Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I tried to stay away from the Christmas organ & chimes albums this year. I have several boxed up and I passed on quite a few while searching the vinyl dustbins around my home. However when this one came around on eBay this past year, I jumped at the chance to... ahem... hear the bells!
This album was released on Word Records back in 1959. At the time, several Christmas albums were released utilizing that under appreciated instrument - the carillon bells. For more on the carillon, here's a search for several albums I've reviewed, and links to another, and another, and one more. However, this album is quite different than most.
The instrument played here is the symphonic carillon aka the "electronic" carillon. Invented by Paul Rowe of Maas-Rowe Carillons, this was the first carillon organ to employ struck metal "miniature bells" to produce an authentic live bell sound.
Add Del Roper to the mix. Born into a religious musical family, he was a pro on the pump organ by the age of 8. His musical education took him to Denver (where he learned the drums, percussion, the marimba, and the vibraharp) and eventually California where he played at various churches, public concerts, radio stations, and symphony orchestra.
At the beginning of the 1950s, Roper began to associate himself with the carillon and became a "music engineer" for "a major manufacturer of organ chimes and carillons" (quoting from the back cover verbatim). He soon went into hiding for fear of his life (just seeing if you were paying attention!).
On this album, Roper's many musical talents are put to work. However, it's the Amazing Masons that sealed the deal for me:
Adding these two fun people to the mix can make any album or party even more special, wouldn't you agree?
Known throughout the world for their Swiss hand bell virtuosity, the bells you see in the picture date back to 1847. The pure sound these instruments make is just the icing on the cake. Mix in Roper's skilled arrangements of songs (blending all the sounds perfectly) and this is a top rate Christmas organ album!
The album pretty much sticks to the standard Christmas carol fare - after all, Word Records was, is, and always will be a religious label. All the favorites are done in a reverent yet jovial way. However, the very first song is a medley of "Jingle Bells & White Christmas" (two secular songs on a Christian record label?) that is worth the price of admission - great stuff!
To quote Scrooge: "Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!":
Del Roper & The Mason Swiss Bell Ringers - I Heard The Bells