Pair cel­e­brates ‘A Week in De­cem­ber’

When it comes to record­ing as a duo, a Christ­mas al­bum was a no-brainer, Foster and Hynes say

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - LOCAL - BY TARA BRAD­BURY tara.brad­[email protected]­gram.com Twit­ter: @tara_ brad­bury

De­cem­ber: not the most ob­vi­ous tour­ing month for a mu­si­cal duo from At­lantic Canada, and not just be­cause of the high chance of de­layed flights and slip­pery roads due to weather.

This time of year, concert-go­ers are of­ten look­ing for some­thing to get them into the fes­tive spirit, pre­fer­ring to wrap them­selves up, while the sea­son lasts, in Christ­mas car­ols or heart-warm­ing tunes they can use as a sound­track for tree-trim­ming.

Ian Foster and Nancy Hynes, who are about a week into a tour for their new al­bum, have got all of the above cov­ered.

“A Week in De­cem­ber” is the name of the record, and it fea­tures 12 tracks: a col­lec­tion of favourite Christ­mas car­ols, well-loved hol­i­day tunes and two orig­i­nal songs.

Foster is an award-win­ning St. John’s based singer/song­writer and pro­ducer, known for his rich sto­ry­telling through mu­sic. Hynes is his long­time partner and mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tor, ac­com­pa­ny­ing him on­stage and on record­ings with har­monies. They’ve of­ten toured to­gether, but Hynes, un­til now, has gen­er­ally been more in the back­ground.

That changed last fall when the pair played 35 shows to­gether in Europe.

“She stepped out of her har­mony com­fort zone to sing lead on a song I’d writ­ten years ago called ‘The Dark Sea,’ orig­i­nally sung by Me­lanie O’brien on record, and it was a consistent high­light of the night,” Foster ex­plains.

The pair had pre­vi­ously spo­ken about record­ing a Christ­mas al­bum to­gether, and it struck Foster that now might be the right time.

If Hynes and Foster ever recorded an al­bum to­gether as a duo, it was go­ing to be a Christ­mas one, they agree.

“I re­ally like be­ing a har­mony singer,” Hynes says. “This pro­ject was dif­fer­ent be­cause of how much I love Christ­mas mu­sic, and thus my in­put on the record was dif­fer­ent than Ian’s solo work.”

Foster is quick to at­test to Hynes’ love of hol­i­day tunes.

“I came home last night, af­ter start­ing on this record in the spring and on the eve of tour­ing Christ­mas songs ev­ery night, and Nancy was lis­ten­ing to a Christ­mas ra­dio chan­nel. I’m not even sure this love of Christ­mas is healthy any­more,” he jokes.

The pair came up with a list of songs they both liked, then worked on nar­row­ing it down to ones they re­ally loved, keep­ing in mind that most mu­si­cians only ever do one Christ­mas al­bum. The goal was to re­ally make it their own and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of ev­ery­thing Christ­mas means to them per­son­ally.

The re­sult is an eclec­tic track list, in­clud­ing Christ­mas hymns like “What Child is This” and “O Lit­tle Town of Beth­le­hem,” which do jus­tice to Hynes’ har­monies; “Auld Lang Syne,” and a lit­tle bit of Kenny and Dolly. Foster and Hynes’ in­ter­pre­ta­tion of “With Bells On” is less fre­netic than Dolly Par­ton’s 1984 ver­sion with Kenny Rogers, but fans of the orig­i­nal tune will en­joy how they’ve up­dated and per­son­al­ized the song with­out stray­ing far.

“Old Christ­mas Day” and the al­bum’s ti­tle track are Foster’s two orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions on the al­bum, and show­case op­po­site ends of the more melan­choly as­pects of the hol­i­day sea­son. Where the for­mer is up­beat and fun and looks to new be­gin­nings in a new year, the lat­ter is more in­tro­spec­tive and Blue Rodeoesque, writ­ten from the point of view of some­one who gets home only for a week dur­ing the hol­i­days, notic­ing how things and peo­ple have changed or stayed the same.

“(It’s) about com­ing home for the hol­i­days, for that week in De­cem­ber, and the com­pli­cated emo­tions that week can stir up,” Foster says.

It was in­spired by a con­ver­sa­tion in Cal­gary last year with a friend from New­found­land.

“A Week in De­cem­ber” was re­leased Nov. 23 and Foster and Hynes be­gan their tour right away, though not with­out a mi­nor win­ter tour­ing set­back. Their first gig, sched­uled to hap­pen in New-wes-val­ley Nov. 29, was post­poned un­til Dec. 11 due to high winds and power out­ages. The duo weren’t dis­cour­aged, though, jump­ing into their Toy­ota Yaris and wow­ing a Lewis­porte au­di­ence a cou­ple of days later, be­fore do­ing a sold-out show in Bot­wood and hit­ting up Gan­der, then tak­ing the ferry to Nova Sco­tia. They’ll do three shows there and then re­turn to this prov­ince for con­certs at St. Michael’s and All An­gels Angli­can Church in Deer Lake Dec. 10 (in sup­port of the parish), their resched­uled New-wes-val­ley date, and a show at St. Mark’s Angli­can Church in St. John’s (in sup­port of the Sin­gle Par­ent As­so­ci­a­tion of New­found­land and Labrador).

Ticket in­for­ma­tion for the “A Week in De­cem­ber” tour is avail­able on­line at www.ian­fos­ter.ca, as is a down­load of the al­bum’s first sin­gle, “Good King Wences­las.”

“She stepped out of her har­mony com­fort zone to sing lead on a song I’d writ­ten years ago called ‘The Dark Sea,’ orig­i­nally sung by Me­lanie O’brien on record, and it was a consistent high­light of the night.” Ian Foster

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO BY CHRIS LEDREW

Nancy Hynes and Ian Foster are tour­ing “A Week in De­cem­ber,” their new Christ­mas al­bum.

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