is understated.

Perhaps the most interesting song on “You Are My Christmas” is “Joseph.” “I just started thinking about Joseph and feeling sorry for him,” said Hamilton. “I really can’t trace the origin, just that Joseph needed some attention. It came to me in the night, and the music as well.”

The biggest stylistic departure for Hamilton is the gospel-infused “There Is a Baby.” Local musicians Bob Finnie (keyboard, vocals), Michael Peters (bass guitar), Bob Hyams (drums), Beth Swearingen (vocals) and Brent Gordon (vocals) join in with Hamilton’s voice. There’s rhythm, and a sense of revival.

“It’s really something different, really lively,” said Hamilton.

Other local musicians who may be heard on the album include Allan Finney (drums), Suzanne Nadeau (violin), Michael Peters (bass guitar) and Cathy Blickenstaff (alto flute).

“You Are My Christmas” is currently in the lineup for radio stations KUVO in Denver and KUNC in Greeley. It’s neither trite nor stereotypical. Even those whose ears are jangled by the constant holiday songs piped into every store around will be able to enjoy Hamilton’s music. Her songs are fresh and interesting.

Vavra and Hamilton created their first Christmas album in 1990. They performed a Christmas concert at the Beaver Creek Chapel that same year – a tradition they’ve upheld every year since. Though Hamilton doesn’t only write Christmas songs, she’ll always be known for them.

“I find Christmas inspiring,” she said. “To me it’s about the mystery of – Christmas intrigues me. I think there’s always something that relates from everyday life into what Christmas is supposed to be. I started writing Christmas songs to have something new for the Christmas concerts.”

This Friday will mark the 13th concert for Hamilton and Vavra. In addition to the experienced duo, Nancy Wright (flute), Cathy Blickenstaff (alto flute) and Elizabeth Wilt (vocal harmony) will also be there. Many of the songs from the album will be heard during the concert, as well as some of their standards, such as “Oh Holy Night.” (“We’ve had people hollering for that,” she admitted.) For the concert, the room’s lights are on their lowest setting, letting the candles provide most of the light and ambience.

“There are poinsettias everywhere,” said Hamilton. “I think it’s a romantic evening. The program runs an hour to an hour and a half.”

All proceeds go to the Salvation Army, a charity Hamilton supports. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Creek Chapel on Friday.

“You Are My Christmas” is available at local music stores such as Bob’s House of Music in Eagle, B-Side Records in Edwards and Mojo Music in Avon. They will also be available at the concert.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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