Magic in the Air (notes from my new holiday CD)

I love Christmas and all the traditions that come with the holiday. For me, music sets the mood, so creating a Christmas CD has been on my to-do list for many years. Instead of primarily covering traditional Christmas songs, for this project I decided to write new songs.

Magic in the Air consists of 10 holiday songs (8 originals/2 traditional) in a varied mix of genres (pop, reggae, gospel, jazz, celtic & more). This CD was recorded from June-September 2016 at Red Amp Audio in Richmond, Virginia under the direction of Jody Boyd, engineer & musician. I was joined by many of the best studio musicians in the area and together we created our own “magic.” This is a brief description of the 10 tracks from Magic in the Air.

Magic in the Air (Claudia Carawan) This song is a “shout out” to all the yearly rituals I observe during the holidays. There certainly is a “magic in the air” when I’m untangling Christmas lights and watching Rudolph & the Misfit Toys. This song is pure pop music, so I had to channel my “inner pop princess” when I recorded it.

Emmanuel (Claudia Carawan) With it’s Lion King-type groove and heart-felt lyrics, this song has become a Christmas Eve tradition at Unity of Bon Air (UBA) and a favorite of our choir. It programs beautifully during the candle-lighting ceremony. Emmanuel means God is with us and that is a comforting message --especially throughout the holidays.

On a Moonlit Winter Night (Claudia Carawan) I love singing in many styles, but as a vocalist I’ve been inspired mostly by the great American jazz singers (Ella, Sarah, Billie-- I love them all!) This is my first swing-inspired composition, and I’m so happy with the final result. The Richmond Virginia “wrecking crew” of Jody Boyd -drums, John Small -bass & Lucy Kilpatrick -piano laid down a delicious groove, but the icing on the cake is the horn section of Josh Crowley -sax, Reggie Chapman -trombone and Marcus Tenney -trumpet.

Be the Light (Claudia Carawan & Karen Drucker) This tender ballad was originally created for the middle school chorus at Richmond Waldorf School. As their choral teacher, I was trying to find a suitable song for their “Festival of Lights” holiday program. My writing buddy, the ultra-talented Karen Drucker lovingly co-wrote this song with me. This is also a favorite of our choir at UBA.

Children, Go Where I Send Thee (Traditional) This song is somewhat unknown for a traditional Christmas holiday tune, although it’s more popular in African American culture. The first time I heard it, I fell in love with the rhythm and the funky soulfulness of it and had to record it. On this recording John McNiel provides the stellar guitar & dobro and I am joined by a stellar group of singers Marna Bales, Rudy Faulkner & Jody Boyd.

Christmas in the Islands (Claudia Carawan & Harold Payne) My mother and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad & Tobago so there is island blood running through “me veins”. My co-writer, Harold Payne suggested we create a reggae holiday song, so we created Christmas in the Islands. The Richmond wrecking crew of Jody Boyd (guitars & drums) & John Small (bass) laid down a yummy groove and island-brother Rudy Faulkner provided some entertaining island ad libs. Ah, It Sure feels nice...

Soulful Christmas (Claudia Carawan) This love song expresses how I usually feel on Christmas Eve. Being a church musician, I’m usually playing music with my friends on Christmas Eve. Then after playing with my friends, I get to come home to my family and eat good food and feel the love. Being with family, friends and sharing music... there is no place I’d rather be... on any Soulful Christmas.

My Christmas Party (Claudia Carawan) We throw a big Christmas party every year and I wanted to immortalize it in a song. Confessions: My husband Edward is the one who makes the Et tu fais and Jambalaya! I’m the one who handles the music --and Christmas caroling is always a big part of the evening. I’m so grateful to my co-producer, Jody Boyd, for helping me achieve the BIG, kick-butt, Phil Spector-wall-of-sound I wanted to create with this song.

Cardinal in the Snow (Claudia Carawan) The inspiration behind this song came from a Facebook post in which I learned about a legend... If you see a cardinal in the snow, it is a sign of a departed loved one visiting you. How cool is that? Since I’ve begun sharing this song I have had so many people tell me they get visits from cardinals in the snow all the time.

O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam) My friend Beth Harvey (choir director at Unity Bon Air) says... it ain’t Christmas without O Holy Night. This is one of my favorite traditional songs... I love the lyric Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.

To me, this song is the Mount Everest of all Christmas songs and I was apprehensive to record it. Thanks to friend/pianist Lucy Kilpatrick who encouraged me to record it. This arrangement is similar to the way I’ve performed it at UBA for so many years.

This is a recap of my latest offering, a Christmas CD called Magic in the Air. Thanks for listening and Merry Christmas!