Anthony Santelmo Jr: Songs for the Season

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Anthony Santelmo Jr

Songs for the Season

December 20, 2016

Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes

anthony-santelmo-jr-cabaret-scenes-magazine_212This imaginative little album (only seven cuts) with cleverly chosen songs says “Christmas” in a sweet way. No typical holiday playlist here. From the cozy opening, “This House Has Never Known Such Love” by Bill Conti/Norman Gimbel, to the poignant closer, “Don’t Let Christmas Pass You By” by D. Jay Bradley, the CD is lively, warm and lovingly put together. Santelmo, who has won praise for his full-voiced tenor, is a Christmas song’s loving friend here.

What takes this album to a special level is not just his robust voice, but some solid collaborations on tricky material, like Harry Chapin’s story-song, “Mr. Tanner,” sung by guest vocalist Lorinda Lisitza with Santelmo offering a haunting “O Holy Night” (Adolph Adam/John Sullivan Dwight) in the background.
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He also colludes well on Karen Benedetto’s terrific “I’m Giving Love This Christmas” fused with “The  Holly and the Ivy” (traditional) and backup from his “Up-Front Girls” (Lisitza, Cheryl Martin, Margaret Kelly Murphy). “A Gift for Christmas” (Ford Winter/Barry Levitt) is a canticle to true holiday spirit, as is this eclectic CD. “Wintertime Is Here” by longtime musical partner Nan Butcher, with a verse by Barry Levitt and Santelmo, and additional melody and lyrics by Valerie diLorenzo, is a lively ditty that is a real highlight with a strong backup chorus (diLorenzo and “The Graces of Christmas”—Michele McConnell, Colleen Pappas, Listiza, Martin and Murphy) and traditional phrases throughout: “… children’s laughter as they gaily play… I just can’t wait.”  The musicians and singers blend well with Santelmo’s vocals and create a rare tapestry in contemporary Christmas singing. Wrapping it all up with the nod to the  late D. Jay Bradley, who was a big part of any cabaret Christmas, adds a reflective touch to this candy cane disc.

Barry Levitt gets credit as Musical Director/arranger/pianist, joined by Jon Burr (bass) and Rob Thomas (violin).

John Hoglund

For over 30 years, John Hoglund has been a respected entertainment writer covering cabaret, jazz, theater and recordings. His writings have appeared in numerous outlets including the Bistro Bits column for Back Stage. John moderated seminars and forums for the International Cabaret Conference At Yale. He produced many celebrity fundraisers in NYC including one of the first benefits after 9/11: “HeartSong:The Heroes' Concert” at The Bottom Line featuring 36 major stars. He co-produced “HeartSong2: The Heroes' Concert” for Katrina victims at Symphony Space and “Miracle On 35th Street” with a star-studded lineup. Other fund raising efforts include the first benefits for Broadway Cares and God's Love, We Deliver. John served on the Board of Directors of MAC for 12 years. He is well known for championing new and rising talents.