Diane Taraz
Hope! Says the Holly


The Boston Globe
November 11, 1999

Sweet-voiced Arlington folk singer Diane Taraz has released an austerely pretty holiday CD called "Hope! Says the Holly." She sets a mood of wintry quiet as she wanders through ancient and familiar carols, including "Cherry Tree Carol"; a darkly warm cover of "In the Bleak Midwinter"; and a version of "Auld Lang Syne" using the original melody for which Robert Burns wrote his famous song. It's fascinating to hear the considerably different mood the original air sets.
-- Scott Alarik

Dirty Linen magazine
December '00/January '01 #91

Following several releases, guitarist/vocalist Diane Taraz adopts a festive mood. "Hope! Says the Holly" is her offering of holiday folk songs ranging back to the 1500s. Opener "Green Grows the Holly" is attributed to the decidedly unfestive Henry VIII. Dulcimer and piano augment selections, and "People, Look East" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" feature the kalimba, with Taraz using it like a European music box. Cello, violin, bass, fiddle, bones -- even "leaping lord," "contented cow" and "piper" comprise standards-boosting instrumentation. The talented Taraz vocalizes all parts for "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" and oversees a zany, sound-effect-filled "Twelve Days of Christmas." The celebratory winter solstice song "In the Bleak Midwinter" is adorned with three verses penned by Taraz. Robert Burns' nostalgic "Auld Lang Syne" and the traditional "Silent Night" round out the festivities.
-- Stacy Meyn

Rambles, an on-line arts magazine
December 20, 2003

These songs ... are performed beautifully. Taraz ... makes excellent musical choices in her arrangements with just the right accompaniment for each song. She uses the kalimba to striking effect in "People, Look East," where it sounds like bright chimes.... An exquisite arrangement of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" ... begins a cappella in three-part harmony -- Taraz possesses a marvelous vocal range -- after which Taraz plays the melody on a mountain dulcimer, then accompanies the three part harmony again. The overall effect is breathtakingly lovely.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a light and fun rendition, complete with a sound effect for each gift on each day. The sound effects are heard only when the new item is introduced and then all at once in the final countdown rather than dragging out the song and bludgeoning the joke to death. The kalimba makes a virtuoso appearance in an instrumental of "Angels We Have Heard on High," where the arrangement was painstakingly laid down on multiple tracks; one can only play two notes at a time on a thumb piano (one for each thumb). The result is a full-bodied baroque-sounding music box of a melody, at once delicate and robust, and certainly unique!

Taraz keeps the first stanza of Christina Rossetti's poem-turned-Christmas-carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter," and rewrites the other three stanzas to reflect a more secular and general approach to the solstice.... Taraz gives the melody a striking treatment with bell-like piano accompaniment. The CD closes with "Silent Night," and Taraz sings it gently and simply with guitar accompaniment. It makes a perfect ending to a CD replete with remarkable arrangements performed with versatility and style.
-- Donna Scanlon