PA Musician

Altoona native Don Hughes was introduced to the piano as a child, and honed his skills as a contestant, winner and eventual judge in Dennie Huber’s annual Crazy Fest Amateur Youth Talent Show. After stints in the band Generation Gap and as studio keyboard man with Fat Vinny & the Wiseguys, life and career relocated Hughes to the Pittsburgh area. After issuing a self-titled instrumental debut CD in 2007, Hughes has released his second instrumental effort, the holiday season album It’s Christmas. Influenced by the classical-meets-progressive-rock stylings of Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Hughes renders a similar approach over the disc’s 11 tracks, providing innovative arrangements on a variety of traditional holiday favorites. Rock-driven arrangements propel the disc-opening rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” as well as “We Three Kings,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and the medley of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas/Carol of the Bells/Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Don’s classical leanings prevail on versions of “Veni Veni (O Come, O Come Emmanuel),” “Deck the Halls,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and the merger “O Christmas Tree/O Come All Ye Faithful.” Acoustic guitar provides guidance on treatments of “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night” and the disc-ending “Joy to the World.” Hughes displays mastery as both a performer and arranger. His keyboard never stays in one place for long, as he varies between full orchestral flourishes and stripped-down flavors, sometimes emulating woodwind and string tones with his keys. His arrangements provide variety and dynamic wax and wane on each number, keeping the disc sounding fresh from start to end. It’s Christmas is invigorating and uplifting, as Don Hughes’ variety of yuletide vibes and flavors makes this a fitting soundtrack for trimming the Christmas tree or playing during holiday gatherings. (The CD can be purchased through Don’s website, www.donhughesmusic.com.)

JamSphere.com

Don Hughes started playing piano at 8 years old. Starting as a junior in high school, he competed in high school talent shows, and the Crazy Fest Annual Talent Show, the longest running talent competition in Pennsylvania. He would place 1st and 2nd in a number of competitions before he became a judge in 2002. Between then and now Don has been active on the Central Pennsylvania music scene. In 2008 he released his debut album and in 2012 he married his long time sweetheart Elizabeth. During January 2016 started work on a new album, which has resulted in his latest release, “It’s Christmas”.

The album features keyboard/synth orientated instrumentals of our favorite Christmas classics, from “Silent Night” to “Away In A Manger” and “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing” to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Joy To The World”, plus many more. The music styles are extremely varied and you will find stripped down picked acoustic guitar pieces, to fully layered orchestral arrangements, and even some rock influences.

Without exaggerating, this may be the most musically satisfying Christmas instrumental album, you lay your hands on this year. By blending reverent, neo-classical interpretations with modern synthesizers and percussion, Don Hughes virtually re-defines contemporary Christmas music. The more contemporary/electronic arrangements never sound cheesy, nor are the contrasts with the more traditional interpretations in any way jarring.

In general, the arrangements on this disc are masterful. “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” in particular, are hauntingly beautiful. And, while the electronics may not be for everyone, they are tastefully done, they do evoke a festive mood, and they keep the album from sounding like every other orchestral Christmas album you’ve ever heard.

Rock infused interpretations like “We Three Kings” will provide you with a surge of uplifting energy.  This is one of the better Christmas albums for new-age traditional songs set to electronic drums and melodies. In general the album has a renaissance feel to it, the instruments are captivating, and you’ll be entranced by Don Hughes’ arrangements and accurate execution.

Though Don Hughes reworks these festive season classics into something more digestible for the modern ear he never strays from the songs’ classic core aesthetics. So each song is instantly recognizable and absolutely hummable. Even If you are a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas music, once you discover Don Hughes and savor the tremendous vitality and energy in his music, you will be hooked.

Make a hot beverage; grab a cozy blanket; place this album in the player; settle into your favorite chair, and let the music surround you. From the clear brass sounds to the lingering strings and the fiery percussion to the sizzling synths, Don Hughes lifts the spirit and transports the listener, musically, to another place. If you are one of the people who hasn’t heard “It’s Christmas”, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is, quite simply, essential Christmas music.

IndieBandGuru.com

It is getting to that time of year again when Christmas music takes over all the sonic space from shopping malls to car radios.  I think we can all appreciate the holiday sounds for a little while but when all we get to hear is the same old tired versions of the same old songs it gets old real fast.  After some searching, we discovered something fresh from a new name, Don Hughes.

For the Pennsylvania native, the piano was part of his life from the age of eight.  Don Hughes would show off his learned talents throughout high school winning numerous talent shows including the longest running talent competition in Pennsylvania, the Crazy Fest Annual Talent Show.  He would later even become a judge of the esteemed talent show.  

Through performing with a few diverse bands over the years, Don Hughes picked up the variety of influences and skills needed to become a complete musician.  His cover band Generation Gap showcased 3 generations of musicians, playing covers from the 60s to the 00s.  It was here where he polished his skills playing in a live environment as well.

After some time away from the music scene to pursue a personal life, including marrying his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth, Don Hughes is back with a holiday record to bring something new to the genre.  November 8th saw the release of It’s Christmas to turn classics into unique gems.  The 11 track record opens with a version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that shows we are in for something different.  Recollections of Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra come to mind.

Don Hughes’ talent on the piano really shines on “We Three Kings”.  The layered melodies create a beauty that raises the level of the golden oldie.  The spacy atmospheric version of “Deck The Halls” lets the mind wander to a relaxed place among all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  The beautiful piano returns on “Angels We Have Heard On High”.  It is different and fresh yet still as pretty as the original.  The album closes with “Joy To The World” using interesting sounds to bring us all back to the altered reality that is the Christmas season.  

When you are truly ready for something that is familiar enough to keep the holiday spirit yet fresh enough to keep your interest and attention give It’s Christmas a listen on Don Hughes WEBSITE.