Park City music project becomes an international work of ‘Diversity: A Holiday Celebration’
For information about and to order “Diversity: A Holiday Celebration,” visit Tanyataylorproductions.com.
While many people feel that the past year has been one of hopeless isolation due to COVID-19 and division through politics and race, local songwriter and producer Tanya Taylor wants to show that people around the world can become stronger if they work together.
To prove that, she will release the album “Diversity: A Holiday Celebration” on Dec. 1.
The 14-track album, which started as a Christmas album featuring a handful of her friends, ended up being a project that features more than 50 international musicians and singers from 16 countries, including Brazil, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Uganda.
“We had a collection of holiday and Christmas songs we had already been working on,” she said. “Initially it was only going to be 28 people, but then other musicians and artists contacted me about getting involved, and I just couldn’t turn them down. It felt like there was a higher power involved with this album.”
The artists who appear on the album include Japanese jazz guitarist Kenji Aihara, Italian tenor Massimo Barberi, Sundanese Cantor Anai Akol Alith and Park City’s own pop vocalist Ava Hoekstra and Utah Conservatory co-founder Debra Cook, to name a few.
The songs, whose styles include rhythm and blues, New Age, Latin, pop and jazz, are a collection of traditional holiday offerings and two originals, written by Taylor and her husband Todd Bigatel.
Some of those traditional songs are “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night” and “Mary Did You Know” and a reworking of Sarah McLachlan’s “Winter Song.” The originals are titled “God Bless The Perilous Waters” and “The Christmas Memory.”
“These are all songs I love,” Taylor said. “I had arranged most of them, and while I did that, I looked at ways that I could infuse other cultures into them.”
One example of the cultural collaboration is heard on “Mary Did You Know,” which is sung by Hoekstra, according to Taylor.
“I wanted to add a flamenco twist to it to give it more meaning,” she said.
Each artist recorded their own parts separately and Taylor put them together.
One of the artists was singer Fabrice Karangwa, a bass vocalist from Rwanda, she said.
“I paid for his studio time and the studio sent me his tracks to ensure they were of professional quality,” she said.
The song that Taylor didn’t arrange was “O Holy Night,” which was put together by Aihara.
Ugandan singer Ben Mulwana laid down the vocals, and Aihara added the guitars, Taylor said
“Then I had three Indian musicians lay down more instruments, and the song became a fusion of cultures coming together,” she said. “It was so much fun, because I feel that the world is trying to separate us, and I believe we are stronger together.”
Taylor and Bigatel began working on the album in March, right after the coronavirus shutdown began.
“I know some people from other countries, and as I began working on the songs, I reached out to them to see if they knew of musicians or singers who would be interested in working on the album,” Taylor said. “They, in turn, sent me contacts, and everyone I talked with didn’t hesitate to say, ‘Yes.’”
The racial unrest that came In the following months after COVID hit Park City also added to Taylor’s desire to do something positive and inspiring.
“I wanted to show people that we could overcome all of these challenges, even though it will take a lot of work to do so,” she said. “So I tried to reflect upon the wisdom of leaders who have gone through similar situations like this and use their words to levitate from this and go forward in how they would.”
Those leaders include, but are not limited to, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his daughter Dr. Bernice King, Nelson Mandela, female education activist Malala Yousafzai and the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
A few days ago, Ginsburg’s daughter Jane Ginsburg emailed Taylor after she had watched one of the album’s promotional videos that highlighted her mother.
Jane, who is the faculty director of Columbia’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts, said the video is a “beautiful compilation of music and words,” and ordered a CD.
“I’ve been grinning from ear to ear since I got that email,” she said. “If she only knew how much respect I hold for what she and her mother has accomplished in this world.”
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