• Andrew Cleaton

“And Call Off Christmas!”

There’s a famous scene in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ in which the scene-stealing, scenery-chewing Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the magnificent Alan Rickman) is so incensed by the local villagers’ collusion with Robin Hood that he barks to an underling: “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans. No more merciful beheadings…. And call off Christmas!”

Well, who knows what Christmas will look like this year? Our church communities are only just beginning to grapple with what non-virtual, socially-distanced worship might look like in our buildings - minus, of course, the singing. I, for one, can’t begin to imagine Christmas without the communal carols and I know that so many of us are praying that this dreadful virus might recede enough for a return to some kind of reassuring normality - if only to benefit from the simple social and mental health benefits that corporate singing brings in both sacred and secular spaces.

Whatever the world looks like in December, my own plans have been altered considerably. Regular readers might recall that I ran a series of blogs and reminiscences around my Christmas album ‘Messiah’s Dawn.’ What was all that about? Well, it wasn’t simply an exercise in looking back as I was, in those reflections, paving the way for an announcement about a new version of that work. The 20th anniversary of the the CD being released seemed like a good opportunity to revisit some of the material with the benefit of the superior technology we now have at our disposal. I’m not a great fan or “archeological music” - simply going over old ground for nostalgia’s sake. But the Christmas story is timeless and in the years between its original release and now, the songs and instrumentals from ‘Messiah’s Dawn’ have been performed live in different settings and have responded to new contexts, taking on new colours and new arrangements. In fact, some of the instrumental pieces have been reprised for solo piano on my latest album, ‘Hope’. All of which led me, and some trusty collaborators, to feel that we might be able to present the music in a new way which might bring it to a new audience whilst complementing the original.

Whilst it’s perfectly possible to do a huge amount of studio work in isolation or collaborate with other musicians online, at its heart, we wanted the new approach to ‘Messiah’s Dawn’ to be far more choral and orchestral. When it comes to recording elements like this there simply is no substitute for getting people together in the same room - something which still remains impossible. And, beyond the recording and production process, the aim was always to support the release of any new version with live performances which most certainly will call upon people to sing together.

All of which led me to take the decision that it would not be possible to record, produce and release an album which did justice to the vision this year. So, for now, that particular project has been moved to the back burner. In the meantime, can I remind you that the original CD is still available for purchase at: - as is my latest collection of solo piano pieces, ‘Hope.’ For those of you favouring digital downloads, please visit my Bandcamp site:

Thanks for all your interest and support. Stay safe. God bless.

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