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KING ISLAND CHRISTMAS
Alese & Morton Pechter

 

We have found the perfect gift for you, for your family and friends. A brand new CD of this amazing musical, King Island Christmas, is available now!

"We'll tell you a story, a Christmas story. It's our Christmas present to you. We've wrapped it in music instead of paper and we're here to sing it through. Its called King Island Christmas and every word is true. It's a story of people who stick together and what those people can do."

Usually our writings are about travel and fun things to do ... in Florida and around the globe but this time we are going to tell you about traveling you can do with your whole family, right in your own home from the comfort of your best easy chair. Picture this, an icy mountain on a little island in the Bering Sea off Alaska. Remember that children's story you loved to hear and have told to your children so many times? ... The Little Engine that Could? Well, this is a story about the people of this island having to climb that icy mountain....and it is a true story! Wait till you hear this music! The whole story is told in the lyrics of the songs. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Recently we had the privilege of seeing a showcase performance of this new musical show, King Island Christmas. It was done so simply, with just a piano, a group of singers on stage, with their music stands, rendering the lyrics and music. Sitting in the audience, our emotions ran the gamut. We left the theater with such positive feelings about a great new show, which we know will be a new holiday classic like The Nutcracker and Amahl ... about life in general ... people working together ... that a community of people and thoughts ... can make things happen.

Based on a true story, King Island Christmas is seventy minutes of wonderful, memorable, singable music that tells the story of ... the little island that could! Winter is closing in on King Island, a remote island off Alaska in the Bering Sea, and soon the villagers will be cut off from the rest of the world by the ice that makes travel to and from the island impossible for many months. The villagers anxiously await the arrival of the North Star, the ship that brings both crucial provisions and their beloved priest, Father Carroll to King Island. A sudden Arctic storm comes up and the sea quickly begins to freeze. Because the ice has already come to their side of the island, the villagers are unable to get out to the supply ship. The community works together to carry a large oomiak ... a swift, canoe-like boat made with walrus skin ... over the treacherous mountain that divides the island. On the leeward side of the island the sea is calmer and the islanders are able to bring their supplies and Father Carroll to shore in time to celebrate Christmas.

Deborah Baley Brevoort, the librettist, is an award winning playwright who lived in Alaska for 15 years and served as the Producing Director of the Perseverance Theater in Juneau. She found the story in a children's book and fell in love with it. Said Debbie, "...the story captured the essence of what I love most about Alaska: that one's community life is critical. In Alaska, the weather and geography are so formidable that belonging to a community is necessary for survival. You learn quickly that you must stick together for survival."

The fantastic music for this was written by David Friedman who has a long history with Disney musicals as a conductor/composer and vocal arranger. He has set the story in the form of an oratorio ... which is basically having a chorus tell and dramatize the story. All kinds of song forms are included: chant, calypso, gospel spiritual, pop anthem and folk song. It was written specifically so it could be performed not only by professional theater companies but by everyone. The local glee club, a church choir, community theaters, the high school symphony ... in any community around the world. And everyone gets to sing ... the children, women and men each have separate numbers.

The American Library Association had a special performance at its Midwinter Conference. Ann Symons, president of the ALA, commented afterward, " Everywhere I went for the next three days, people stopped me to tell me how much they loved seeing King Island Christmas ... and most of these same people also told me how moved they were and that they had cried. The adjectives just came pouring forth ... fabulous, incredible, beautiful voices, the message of working together. ... the melodies and words still linger and just gain a foothold in soul every time I play the tape."

Our own reaction was similar. We bought two CD's for ourselves ... one for home and one for our car ... and play it constantly. We understand it is also available on tape. For us, it is like listening to one of those old radio shows. The stage sets, and lighting and movement were all in our minds and imaginations ... and that can be so much more powerful than a picture that is put in front of our eyes on TV or in movie theaters.

The actual recording has been produced by the tops in the professional world. It's producer, Thomas Shepard is a 12-time Grammy winner and the most famous producer of show albums in the world. He is best known for the cast recordings of Stephen Sondheim's musicals. The orchestrator, Peter Matz, is an Emmy and Grammy award-winner, worked extensively on Broadway and is probably best known for his work with Barbra Streisand and the Carol Burnett Show. The conductor is David Friedman, the composer.

What a team to put together! Then add in the people with the magnificent voices ... Chuck Cooper, the 1997 Tony winner for The Life; Marin Mazzie, star of Passion and Ragtime who is opening on Broadway in the title role of Kiss Me Kate. Mix into that the Prince Charming in Whitney Houston's TV production of Cinderella and one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People ... Paolo Montalban! And there are more ... Frank D'Ambrosio played the Phantom for six years in the national tour of Phantom of the Opera; J.K. Simmons has been seen on television as the leading character in Oz and as a regular on Law and Order; Jonathan Bleicher is now appearing in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast and the little oomiak song is delivered by Bonnie Gleicher who was one of leads in the national tour of Annie... All these exciting, vibrant, melodious voices joining together to make this ensemble come to life.

Can you tell we are excited about this CD? All we did was take some photos for them, but we became so head-over-heals enamored with the music, the story, the lessons it tells that we just have to let the world know it is out there. Lee Moskof, one of the producers stated, " Everyone's very charmed by it all. The story is universal, albeit specific. Everyone can relate to the idea of challenge, and community, and the joy of sharing an accomplishment together .. all the good messages."

Friedman, the conductor of the recording stated, " the experience was magical from beginning to end. King Island is like Camelot: it's as much a state of mind as it is a place. Once you've heard it, you will never feel the same about your home, your family, your town again. It's that powerful."

We guess we are not alone in our belief in this CD as we have recently heard that The Voice of America and Armed Forces Radio will be broadcasting the entire album as a Christmas special that will be heard around the world. In addition, The Kennedy Center in Washington will have a special performance during the holiday season.

We have become ardent believers. We find ourselves referring to friends as "King Island" kind of people ... those that give the gifts of love, friendship and support. Those selected to record this music are themselves, King Islandish and were really able to communicate this in the recording. This album is absolutely glorious. Is it obvious that we love it? And we know you will love it too! Don't forget to give yourself the gift of King Island Christmas.


 

FASTFACTS:

King Island Christmas
CD or Cassette: 70 minutes of music
Libretto:Deborah Baley Brevoort ... award winning playwright
Music/Conductor: David Friedman .. composer Disney Productions
Producer: Thomas Z. Shepard .. 12 time Grammy winner
Orchestrator: Peter Matz ... Emmy & Grammy award winner
Producers: The King Island Company, New York
Cost: CD .. $17.99 suggested retail
         Cassette .. $12.99 suggested retail
Can be obtained from online music retailers: i.e. Barnes&Noble / Amazon.com
Or Phone: 1-800-719-9566

 

Audio Clips from the album:

We'll Tell you a Story
Waiting
The Gift of Trouble
The Song of the Oomiak
Over the Mountain
There's a North Star in the Sky
It's Love
Agoodik, Muktuk, Salmon & Seal

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© 1999 Alese & Morton Pechter
E-Mail: 73517.257@compuserve.com
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