In March of this year, I added my first Christmas carillon album. Two months later, I purchased my second Christmas carillon CD.
We now fast forward to today and here is the third Christmas carillon album for my collection! Recorded in 1955, this one features a gent by the name of Paul Mickelson.
Not much is known (or at least available online) about Mickelson's early life. We do know that he was a talented musician and a devout Christian by the time he was asked by Billy Graham to join his evangelical ministries as an organist in 1950.
In 1953, Billy Graham Ministries released a 78 RPM entitled "Wonderful Peace" that features Mickelson playing Christmas carols on side two. If any can locate a copy of that one, please let us know!
Two years later, Mickelson got a recording contract from RCA Victor. He released two albums in 1955; the first was Inspired by the lush sounds of Jackie Gleason, Mantovani, and the like, Mickelson gathered his orchestra and recorded his first LP "Sacred Songs With Singing Strings" (Christian elevator music? WOW!). The second album was this Christmas album you see before you.
This album gives us 25 (yep, twenty-five) tracks - most under 1:30 in length. And as the cover states "Paul Mickelson Playing Symphonic Carillon And Vibraharp". They ain't lying. Mickelson mixes it up, one track strictly a carillon rendition, the next strictly vibraharp, the next a combination of both. If you think he stops there, wait. Mickelson adds just strings in some tracks, others a full orchestra.
It's jumbled, it's simple, it's dynamic, it's blase, it's festive, it's vibrant, it's over?, it's never lacking for diversity, that's for sure!
My favorites included "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" (strictly on the carillon), "Joy To The World" and "Away In A Manger" (carillon / vibraharp combos), "Deck The Halls" (strictly strings), and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" (strictly vibraharp). The standout track is "Jesu Bambino" where Mickelson combines all these elements into one very nicely done song.
Mickelson had found his calling. He wanted to continue to record Christian music. In 1957, he said goodbye to the Billy Graham Ministries and focused on his last album for RCA: "The Music Of Paul Mickelson: Orchestra With Singing Strings". In 1958, he became vice-president and music director at Word Records, where he orchestrated albums for many Christian artists in addition to producing several instrumental albums of his own. Some time in 1959, he helped an artist named Ralph Boggs record a Christmas album entitled "Love Came Down At Christmas"
Mickelson then founded Supreme Records in Glendale, California in 1961. He helped more Christian artists to record albums (including Pat Boone) and still found time to release his own instrumental albums as well. Renaming his orchestra "The Supreme Strings", he released dozens of albums with the number 20 in the title ("20 Inspiration Favorites", "20 Symphonic Songs Of Inspiration", and one Christmas album entitled "20 Christmas Favorites").
Supreme Records was sold to Zondervan Books in 1973 and Mickelson presumably settled into retirement (not much out there online I'm afraid). Mickelson lived a good long life and died at the age on 73 on October 21, 2001.
This album was downloaded over at BongoBells - and whaddya know? It's STILL available to download over there! Thanks Bongo!
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...