Prescott Hometown Christmas
Bill Ooms is a classical guitarist who is releasing his first CD, a Christmas instrumental entitled 'Prescott Hometown Christmas'. Bill has been playing in the Prescott (Arizona) area for a number of years at various churches, and has also played as a part of ensembles and orchestras for special Christmas and Easter events. 'Over the years, I've played in a lot of Christmas programs and have performed solos with accompaniment, and now I want to share some of my favorite songs' says Bill. 'I've been working on these songs all through the spring and summer. It's been kind of odd to be arranging Christmas music in the heat of the summer. Surprisingly, after working so many months on this album, I'm not tired of Christmas music. It's my favorite time of the year.' Some of his songs are based on arrangements by others and Bill adds additional orchestration. For other songs, he started from scratch and stretched his wings to come up with his own unique arrangement. For example, on 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' he starts with choral voices (vaguely reminiscent of monks). At the end of the verse, the tempo increases with the beat of a bass drum and electric guitar. The melody is picked up by a jazz flute, joined later by a verse with the nylon string guitar. 'I tried to put some unexpected surprises in the songs, and have some fun with the instrumentation' says Bill. On other songs, the simplicity of a piano and classical guitar is all that is needed. On 'Christmas Time is Here' (that favorite from one of the early 'Peanuts' cartoon specials) a piano with guitar solo adds a quiet and nostalgic feeling. Add a little flute harmony, and a bit of cello for an interlude, and you've got a nice addition to anyone's Christmas music collection. Bill wanted to do something unique and different with 'Silent Night'. He says that one night when he couldn't sleep, he had the thought of doing the song in 7/8 time rather than the more common 3/4 or 4/4/ time signature that is common with most music. 'Actually, I can't think of any other song that is written in 7 time, but it works with this' says Bill. 'I thought it might have been a bad dream, but in the morning I started playing with it and started liking it. I made a quick recording of a single verse and emailed it to a good friend who has had a lot of music training and orchestration. She liked it, so I continued on with it.' Bill added some background environmental sounds that he recorded at his ranch out in the country. If you hear crickets in your house when you are playing this album, don't worry -- they'll probably disappear after track 11. Bill has made a number of wooden instruments. One of them is a wooden Irish Whistle that has a very 'breathy' sound similar to a native American flute. He uses this instrument on 'O Come O Come Emanuel' and the result has a very southwest flavor. There are some parts of the song where the music seems to echo off canyon walls. Bill explains the process: 'As I was recording environmental sounds over the summer, I captured some good thunder claps. Thunder is just the echo of the sharp snap of the lighting, with the sound reflecting off the clouds and canyon walls. I processed this electronically and used it as the basis for my reverb.' It sounds like some of Bill's first career in electronics still shows up now and then. Bill plays many of the instruments, but not all of them. Where did he get the rest of the orchestra? Actually, he uses computer samples of a variety of instruments including the Vienna Symphonic Library and Garritan Personal Orchestra. Using state-of-the-art computer and digital recording technology, he creates orchestral backgrounds that would be difficult to record live on a limited budget. Bill said 'With the computer instruments, you can take your time and try different arrangements until you get just the right sound.' Formerly an electronic engineer for Motorola in the Phoenix area, Bill left his first career 4 years ago and now is an accomplished wood turner. He shows his work locally at the Arts Prescott Gallery on historic 'Whiskey Row' in Prescott, and also sells at select art shows in the southwest. 'Wood is my business now, but my hobby has always been music,' according to Bill. He started playing piano at an early age, and picked up the guitar in college. But is wasn't until he moved to Arizona in 1989 that he got serious about music and took classical guitar classes and music theory. Now, he looks forward to getting more involved with music in the community.