Album review: Gino Quilico's Secrets of ChristmasReview
Gino Quilico, Canadian baritone, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Grammy-award winning artist has released his latest album, just in time for Christmas.
Released on the Analekta label, Secrets de Noël / Secrets of Christmas brings together three generations of Quilico singers; four of the tracks are remastered versions of duets recorded in 1992 by Gino and his father, and fellow star baritone, Louis Quilico, at Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church. You can also hear Gino sing a duet version of the Hispanic Christmas carol, A la Nanita Nana, with his daughter Sofia.
“At Christmas time, there is nothing dearer to me than my children and my family,” writes Quilico in his album notes. “I had the great fortune of having two wonderful parents who brought music to my heart. I would like to dedicate this album to my mother Lina and my father Louis, to their memory and all those magical times we had together surrounded by music.”
Gino Quilico recorded the majority of Secrets de Noël / Secrets of Christmas in the summer of 2015, and he invites novel and exciting collaborators into the project. The newly recorded tracks feature two Montréal-based ensembles: the 21-voice La petite bande de Montréal, and Ensemble Triosphère, made up of violinist Lizann Gervais, cellist Élisabeth Giroux, and pianist Dominic Boulianne. Joining them all are oboist Mélanie Harel, guitarist Glenn Lévesque, and double bassist Éric Lagacé.
Dominic Boulianne also acted as arranger for four of the tracks, and they were some of my favourite. The sound meandered between a Jason-Robert-Brown-like Le premier Noël, and an almost bossa-nova-esque pulse for Noël blanc. What I loved was that the Ensemble Triosphère’s sound was unique and audible, but it seemed malleable for a collaboration with an artist like Gino Quilico.
Quilico sings with a lazy ease that sounds fittingly cozy for a Christmas album. His voice is straightforward, clean, but with personality and an air of improvisation. In the more popular, crooning numbers, he made me think of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and those Lawrence Welk Show Christmas specials. It was a nice foil to his sound in Italian picks like Gesu, bambino (O Come, All Ye Faithful) and Minuit, Chrétiens (O Holy Night). The arrangements were decidedly more classical in sound, and satisfying for listeners like me who are eager to hear more Quilico’s full, released singing.
I thought some of the numbers could have been brought up a key or two, for a voice like Quilico’s. Over the album it seems as though his voice travels slowly upwards, and I was more excited and moved by the higher tessitura. There are a few tracks, like Enzo de Rosa and Paul Oxley’s The World Comes Together, that I found a bit corny, perhaps; but I suppose that’s a bit of what a holiday album is.
The album as a whole has a great feel for the holidays, and it’s definitely one to listen to in the midst of a Christmas baking blitz. The duets with Louis Quilico are my highlights of Secrets de Noël / Secrets of Christmas, and you’ll want to have a seat and really listen to them. Their Ninna Nanna Gesu Bambino is a beautiful example of how voices can blend, and Louis’ solo singing of Schubert’s Ave Maria is addictive.
To purchase Secrets de Noël / Secrets of Christmas, either for download or on CD, click here.