Nothing stirs strong memories like the holidays, and for Maria Riccio Bryce nothing fires the imagination like Christmas.
“I believe that one of the most perennially evocative experiences of our lifetimes is Christmas,” said Riccio Bryce, an Amsterdam native and resident whose recently released CD, “Remember Me, Remember You,” consists of a few traditional holiday offerings along with several of her own original musical compositions.
“I’m beginning to feel very aware of the passage of time, and at this time of year, every year, it all starts to come back to me,” she said.
Recorded at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Schenectady, where Riccio Bryce has been the musical director for 25 years, the work includes performances from many Capital Region residents, such as vocalists John Allen, Judi Merriam and Gail Garrison, and Musicians of Ma’alwyck director and violinist Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz. Riccio Bryce is the pianist, while Sten Isachsen was the recording engineer.
“When I look back at the long, blessed path of all my years, I hear the music of all those Christmases,” said Riccio Bryce. “The beautiful innocence of childhood; the glorious romance of the years when you’re a young woman, madly in love with life; the excitement when you’re a young mother and recreating Christmas for your own children.”
A graduate of Amsterdam High and Manhattanville College, Riccio Bryce spent a few years in London playing music before returning to the Mohawk Valley to produce “Hearts of Fire” in 1990, a musical that marked the 300th anniversary of the Schenectady Massacre.
In 2001, Riccio Bryce composed “The Amsterdam Oratoria,” 16 songs dedicated to different aspects of life in the Amsterdam area, and over the next two decades she produced two other major works, “Mother, I’m Here,” and “Swan Song.”
Riccio Bryce put together “Remember Me, Remember You” primarily for her grandchildren.
“I had the idea to create an album that captures those sounds for everyone I love, especially my grandchildren,” she said. “I love putting the whole thing together. I don’t do a lot of solo playing normally, but there’s a lot of me on the album, just me and the piano. I chose some of my favorite carols, and I created my own arrangements of them. As I worked on them a parade of images flooded my mind — of seemingly every Christmas I’ve ever known — making their way straight into my hands.”
She also produced her own original material for the CD, including two Christmas favorites from “Hearts of Fire,” along with some numbers she wrote for a Christmas special at Proctors back in the 1980s.
“I resurrected a few of those songs, and I formed a chorus of local people to sing them,” she said. “Some are very dear friends who have participated in many of my projects over the years, and I also have my two sons and one of my sisters on the CD. We all rehearsed at my home this past summer.”
Riccio and a few of the “Remember Me, Remember You” musicians will be performing in the annual St. Luke’s Christmas Concert on Dec. 17. The event starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Copies of “Remember Me, Remember You” are $10 apiece and can be purchased at the Amsterdam Library or by sending a check for $12 to Riccio Bryce at P.O. Box 66, Amsterdam, 12010. The CD is also streaming on Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, iTunes and YouTube.