Merrill Collins | Christmas Presence

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New Age: Relaxation New Age: Neo-Classical Moods: Mood: Christmas
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Christmas Presence

by Merrill Collins

Piano and bells improvisations on Christmas carols, chants, and classics. Soothing, perfect for listening while driving in traffic, entertaining friends or having Christmas dinner.
Genre: New Age: Relaxation
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Angels We Have Heard On High
3:35 $0.99
2. O Holy Night
6:03 $0.99
3. The First Noel
6:01 $0.99
4. He Shall Feed His Flock
8:58 $0.99
5. Of the Father's Love Begotten
4:26 $0.99
6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
6:37 $0.99
7. We Three Kings
4:44 $0.99
8. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
6:34 $0.99
9. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
4:27 $0.99
10. Come Thou Dear Redeemer
6:12 $0.99
11. Silent Night
4:05 $0.99
12. Ringtone
0:29 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Story of Christmas Presence

Although each classic song on Christmas Presence has a story that reaches our ears through the ages, the story of how the album came to be is the story of bells, piano, and improvisation. In my own life the story began when I was four and had the measles—my mother brought me a toy piano that set the course of my life. My formal education was completed with a scholarship to earn my Master of Music Degree at the SF Conservatory of Music. During the period of my life between 1988 and 2005 I did alot of daily improvising/creating. I was a Senior Musician in the Dept. of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at U.C. Berkeley. For fun I played Happy Hours at the Hilton and did shifts at Nordstrom SF Centre. On Sundays I worked at Saint Perpetua Church in Lafayette in the early 1990s, improvising hymns during the Preparation of the Gifts . I had begun gathering world bells as part of a piece I performed for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, earlier that year, in a collaboration with Mary Sano.

The story of the album begins with a hole in the roof. And a drop of water perilously close to the new grand piano, which had been donated by a Dr. Clarence Sheets in loving memory of his wife, Eleanor. The community began discussions about fundraisers to fix the roof, and I suggested making a Christmas album.

Mike Malone and Tom Jupille were familiar with my improvisational style and thought it would be good to have an album that was peaceful and relaxing, providing listeners with a tool for de-stressing. Whether it be while driving in holiday traffic or having quality time with family members, the concept was to provide centering music to enhance the experience of Christmas. They offered to be backers for a 4-hour recording session at Bay Records in Berkeley, and the rest is history. Our improvised fundraiser was a success!

The bells in my collection at that time included Mark Tree, Indian brass bells, and a Tibetan bowl bell. Over the years my bells collection has continued to grow. (Please see my world project “We Declare” on my website,, which teaches about all sorts of world instruments and bells!) My life took me from Northern to Southern California. While at Bodhi Tree in Beverly Hills one day, I heard some very large B Flat chimes, and thought how beautiful they would be on “Silent Night.”

This year I re-mastered Christmas Presence, working both at Deva Productions in Lafayette and at Kokopelli Studio in Winnetka. I was delighted to be able to add many more bells. The 2008 album includes Kulingtang, Tingsha, Elephant bells, and tuned Woodstock windchimes (which I love!) I couldn’t resist adding track 12, a harmonious, 30-second cascade of bells, as a ringtone specially crafted for the holiday season!

Thank you for purchasing this lovely CD. I hope the story continues as it becomes your soothing soundtrack to many wonderful and peaceful holidays!

Merrill Collins



to write a review

Steve Sheppard

Review from One World Music Radio (
As we draw closer to Christmas day it’s a beautiful feeling to be surrounded by music of the season, even more so if the music is composed from the original and created from the energy flow of a musician who is really in touch with her own musical soul.
I give you Merrill Collins, who has at this most peaceful and loving time of the year, manifested a whole new flow to some classic musical memories of Christmas’s past.
Let’s start with the idyllic Angels We Have Heard On High. I shall forever remember this version of this loving carol, as both Chrissie and I adorned our tree with memories of love in the shape of a special heart felt decoration, this song was playing on the radio, Merrill I thank you for this moment of pure bliss and oneness.
Collins has a way of performing on piano that is so warming to be a part of and on O Holy Night we can be a part of that manifestation. Collins has created something here that is a mixture of ambience and traditional. She truly has the most amazing ability as a performer to make something new, from the pages of the past, and give them a whole new fresh and happy vibe.
As a music lover, writer, performer and listener, I feel my life has become more fulfilled thanks to the work of Merrill Collins. Her unique abilities to create something magical and spacious are sublime, as on the track The First Noel, we again have something new and fresh, but above all of that, we have a traditional song raised to a level of ambience that is so delicate and pristine.
On He Shall Feed his Flock, we have a melody that is almost childlike, and very comforting, but warming and soothing. One can see the candles dripping with wax, and the moonlit glow of a winter day, disappearing into the ever hazy ever present night time cloak, that lies on the musical borderlands of reality.
At times, i am reminded of the work of Mike Rowland, whose angelic renditions reverberated around the halls of the new age industry for eons. But Collins has that extra special tenderness that is so very special, listen to Of the Father's Love Begotten, and you will see what I mean. This has to be the most thoughtful and ambient pieces I have ever heard on a Christmas release, her tones are supreme, empowering, and are filled with a relaxing, yet inspiring motif. To be honest, this was one my favourite tracks off the release.
Want something different? Here it is, it’s the standard, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Now I heard a track some 40 plus years ago called, Lightning Ride BY Neil Sedaka, and this is as close to it as you can get to that beautiful composition as I have ever heard. The light formation of chords is sublime, the calmness of production is graphic, but the depth of performance makes this my favourite piece off the album with ease.
As we drift into the second half of the release, we come across a well-known title called, We Three Kings, there is something so very laid back here, but thoughtful about this arrangement. Collins creates a whole realm of ambience on this composition, one that you could listen to for hours uninterrupted.
Sometimes you come across a song that takes your breath way and this is that very moment. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Is a step into the unknown for us dear reader and listener. At well over six minutes we have an opportunity to explore the majestic calmness of the artist. This composition has such an ambience about it, its undeniable and probably has to be one of my favourite’s pieces off the release.
Merrill Collins is a co-creator of pure blissful ambient music and on O Come, O Come Emanuele, we can really bear witness to the crossover of styles, her performance on this track is outstanding and one could listen to this piece time and time again. The skills given here cross from classical, to ambient, to new age and back again, we’re witnessing in this piece, a musician who is clearly, not just in the moment, but one who is willing to experiment and be a part of a whole new sound.
This must surely be the most original Christmas albums of all time. Let’s prove that point further, this is Come Thou Dear Redeemer, again that soft jazzy style New Age ethic eases us home. I for one could with blissful ease, just float on the clouds of tone, and drift forever more. Collins has that magical wand of ambient majesty, and I feel that this is one album that will be played relentlessly during my holiday season break, from it I feel peace and tranquillity and a new jeux de position of musical performance.
Silent Night has to be one of the most familiar pieces of this time of year and still to this this day, it moves me. The tempo that Collins' employs, soothes us to the point that we may well fall asleep under our Christmas tree, and forget that we should now be in bed asleep, waiting for the sunlight to break through the window of a brand new day.
The album ends with Ringtone, which is the bells and chimes from the previous track, a gentle way to leave the album.
Collins has taken an array of classic Christmas tunes and created something ultra-special, she has not conformed to the standard, but created something in between, something ambient, something new and refreshing. Christmas Presence is a release that will placate both the traditional and non-traditional listener, will bring solace to the ears of the stressed seasonal purchaser of holiday gifts, but above all Merrill Collins and Christmas Presence, is one of the most pleasing, blissful, and ambient slices of Christmas based music collections, I have heard for simply ages.