by Kevin Brown –
Melinda DeRocker, a local Tarrytown resident, performed for a large gathering of friends and supporters celebrating the release of her newest album, “Christmas Time is Here,” on a blustery Saturday night in November.
DeRocker grew up in the deep South – Hattiesburg, Mississippi in fact, where she was deeply engaged by all genres of music from dixieland jazz to delta blues to gospel, country and bluegrass. And, each of these influences is evident in the unique arrangements for the Christmas classics on her new release.
With a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips, she recounted singing in church choirs at an early age, followed by a folk trio at age 14. Her passion for music led her to study it in college, attaining a bachelor’s degree in choral conducting and a master’s degree in vocal performance.
After a long period of touring as a cast member in several theater classics, she settled on New York’s Upper East Side where she conducted a 50-voice choir in 15 concerts over six years. DeRocker relished working with ultra-talented kids from Julliard and Manhattan School of Music.
In 2013, she released her first album of standards from the Great American Songbook entitled “I’ll Be Seeing You.” She recounted, “I toured the U.S. in a national tour of a children’s musical and was singing regularly in a professional choir at the church. The inspiration to get into recording the standards initially came from wanting to record a demo for my mother in the last year of her life. That led to more recording and the two albums so far, and to further collaboration with jazz musicians.”
According to her husband and business manager, Rob DeRocker, “Of course I am a bit biased about Melinda’s singing, but the arrangements of these classic songs is truly unique and remarkable, and it is reflected in early sales.”
Melinda reunited the talented musicians and producers for her newest release. “I couldn’t have proceeded with this new album without the support of my musical mates and producer. The arrangements took over a year to come up with, and collaborating with talented musicians and arrangers like Chris Hughes and Tom Jennings was such a joy.”
As for her choosing favorite cuts on “Christmas Time is Here,” Melinda explained, “That’s a tough choice since I hand-picked the songs and have been living with them for a year now. They each have a certain appeal for me. A funky version of ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,’ is the most out-of-the-box. ‘Wonder As I Wander’ is a favorite because of the arrangement and the skill of the musicians in interpreting the arrangement. The most fun to sing? ‘Jingle Bells.’ I get to trade licks with the sax player!”
“Christmas Time is Here” makes a great holiday gift, and the CD is available in Tarrytown at Bark and Meow, Dominic’s Delicatessen and Hudson River Eye Care. It is also available or can be downloaded at www.melindaderocker.com/music.