Review: Diana Stimmler Winkler “Classic Favorites’

Diana Stimmler Winkler “Classic Favorites’

14 Mar, 2011 Andrew Greenhalgh

The past several years have seen a rise in the popularity of more classical forms of music pressing their way into the mainstream.  With artists like Josh Groban and Il Divo paving the way, Susan Boyle and the Celtic Women troupe have found great success in the general market.  Yet, while most of those artists tend to occasionally throw an inspirational tune or two around, it’s the rare CCM artist that’s really taken a sacred music approach to the genre.  Enter Diana Stimmler-Winkler.  Singing since a young age and gaining real focus during her college years, the artist has honed her skills a member of several choirs and music ministries, most recently coming to serve at Palmcroft Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona.  Toss in some Spanish language ministry and Stimmler-Winkler finds herself with a solid foundation to build upon.  After several years of singing and longing, the artist’s dreams have been realized with the independent release of her first album, Classic Favorites.  Bringing together a collection of choral and classic favorites alongside some more contemporary Christian hits, the artist attempts to fill the gap between the old and the new, with mixed results.

The album opens with “O Holy Night,” a song and style clearly in Stimmler-Winkler’s wheelhouse.  With a classically styled piano backing her vocal, the artist lets her soprano voice loose on the classic holiday song.  Tom Fettke’s “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” is another piano-driven track that fits the artist’s style nicely, as does the Brooklyn Tabernacle classic “He’s Been Faithful.”  Soaring high notes color the solo piano of “The Holy City” and some very subtle guitar allows Stimmler-Winkler to show off her foreign language chops on “Jehovah, Senor de Los Cielos.”

It’s when Stimmler-Winkler veers away from the more authentically traditional tunes that things begin to go off the rails.  The old spiritual “Give Me Jesus” is nice enough, but her cover of the Casting Crowns hit “East to West,” again driven solely by piano and voice, simply falls hollow.  The classic tone of her voice doesn’t match the contemporary passion of the song, and the same can be said for the covers of “Praise You in This Storm” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).”

Regaining her strength on traditional tunes, she pushes a bit hard on a very choral reading of “How Great Thou Art,” but her rendition of “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” is one of the strongest performances found here.  Unfortunately, a canned music arrangement mars what is another fine vocal performance of the Sandi Patty standard “We Shall Behold Him,” as “Rushing Wind” and “Who Will Call Him King of Kings” are simply forgettable with arrangements and performances that are adequate but nothing of note.

The unfortunate fact is that Diana Stimmler-Winkler is obviously a very talented vocalist and performer, but Classic Favorites finds itself largely hampered by uninspired arrangements and some questionable song choices.  It’s one thing to tackle a contemporary track with a classical mentality.  It’s quite another to pull it off successfully.  On those notes Stimmler-Winkler falters with this outing.  Yet, her more classical takes here offer glimpses of hope for the future.  If she can stick with tracks that showcase her voice in a more traditional and choral setting, she’ll be just fine.  Until that time, Classic Favorites is an album that will delight some fans while leaving more than a few yearning for a more cohesive experience.

Review by Andrew Greenhalgh
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)