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Image © 2000 TimeArt Recordings

Image © 2000 TimeArt Recordings

(09 Decenber 2000) The third album from Grammy Award winning vocalist Darlene Koldenhoven is entitled Heavenly Peace (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10993, 2000). Ten well arranged tracks feature the artist's five octave vocal range and inspired by Christian classics and original numbers suit the holiday season and beyond. Darlene's earlier releases include the stunning spiritual pop crossover entitled Keys To The World (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10901, 1993) and Free To Serve (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10902, 1996) featuring the CRC Choirs and Friends. She is also well known as the soloist that performed "Aria" on Yanni's Live at the Acropolis video and finally appeared on one of his best-of albums after popular demand dictated some time later.

Heavenly Peace is not just another Christmas music album. The full range of the artist's experience and classical training is evident in the dynamic and creative arrangements of timeless holiday pieces. Vocal excursions soar spanning Darlene's entire range and fully illustrate the range and virtuosity of her performing talents. Keen listeners will hear operatic, pop and theatrical styles within the album's arrangements. Notable for a holiday music album, many of the selections are original compositions.

An operatic performance of the traditional "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" opens the album with a lovely orchestral arrangement featuring Karen Briggs on violin with Darlene's voice immediately soaring to join the melody. The variation in styles on the album becomes evident instantly with the Middle Eastern flavour of Darlene's "Gabriel to Mary, Weaping," and thinking of Scheherazade (the musical) it is illustrative of her theatrical singing style. And while performed primarily in a theatrical style, "Joseph's Question" also has soaring operatic elements. Harmony vocals are subdued but provide an excellent supporting texture to the track.

Performed largely as a duet with herself, the old English ballad "The Star to The Stable" is an evocatively sung piece finely arranged with lovely instrumental parts supporting the vocal passages. We most enjoyed "Angels Pastorale," a lovely instrumental featuring a whistle melody textured with Darlene's vocalise. The stunning five part a capella "Angels We Have Heard on High" is a heartfelt gospel tune blending traditional elements in a unique arrangement. The crystalline purity of Darlene's voice rings in her performance of the Howells/Luther "Balulalow" (O My Deir Hert). Our readers will be instantly reminded of Charlotte Church's voice in this performance.

While Darlene's debut album was most reminscent of Miriam Stockley's work in a number of the tracks, this stylistic similarity vanished from her work with the exception of her modern interpretation and heavily layered version of "Silent Night" which is clearly a standout track on Heavenly Peace. Soaring excursions further illustrate the extent of Darlene's range in her vocalise performance of "Emmanuel." The album closes with a most stunning and standout performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu" arranged by Alex Wurman far surpassing those by Sarah Brightman and Charlotte Church who have both released it previously. The contemporary arrangement breathes refreshing new life into the modern day classic and Darlene's voice rings with crystalline clarity. Simply stunning.

Heavenly Peace is a lovely blend of traditional and modern holiday music, with wonderful instrumental arrangements supporting the artist's stellar vocal performances. Unique arrangements of "Silent Night" and "Emmanuel" as well as "Pie Jesu" make this album one for all seasons. Soundbites are available at the artist's website (click on album cover to visit). You can read further reviews and order the album from amazon.com here. As with the artist's earlier albums, Darlene Koldenhoven's Heavenly Peace is worthy of much further investigation and is a must listen!

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