"...one of the coolest Christmas compilations you’ll ever hear..." - Daedalus Books and Music
"It's beautiful, and also wryly funny!"- The Seattle Times
"...a must for every collector of stringed instruments." - 20th Century Guitar
St. Petersburg Times
Los Angeles Times
20th Century Guitar
Daedalus Books and Music
wsclblog.blogspot.com - December 21, 2012
A 2 CD timeless delight! I first discovered
Gregg Miner through his harp guitar website and his online museum of
"musical oddities." He has a physical museum as well as his
online museum, with a primary focus on harp-guitars (guitars with additional
strings beside the fingerboard to play like harp basso-continuo notes).
His museum grew to include a multitude of zithers and salon-music oddities that blossomed
during the pre-TV & radio days of the 1800s when the bourgeoisie was
actively involved in music making for personal enjoyment and personal display...
and the appetite for a "unique" instrument that would set oneself
apart from the bevy of those playing piano, violin and flute was at its peak.
And amazingly: Miner plays almost all of these instruments with total,
deft assuredness. Not only that, but he arranges music on a high
professional level, and then does multi-track recordings of his arrangements.
We are talking about a musician with the kind of skill set that was displayed by
Mozart. Now, his focus is definitely NOT classical. Miner's
music is true crossover, with a heavy leaning toward the folk and pop-rock that
one would expect from someone whose core instruments are guitar/mandolin/banjo.
But he leavens his work with a musical ear that understands the classical and
the contemporary, western and eastern traditions, which make for a Christmas
collection that is infinitely enjoyable by the entire family for years to come.
The two CD set also includes museum-worthy booklets that show the pictures of
the instruments played on each piece with information about the instruments as
well. This set is part of my personal Christmas music collection,
and I think so highly of it that I have repeatedly given it as a gift.
Name a stringed instrument -- mandolin, harp or banjo -- and Gregg Miner plays it. Adam Giblin of Red River Radio suggests this two-volume set as a refreshing retake on holiday favorites. Miner plays all the instruments with warmth and whimsy, making some old melodies sound new again. This recommendation definitely falls in the cheery category.
It's not too soon to be thinking about
Christmas. Decorations will be appearing at local stores shortly and lists for
Santa will be on everyone's mind. If you need musical inspiration, let Gregg
Miner put you in the mood with these two eclectic collections of Christmas
music. Each cut features a different vintage instrument, from banjos to
lap-steels, from Renaissance lutes to harp guitars, all from Miner's own Museum
of Vintage, Exotic, and Just Plain Unusual Instruments. Miner systematically
restrung, restored and researched playing techniques of each of the 100-plus
instruments in his collection. Most are rare, and many are one-of-a-kind.
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES - Friday, December 10, 1999
never grow old / Notes from Christmas past:
Daedalus Books and Music
- December 1999
DO YOU HEAR what I hear? Sounds of the holidays fill the CD bins. Here's our critic's guide to the best.
Most unusual holiday CD: "A Christmas Collection," Gregg Miner (distributed by Delos International, DE2101 and 2102). Actually two discs, these feature "The Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic and Just Plain Unusual Musical Instruments." What the title doesn't fully explain is the charm of hearing the Ukrainian Bell Carol with banduras and balalaikas, an entire mandolin orchestra playing "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and an assortment of other songs played on everything from sitar, oud, duduk, shakuhachi, lute, cornetto, zither, and more other instruments than it's possible to list here (all played by Miner himself). It's beautiful, and also wryly funny. And the repertoire! From traditional classics to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and (gulp) "The Chipmunk Song."
Gregg Miner is a collector and player of an extraordinary variety of old, rare, and unusual acoustic instruments, and this two-disk set of mostly familiar European and American holiday tunes offers a tour of his personal museum. Miner plays over a hundred different instruments on the 27 tracks, usually overdubbing numerous parts, and given their diversity - harps, zithers, tiples, octophones, sitars, and ouds, assorted medieval, Latin American, and Eastern instruments, as well as various guitars, banjos, and mandolins - his versatility and virtuosity is nothing short of amazing. The history of each instruments is detailed in the well-illustrated accompanying booklets, which could be read alone as mini-textbooks. This project will be of greatest interest to fellow instrument collectors and music historians, but the graceful and diverse instrumental arrangements stand on their own as well.
- Tom Nelligan
Sounds of the season
My candidate for most fun disc of the season is A Christmas Collection, Vol. I and II, featuring the Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic and Just Plain Unusual Instruments (Miner Music/Delos DE 2101 and 2102; order from (800) 364-0645). For this album, performer and curator Gregg Miner restored and restrung more than 100 rare and exotic instruments and just to make it more of a challenge, he plays each of these instruments only once on the 27 songs on these two discs. What's here? Martin and Knutsen guitars to die for, everything from balalaikas to zithers, Gibson mandolins, banjos and harp-guitars, lutes crumhorns and tambourines, octophone, oud, saz and dumbek, and much, much more. The music ranges from Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring to Sleigh Ride to classic carols to The Chipmunk Song. The liner notes are great reading, the photographs are terrific, and Miner is a first-rate musician. This is one wonderful surprise after another, a delightful treat amid so much same-old, same-old Christmas fare and a can't-miss gift idea.
VALLEY WEEKEND / BEST BETS
If you're looking for that last minute gift for the weird one in the family--you know, the one who listens to music when he could be watching TV-here's an idea.
Gregg Miner of Van Nuys has produced an album of Christmas music performed on his own private collection of rare and exotic musical instruments. Miner calls his collection the Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic and Just Plain Unusual Musical Instruments.
Miner, who works in the aerospace industry, started collecting acoustic instruments in the early 1970s after his high school infatuation with hard rock began to fade. He has researched, played and sometimes restored each of his 100 instruments.
In "A Christmas Collection" Volumes 1 and 2, each volume has a CD accompanied by a full-color 52 page booklet. It's easy to see that "A Christmas Collection" is not a commercial venture as much as a love affair between a man and his instruments.
Miner has recorded familiar Christmas songs using small ensembles of instruments taken from his private collection. The arrangements are accessible, though the instrumentation can sometimes be esoteric.
Imagine "Jingle Bells" performed on a trio of Dobros or "We Three Kings of Orient Are" played on the Egyptian oud or "The Little Drummer Boy" on the Indian sitar.
The booklets feature photos of the instruments used in the recordings along with Miner's informed, loving and sometimes humorous musings on the histories and characteristics of the various instruments.
I grew up loving the music that came with every Christmas season: the reassuring repetition of melodies year after year. The timeless quality of the centuries-old tunes, and the magic that seems to make people a bit nicer when they hear Christmas music.
It now seems a given that every recording musician who stays in the business long enough will eventually put out a Christmas album. From the old-school Perry Como and Tony Bennett chestnuts to the wonderful modern Christmas albums from David Grisman, Bruce Cockburn, and other folk-based musicians, the bins are full at the record stores. Gregg Miner may not be a recording industry old-timer, but his two CD set A Christmas Collection stands with the best Christmas recordings I've heard, and it has an incredible hook for guitar fans: through the magic of multitracking, Miner recorded the music playing his entire collection of 100-plus vintage and new instruments, most of them acoustic and most with strings. Unfortunately, the collection didn't make it out in time for the 1995 Christmas season, but Delos Records has licensed the set and is giving it the push it deserves for 1996.
Like the Tone Poems albums from David Grisman, Tony Rice, and Martin Taylor, Miner's A Christmas Collection features a wonderful assortment of vintage (and future vintage) instruments, and it puts them where they ought to be--in a musical context. Miner has not only learned to play all his instruments well, but he has also developed a deep sensitivity about combining the sonic textures he has at his fingertips, Oud, harp guitar, lap steel, sitar, saz, folk harp, banjo, lute, and many other stringed instruments are all used to great effect. I particularly liked the use of Andean instruments on "I Wonder as I Wander" and Middle Eastern instruments on "We Three Kings," which give the tunes an atmospheric context I never quite got from Mantovani-like elevator music arrangements. Miner's instrumentation helps highlight the original meaning of these Christmas songs. And although these albums are all instrumental, with music this familiar, listeners will fill in the words.
Each CD comes with a lavishly produced booklet with color photos as well as historical information about all of the instruments used. Miner's love for his instruments is clearly based on musical value, not just dollar value. His is an eclectic collection that includes not only the "normal" desirable vintage pieces, such as old Nationals, Dobros, Gibsons, and Martins, but also the really interesting and quirky instruments at which most vintage dealers turn up their noses. I hope this album inspires more collectors to appreciate the less valued old instruments and perhaps to actually use them.
After the novelty of A Christmas Collection wears off, what's left is its consistently high level of musicianship and lovingly whimsical arrangements. Miner has made a recording that can be enjoyed in any season (I'm writing this on a hot August 4!) and one that should be in every acoustic music lover's CD library. I hope we have not heard the last of either Miner the musician or Miner the collector.
- Rick Turner
New releases every collection should have: the two-disc set (sold separately) of traditional Christmas songs from Gregg Miner, with a twist. Miner is a collector of "vintage, exotic and just plain unusual musical instruments" and he utilizes them to their fullest on these discs. Just about every kind of stringed instrument you can think of shows up and Miner mixes them beautifully while showcasing the unique characteristics of each. Both CDs come with illustrated, 50-page booklets explaining each song and the instruments that were used. This set is a must for every collector of stringed instruments.
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