Yo-Yo Ma & Friends

Songs of Joy & Peace

Sony Classical; October 2008

This is a great Christmas album for people who are mostly sick of Christmas music. In fact, it is a lot more than a Christmas album, because when Yo-Yo Ma’s friends get together for a holiday party, all kinds of religions and cultures are represented. There are songs for Hanukkah here, as well as Kwanzaa, Eid al-Adha, Yule, and New Year’s. The theme that runs through it all is peace on Earth, as exemplified by many of the choices, and reinforced by four separate versions of the classic “Dona Nobis Pacem.” Among the winners, there’s an exquisite cello ensemble-backed James Taylor singing Lennon and McCartney’s “Here Comes the Sun.” In addition to fabulous international musicians like Brazilian guitarists the Assad brothers, bassist Edgar Meyer, and Dave Brubeck, there are no fewer than four absolutely first-rate vocalists, including Taylor, Renee Fleming, Alison Krauss, and Diana Krall. It’s an entirely satisfying listen, with no trace of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

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