2013, piano guru Dan Chadburn released his critically acclaimed
Nocturnes CD. Another recent arrival from Dan Chadburn is the
2014 CD release of Whispers The Falling Snow. Ostensibly
a Christmas album of inspiring solo piano, the ten track CD features
several Chadburn originals along with new versions of Christmas holiday
favorites such as What Child Is This and Silent
Night. Even if you think you know these songs, the beauty of
Whispers The Falling Snow is that Chadburn has recorded these
well known melodies and improvises on them in such a way as to render
them anew. Commenting on the concept of the Whispers album,
Dan told mwe3.com, As for the motivation of the album, I
wanted the music to serve as a reflection and celebration of wintertime
and all the imagery and emotions that go with that season. And while
there are indeed some longtime favorite Christmas carols on the CD,
there are other songs which have been associated with the winter solstice
season for many generations. In the spirit of the finest
classical pianists, Chadburn uses improvisation, as he explains it
"to get into the zone and allow my hands to move freely on the
keys as they will without my consciousness getting in the way.
One of the the finest solo piano players / composers in the world
today, Dan Chadburn has always recorded his music as a way to inspire,
soothe and heal his audience. Whispers The Falling Snow is
the perfect album to celebrate the magical moods of the Christmas
holiday season. www.DanChadburn.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Even though were about a month away from winter, I guess its
never too early to start getting into Christmas music again. What
was your prime motivation for wanting to record and release a Christmas
Dan Chadburn: First off, thank you for the opportunity to talk
with you again, Robert, as well as the readers at mwe3.com I appreciated
the dialogue we had about Nocturnes earlier this year, so it's
great to visit with you again about my new CD, Whispers the Falling
As for the motivation of the album, I wanted the music to serve as
a reflection and celebration of wintertime and all the imagery and
emotions that go with that season. And while there are indeed some
longtime favorite Christmas carols on the CD, there are other songs
which have been associated with the winter solstice season for many
generations. I appreciate all the traditions and religious occasions
going back to the earliest times of honoring the Winter Solstice.
No matter how people choose to enjoy their time together during the
winter, I applaud the sentiments. I wanted to try to capture some
of those feelings with my music.
Can you provide a little background on Whispers The Falling Snow
CD? How many tracks did you have on the list to possibly include on
the CD? Considering you were recording a solo piano album, were there
parameters as to decide which tracks you wanted on the Whispers
album? I was so glad you picked several lesser known holiday season
tracks to interpret for solo piano.
Dan Chadburn: Of all my albums, this one actually had the least
amount of planning before going into the studio to record. I knew
I wanted it to be an acoustic solo piano album and, given my love
for improvisation, we decided to keep it entirely organic. Having
sung or played the melodies of traditional holiday carols all my life,
I sat down at the piano in the studio with a written list of traditional
carols, some more obscure than others, and then improvised off those
songs' melodic themes. As we recorded each track, we also took note
of its key center, so as to have a variety of keys represented throughout
the album. In addition to these "traditional carol" tracks,
I also composed/recorded three original improvisations in the studio
to complete the album.
mwe3: What piano or pianos did you record the Whispers
CD with and who else was in the planning and recording of the CD?
Also the front cover is great, can you tell us about the Whispers
front cover art?
Whispers The Falling Snow was recorded at Bias Studios in Springfield,
Virginia. Jim Robeson and my husband, Tom Nichols, were the recording
engineers for the album. I actually recorded my first two albums at
Bias (Solo Piano and Reflections) several years ago,
so it was great for Tom and me to return to Bias and work with Jim
again on this project.
The studio has a wonderful 7' Yamaha that's capable of producing some
beautiful pianissimo tones, which the title track, in particular,
features. Once the tracks were recorded, we took them to Charlie Pilzer
at Airshow, Inc., in Takoma Park, Maryland for mastering. Charlie
has mastered all of my albums, so it's always a pleasure to work with
him. Once the album was mastered, we began working with our designer,
Martine Stein, who has done wonderful layouts for several of our albums
now. The front cover image is actually a stock photo which Martine
found and then modified to make more subdued and serene. Her intent
was to create a beautiful front cover that encompassed the music on
the album. Needless to say, I was thrilled with what she created!
For the back cover, she used a photo of me taken by Ric Ide of Ric
Ide Photography in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the summer of '13.
Ric does great work and, although the photo was not taken in the winteras
one might expect with a winter-theme albumit was much easier
and warmer(!) than trying to take the same photo in the middle of
a PTown winter blizzard. Artistic license...! (lol)
mwe3: Its interesting that you chose to record some lesser
known tracks on the Whispers CD. For example, the lead off
track O Come, O Come Emmanuel is fairly unknown. Where
did that track come from and what did you set out to do with the song
Dan Chadburn: The melody of this track actually has its origins
in 15th-century Franceas documented by British musicologist
Mary Berry in 1966. For whatever reason, I'm drawn to music centered
in minor modes. I love the sense of mystery it evokes. I chose this
song as the opening track on the CD because I believe it represents
that sense of mystery while also quietly heralding the peaceful beauty
of the winter season.
Track two on the Whispers CD is another lesser known track
called Bring A Torch, Jeanette Isabella. The melody sounds
familiar but again, its a fairly lesser known track. I read
its actually originally from France written in 1553 and its
in 3/8 time? So that one goes back a long time. Beautiful melody too.
How did you approach that track for solo piano?
Dan Chadburn: Yes, indeed, it's another centuries-old melody
whose origin is from France. While it has evolved over many generations
into a melody associated with the winter solstice season, it was originally
composed as dance music for french nobilityhence, its 3/8 meter.
Winter, with its reduced hours of sunlight, can be dark and somber
for some. I wanted the imagery and pulse of this track to be that
of bringing light and hope into the darkness.
mwe3: Returning Home is a Dan Chadburn original
that fits in nicely with the other songs. Was the song written for
this album? Is the song autobiographical in a way? Returning
Home is kind of a very spiritual title. Is there a way to go
back home again?
Dan Chadburn: "Returning Home" is one of the three
original improvisations on the album which is not based on a traditional
carol melody ("Winter Waltz" and the title track, "Whispers
The Falling Snow," are the other two).
It's hard to describe my process of improvisation. Simply put, I close
my eyes, place my hands on the keys of the piano...and then "let
it go..." Never quite knowing what my hands will play but trusting
in the moment, allowing them to create whatever song it is they have
As I recorded "Returning Home," I thought about returning
to my childhood home for the first time, many years ago now, to visit
my parents and family over the holidays, after having moved thousands
of miles away to begin life as an adult. The emotion I felt was that
of excitement, though with a slight hint of hesitation too. I'm hoping
people will be able to experience their own "Returning Home"
memory when listening to this piece.
Your inclusion of Silent Night goes back to the essence
of the whole Christmas season in a way. But theres a lot of
improvisation in your version, especially with the minor key intro.
Only after 2 minutes does the original melody appear. Another interesting
song in 6/8 time. Interesting to note that the song was first played
on Christmas Eve in 1818. What does Silent Night mean
to you on a musical / spiritual level?
Dan Chadburn: Yes, the melody, and guitar accompaniment), for
"Silent Night" was composed by Franz Gruber and first performed
on Christmas Eve 1818 in a small church in Austria. For me personally,
few traditional carols represent the essence of Christmas more than
I mentioned earlier my affinity for minor modes in music. When I sat
down to record "Silent Night," I wanted to do something
different than merely play the melody as it is known, in its major
mode. As I closed my eyes to play, I envisioned a silent night...
.a quiet calm, yet complete in the darkness... absent of any fear...
And so it seemed natural to begin the piece in the mystery of the
mwe3: In The Bleak Midwinter is an unusual song.
Was the music really written by Gustav Holst? Is there another version
of this track that inspired you to want to include it on your album?
What does the song bring to mind to you and when did you first hear
Dan Chadburn: This melody was, indeed, written by Gustav Holst
in 1906. The text, when sung, was penned by Christina Rossetti in
1872. I first heard this carol when it was played beautifully on the
piano by a marvelous jazz pianist and friend of mine named Katherine
Chrishon. I remembering thinking at the time, that it has such a nice,
singable folksong-like melody... why the gloomy title?
Putting the "Bleak" title and lyrics completely aside, I
decided instead to focus on the simple beauty of the musical phrases
while recording this piece.
What Child Is This, track six on Whispers The Falling
Snow is actually better known as Greensleeves. The
song was written in 1865? As many versions as there are, its
always worth hearing it again. What about this track means so much
to you and why do you think its remained so popular over the
years? Do you have other favorite versions? I always thought Greensleeves
worked best as an instrumental for some reason, as your version proves.
Dan Chadburn: The tune, "Greensleeves," is actually
an English ballad which dates back to the 16th century. Today, the
tune is most often associated with the traditional carol text, "What
Child Is This," which, as you said, was written in 1865 by William
Chatterton Dix and published in 1871in a collection titled "Christmas
Carols New And Old". Interestingly, many of the texts first associated
with the tune were secular in nature, having nothing to do with Christmas.
There are, indeed, many versions of "Greensleeves." Perhaps
the first time I heard the tune was as a young boy, watching the show,
Lassie on television. A rendition of "Greensleeves"
was used during the credits in the last couple seasons of the show.
I've always enjoyed the shape of the tune's musical line, and the
fact that it is in a minor mode. For that reason, I decided to include
this instrumental version on the album.
mwe3: Winter Waltz, track 7 is another Chadburn
original. Is there a history with that track you can share? It seems
upbeat in contrast to some of the other deeper kind of songs. Is that
the waltz time that gives Winter Waltz a kind of upbeat
Dan Chadburn: For this improvisation, I merely closed my eyes
at the piano in the studio and envisioned a couple skating together
outside on the ice. A winter waltz between two in love...
Away In A Manger is another lesser known track. Interesting
to note that the song is so popular in England yet here in the US
its fairly unknown by comparison. Can you tell us something
interesting about Away In A Manger, when you first heard
it and how it fits in with the other tracks on the Whispers The
Falling Snow album?
Dan Chadburn: Indeed, in Great Britain, "Away In A Manger"
is among the most popular Christmas carols of all time, dating back
to its original publication in the late 1800s. There are several tunes
associated with the text. I decided to use melodic themes from two
of theseone written by James Murray in 1887 and the other by
William James Kirkpatrick in 1895as a medley for the track on
the CD. My intent was to capture the feeling of this piece as a lullaby.
Indeed, I probably heard the tune for the first time myself as a very
mwe3: Angels We Have Heard On High has to be one
of the most beautiful Christmas season songs ever. Plus it has one
of the classic chord progressions which kind of sounds like it inspired
progressive rock in a way. Im sure Rick Wakeman and Gary Brooker
incorporated some of those progressive chord changes in their early
music. Any special significance of the Angels song to
Dan Chadburn: Similar to you, I've always liked the melody
and chord structure of this carol. The source of the music is an old
French carol, later arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes, in 1937, into
the common heard carol today. As you mentioned, one can't help but
wonder if progressive greats from bands like YES and Procol Harum
incorporated some of these same chord progressions in their music.
While the progressions are long established, they seem timeless to
We recorded several different improvisations on "Angels We Have
Heard on High" and ultimately decided upon this one for the album.
The title track closes Whispers The Falling Snow. Is the song
a kind of reverie? What made you want to close the album with the
title track? Its a great reflective track that really fits well
on the CD. It doesnt snow as much as it used to but I guess
it will start soon! What are you hoping that the listeners will feel
like after playing this CD? Its such a peaceful kind of album
and in this turbulent world it cant hurt to have a musically
calming moment that lowers the blood pressure and takes us back to
where weve been and where were going.
Dan Chadburn: I love the fact that you picked up on the "reverie"
aspect of this piece. Our time in the studio one day had nearly come
to an end and Tom suggested that, instead of improvising another track
based on a carol, I instead do an improvisation while envisioning
in my mind the first snowfall of the winter season. And so I sat down
at the piano...closed my eyes...and began to play...at first, watching
the single flakes fall by themselves in silence from the sky, soon
joined by more and more flakes floating down, each one unique and
different, collectively creating a beautiful landscape, calm and serene...
I know it's highly unusual to close an album with the title track,
but in this case, it just seemed like the right placement for this
piece. My hope is that "Whispers The Falling Snow" transports
the listener to a peaceful, quiet space...
mwe3: Are you always writing music and what other avenues would
you like to go down next musically? Any future plans for the fans
and readers to hear about regarding your next musical moves?
Chadburn: I got back into the studio about three weeks ago and
began laying down some new improvisations, which I'll use as the foundation
in writing some orchestral/instrumental tracks over the next couple
months. Right now, I envision the textures of the new album to be
slightly more complex than my previous stuff, but more similar to
the tracks on Reflections and Nocturnes than Solo
Piano or Whispers The Falling Snow.
But who knows...sometimes the pieces just evolve on their own...
Thanks again, Robert, for the opportunity to chat and talk about Whispers.
I appreciate it very much!
to Dan Chadburn @ www.DanChadburn.com