As snow brings a hushed weightiness to the mountains and the twinkle of holiday lights pierce through the darkness of a chilly night, there’s no question that winter is here, bringing with it not only the ice and cold, but the promise of Christmas, warmth, traditions, sweet music, memories and more.
Tapping into the unique spirit of the holidays and adding their talent to the soundtrack of the season are The 5 Browns, who on Nov. 1, released their latest album: “Christmas With The 5 Browns.”
“People have asked us for a Christmas album pretty much from the beginning of The 5 Browns,” said Deondra, one of five musical siblings that make up the highly talented and classically trained piano quintet. With 15 years now passed since the group’s inception, it’s safe to say that’s a lot of requests.
“We’re all very, very festive and love the holiday season but wanted to make sure the timing was right for us and the music was up to the level we want for our arrangements. Through the years, we kept a list of songs we’d want to include on the album and it got to the point in the last year where, you know, I think it’s time.”
As a bit of background, The 5 Browns consist of Deserae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan — five siblings with some pretty incredible talent when it comes to tickling the ivories. Born in Texas and largely raised in Utah County before all attending New York’s prestigious Juilliard School, it didn’t take long for the group’s unique abilities to start capturing a national and international audience, whether performing solo, duo or with all five siblings bringing their energy to the music.
Though life, family and careers have led to the Browns relocating across the United States, it hasn’t slowed their love for music or performing with each other, which makes their first combined and recorded foray into the realm of holiday music all the more exciting.
“I hope when people hear our album they hear the traditional as well as older classical songs that don’t get noticed as much as they should among all the popular Christmas songs,” Deondra said of the album. “I hope they feel our festive energy and that we love spending time together.”
Deondra, along with sister Melody, are the only two siblings still living in Utah, and both carved some time out of their busy touring schedule to share with the Daily Herald a little more about the group’s holiday release.
“This year we finally just went for it,” Melody said of the album. “A lot of times the more traditional carols get forgotten and it’s kind of nice to be able to go back in time a little bit and use these carols to our advantage, recording them in another classical form.”
The album boasts 16 unique holiday arrangements from “The Nutcracker” suites to “Skater’s Waltz” and “Carol of the Bells,” with solos including “Greensleeves,” “Mary’s Lullaby” and “Lo How a Rose E’re Blooming.”
“In my home (we) love to throw on old Rat Pack Christmas albums but there’s only so long you can listen to that particular Christmas music before you want a palate cleanser,” Deondra said. “Now that we have this album out, it kind of serves as that — it gives a different flavor you don’t typically get in Christmas music.”
More than just offering a different taste when it comes to Christmas carols and classics, The 5 Browns hope their new album can be the backdrop for new holiday memories.
“Music has obviously been a very significant part of our lives,” Deondra said, noting that it’s especially so around the holidays. “I’m excited for the legacy … to have an album out there that shares our love of music and the holiday season with others throughout the world. It unites us all with this love for beautiful and wonderful music. It’s great to have the opportunity to once again record and have an album centered around this time of year that has always meant so much to the five of us.”
With already a month gone since the album released, Melody said the response has been largely positive.
“I had a friend text me from Texas to say they were decorating their home with family and listening to the album in the background, thanking me for that, which was so sweet,” she said. “It’s cool to picture other people in their festivities around the holidays decorating and having our music playing.”
Though the album offers a beautiful clarity and smooth complexity to the holiday music, it definitely took a lot of behind the scenes coordination to accomplish, especially given the conflict of geography, with each sibling working out their own parts separately before bringing it all together.
“It’s always a little stressful at first and a little bit of a learning curve even after all these years of performing together,” Deondra said, noting that the end result has been worth it. “There’s something very satisfying in hearing a potential project that you’ve talked about for years come together in a way that, we’re not just excited about it, but proud of the fact the music was well-written and we have the opportunity to play it and be a part of people’s homes, traditions and festive activities. There’s something powerful and exciting about that.”
Despite living across the country from each other, one beautiful section from Handel’s “Messiah,” “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” posed a particular problem for the sisters, in that it was performed by all three on just one piano.
“We don’t want people to be affected by what we’re doing physically so we try to make sure that the choreography of who is doing what leads to a big overall sound and beautiful, wonderful music,” Deondra said.
After spending some time reviewing the songs, it’s safe to say that mission has been accomplished with “Christmas With The 5 Browns.” The collection offers a delightful jaunt spotlighting Christmas music through the ages, featuring festive tunes that easily drum up images of snow falling, sleigh bells ringing and lights sparkling, as well as songs with a unique depth that breathe new life and meaning into the season. It’s evident from start to finish that each song has been carefully curated and performed with passion, offering a magical, musical new backdrop for holiday tradition.