Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
The Knights — Before Christmas (Bright Shiny Things)
“This album took as much time as building the perfect dessert or pastry over the course of years,” said Eric Jacobsen, conductor of the Knights. “Yet at the same time, it's meant to make people happy and be that taste you love so much.”
Over the past 20 years, Jacobsen has created a sense of trust with the orchestral collective he co-founded, allowing different members to take the lead on special projects. Their latest recording, Before Christmas, is a perfect example and perfect pastry. It’s the brainchild of Christina Courtin. She’s a violinist with the Knights, as well as a singer, songwriter, producer and engineer.
Christina, why was this project important to you?
Christina: “I've always been really interested in holiday records. I love Christmas records. I love listening to that music. When Eric approached me about doing it, I was really excited, but also a little nervous. It’s like your best friend giving you the keys to the Porsche.”
Who is the biggest surprise guest on this album?
Christina: “Anthony Roth Costanzo, because I personally don't have a relationship with him. I was unsure if he was going to work with me. We recorded him singing first, which was kind of unusual. Usually, the band will record first and then the soloist gets to overdub on top of that.”
Eric: “There was a freedom in his singing because he got to record it with his own pianist. The orchestra then had to listen many times to get his inflections and be an organ, breathe and a string section at the same time. That was really fun.”
Can you talk about the inspiration behind the piece “The Kazoo”?
Christina: “I'm a big fan of Wu Man. For me; there's a lot of humor in music. I thought of this and started laughing. I thought it was so funny. I was really surprised when she said yes. I wasn't sure she was going to agree to it. I'm really happy, and I have a strong feeling about it. I really wanted to do it.”
Can you talk about your arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy” for folk group I'm With Her?
Christina: It was challenging because there was one member of that band, who will remain nameless, who was dead set on not singing ‘a-rum-pum-pum-pum.’ She was OK with the song, but she just was opposed to that part of it. So there's no a-rum-pum-pums in this version of “Little Drummer Boy.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.