Fort Smith’s most distinguished vocalist released her first solo Christmas album last Saturday night at the town’s annual Community Choir Christmas Concert at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Karen Zaidan’s new album “Solo” features 11 Christmas classics, including one duet with her five year-old daughter Lexi.
The mother-daughter pair performed as part of the soloist section of Saturday night’s performance with “Do you hear what I hear?” which received the greatest applause of the night, as Lexi demonstrated her already near-perfect pitch.
“This is one of those proud moments as a mother,” Zaidan said to the concert audience.
The album took months of 4:00 a.m. recording sessions at the cathedral with the help of local producer Tallis Newkirk to present a pared-down Zaidan on piano.
“It’s me doing what I do while I live up here, which is play piano and sing,” said Zaidan.
One track also features local musician Jeff Shatford on guitar and another has a drum track created by Newkirk.
“I really feel like it’s a Fort Smith construction,” said Zaidan, noting the contributions local graphic artist Laura Aubrey and photographer Gina Mabbitt also made to the album, as well as the help her family gave to pay the song royalties in Toronto and get the 500 CDs shipped to Fort Smith.
Zaidan, who conducted the community choir performance, performed several tracks from the album on her own, as well as provided vocal and piano accompaniment to many of the choir’s songs.
This year’s concert put more emphasis on modern, popular Christmas songs, including the song “Believe” from The Polar Express movie, a jazzy “Jingle Bell Rock” and “I Pray on Christmas,” a gospel song, along with a couple of international holiday carols, including the Spanish “Riu, Riu, Chiu” and the South African freedom song, “Ipharadisi.”
The night was made special by a candle-lit rendition of “Silent Night,” which the entire audience sang a capella together with the choir.
PWK High School’s band teacher Kelsey Baldwin also performed carols by flute and helped conduct.
Zaidan’s albums are for sale at select businesses around town for $20. The album was made possible by funding from the Northwest Territories Arts Council.