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Hollywood, Vines, Mistletoe and Wine: The Christmas Project PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nic Wright   
23 11 2011
ImageWashington Irving once said "Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart". Gracious words there, from a man most famous for a story about a decapitated spook terrorising school teachers. True words nonetheless; charitable acts seem to multiply over the festive season. And the North East's musical community is no stranger to benevolent acts.

This year alone has seen numerous singles, gigs and events raising money for organisations ranging from Macmillan Cancer Support and Children North East to Japan's Tsunami Relief. But this Christmas, it's Operation Christmas Child's turn to benefit from the kindness of our creative types. Best known for their 'shoebox' appeals, the charity is dedicated to helping disadvantaged children around the world. Instead of filling up an old Clarke's box with colouring books however, Hollywood and Vines front-man Paul Barber has gone one step further. Paul has been hard at work putting together a compilation album, boasting yuletide-themed tracks from the region's top acts.

Already attached to the project are artists as varied as Bird Island, The Union Choir, The Railway Club, Hungry Ghosts, Natasha Haws, Gallery Circus, Merces Letifer, Jen Stevens & The Hiccups, Maps are Fiction, The Lake Poets, Paul Liddell and Shift-Static.
"I remember Operation Christmas Child from when I was in primary school," says Paul, "spending  tea time packing shoe-boxes full of notepads, colouring pencils and toothpaste, so I thought, why stop there?" Fuelled by a healthy dose of seasonal spirit, Paul dreamed up the idea for a Christmas album, which would later be dubbed 'The Christmas Project'. "I love Christmas, and doing this project I felt like I could capture the whole ethos. Instead of putting things in a cardboard shoe box, I could put songs on a CD (surely that's just as good, yeah? though I suppose the kids would prefer the pencils) and raise some money and awareness for a great cause. I've always thought if people give what they can, then that's a great thing. I felt this CD was something I could give."

Soon Paul was putting out the call for musical donations. In a move to thwart the deathly naff pitfall of cringe-worthy Christmas cover versions (we've all heard enough versions of 'Last Christmas', thanks Joe McElderry), Paul made the bold move of requesting bands write and record original songs. "The requirement for the songs was that the song must be 'a Christmas song', though that's up to each artist to interpret anyway they like," explains Paul. "For me it's sleigh bells and cheesy lyrics." Though such a requisite did pose a few problems; "It did come with it's downside, quite a lot of bands simply didn't have the time to write and record a Christmas song due to prior engagements, which is totally understandable. So, kudos to all the bands that managed it."

Not content with orchestrating the project, Paul has also recorded a track with his band Hollywood and Vines. Writing a Christmas song from scratch was a task that required months of research , preparation and watching Christmas movies; "I guarantee I've annoyed friends and work colleagues by going on about Christmas so much," says Paul of his planning techniques. "But once you start watching The Grinch, Love Actually and The Santa Claus (Dudley Moore version obviously) there's no turning back." Obviously there've been other influences on the track as well, both musical, and inebriating. "I've been listening to a lot of Christmas tunes too; Chris de Burgh, Elton John, The Waitresses, Slade and Shakin' Stevens. All the classics. I'd be lying if there wasn't a beer or two involved too!"

Gathering such an impressive roster wasn't difficult for Paul, with so many brilliant acts to choose from at the minute. "There's a really good scene around Newcastle and Sunderland and everyone's been willing to help, so I'm grateful for that. Basically, I wanted the best bands from the region and I think we've got a great list."

Though no one could argue the quality of the album's line-up, there were a few big hitters that Paul would've liked to have secured; "I did ask a couple of the signed artists from the region like Frankie and the Heart Strings and Field Music, but I knew both would be super busy. Somewhere in the back of my head thought; 'imagine, you could make an album which featured Field Music!' Maybe next year!"

And all his hard work is beginning to pay off; as the December 8th release date nears, the album is starting to take shape; "I received Gallery Circus's and Merces Letifer a while back, and Paul Liddell's just today. I'm massively impressed with all the tracks. The rest of the tracks should be rolling in this week so I'm going to have a great time this weekend while the CD is mastered."

To celebrate the release of The Christmas Project, there will be a launch night on the 8th December, in Independent's Little Room. With the CD available on the night for only 5, and entry to the launch itself completely free, there's no excuse not to partake in a little festive benevolence. Failing that, you Scroogey types can always just enjoy sets from some of the best live acts on the go, including The Union Choir, Gallery Circus and Hollywood & Vines themselves.  

And of course there'll be plenty of Christmas cheer to boot; "There'll be a Christmas t and Christmas jumpers!" says Paul enthusiastically. "If anyone who's coming along has a Christmas jumper, I hope they wear them! I'll have mine on."

For updates on The Christmas Project, you can visit them at their following online abodes: www.facebook.com/thechristmasproject | www.thechristmasproject.tumblr.com

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