Don Hughes started playing piano at 8 years old. Starting as a junior in high school, he competed in high school talent shows, and the Crazy Fest Annual Talent Show, the longest running talent competition in Pennsylvania. He would place 1st and 2nd in a number of competitions before he became a judge in 2002. Between then and now Don has been active on the Central Pennsylvania music scene. In 2008 he released his debut album and in 2012 he married his long time sweetheart Elizabeth. During January 2016 started work on a new album, which has resulted in his latest release, “It’s Christmas”.
The album features keyboard/synth orientated instrumentals of our favorite Christmas classics, from “Silent Night” to “Away In A Manger” and “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing” to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Joy To The World”, plus many more. The music styles are extremely varied and you will find stripped down picked acoustic guitar pieces, to fully layered orchestral arrangements, and even some rock influences.
Without exaggerating, this may be the most musically satisfying Christmas instrumental album, you lay your hands on this year. By blending reverent, neo-classical interpretations with modern synthesizers and percussion, Don Hughes virtually re-defines contemporary Christmas music. The more contemporary/electronic arrangements never sound cheesy, nor are the contrasts with the more traditional interpretations in any way jarring.
In general, the arrangements on this disc are masterful. “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” in particular, are hauntingly beautiful. And, while the electronics may not be for everyone, they are tastefully done, they do evoke a festive mood, and they keep the album from sounding like every other orchestral Christmas album you’ve ever heard.
Rock infused interpretations like “We Three Kings” will provide you with a surge of uplifting energy. This is one of the better Christmas albums for new-age traditional songs set to electronic drums and melodies. In general the album has a renaissance feel to it, the instruments are captivating, and you’ll be entranced by Don Hughes’ arrangements and accurate execution.
Though Don Hughes reworks these festive season classics into something more digestible for the modern ear he never strays from the songs’ classic core aesthetics. So each song is instantly recognizable and absolutely hummable. Even If you are a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas music, once you discover Don Hughes and savor the tremendous vitality and energy in his music, you will be hooked.
Make a hot beverage; grab a cozy blanket; place this album in the player; settle into your favorite chair, and let the music surround you. From the clear brass sounds to the lingering strings and the fiery percussion to the sizzling synths, Don Hughes lifts the spirit and transports the listener, musically, to another place. If you are one of the people who hasn’t heard “It’s Christmas”, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is, quite simply, essential Christmas music.