By Mike Romero
Last March, we discussed Richard Williams’ ambitious new Christmas album. Since that time, he surpassed his funding goal on Kickstarter and completed the record. It was recorded in Budapest, Hungary and the iconic Capitol Studios in Hollywood with some of the best jazz musicians in the world. This album’s classic style will please fans of Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, and Michael Bublé.
Williams has found professional success writing music for the video game industry. Although he has been playing and composing music for nearly two decades, HOLLYWOOD CHRISTMAS is his debut album. Williams decided to show off his considerable arranging chops by putting his own spin on these well-known and much-loved Christmas classics.
He was inspired to record an album after taking a master class with German composer Chris Walden, who has written 1,500 orchestral and big band arrangements for artists like Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. He was an arranger for American Idol from 2007 to 2016 and has been the lead arranger for the Academy Awards since 2019. The time Williams spent in Walden’s class was invaluable, and after recording one of his compositions with Walden’s band as part of the curriculum, he was energized to begin his own full-length project.
Williams is attracted to mainstream jazz and has been particularly enamored with the Carpenters’ album, Christmas Portrait, for the way it encompassed pop and sacred music along with light classical and light jazz. Williams wanted the same elements on his album but with an even bigger sound. He assembled a group of well-known jazz musicians and enlisted the famed Budapest Scoring Orchestra for strings and additional woodwinds.
For a personal touch, Williams brought on several of his favorite vocalists. “Every singer has their own sound and own approach,” he says. “I chose singers that I thought would do the best job on each of the songs, and I then arranged the songs to fit each singer’s style and vocal range.” One of these is Provo favorite Taylor Miranda of TREN.
In a brilliant move, Williams decided to include the instrumental tracks without vocals for people who may want to sing along or turn the album on as background music at gatherings. These instrumental tracks really highlight the beauty and cinematic scope of his arrangements.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Christmas record this good anywhere else. We’re incredibly proud of Williams’ efforts to put Provo on the holiday map. In related news, Williams has been nominated for a Hollywood Music In Media Award for best New/Emerging Composer. He’ll be attending the awards ceremony tomorrow, November 16, in Hollywood.