Janelle Nadeau has quite the resume. Her list of credits include playing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Diana Krall and — get ready for this — even Kanye West. The harpist is currently the Acting Principle Harpist with the Vancouver Opera and, last year, founded the Nadeau Ensemble which began a holiday tradition with a successful holiday tour.
The holidays are what bring Nadeau to the pages of New Sick Music today. Her new album, Star of Night, brings a harp delicacy to some classic holiday songs. I say classic, but for the most part, the selection of songs draws from the less often played Christmas songs. This — and the occasional twist — helps Star of Night feel fresh. Just take Nadeau’s rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, for example, on which the intro meanders as though lost before jumping in at a quick pace, accompanied by Nadeau’s warm vocals.
For the most part, the album forgoes vocals for the complexity of the arrangements. When Nadeau does sing, it feels warranted and sweet. The ballroom-esque rhythm of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” benefits from the addition of a voice to lull you through. “Peace On Earth” is a cover of U2’s holiday contribution and is perhaps the most surprising on the album. The song brings together the album co-producers Nadeau and Stephen Fisk for a duet. Fisk also contributes his guitar skills to give an extra punch to some of the tracks. There is an urgency to “Huron Carol” because of it, and this helps the track to become one of the album’s strongest moments.
The album finds strength both in complexity and simplicity — there is always a sense of equilibrium. The gradual lift of “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” from dark to light introduces an optimism that is repeated in the weaving of “We Three Kings”: the shakers add a casual tone that feels inviting. This is the Christmas album for those looking to add beauty to a moment.