Northwest NEWS

December 16, 2002


‘Christmas in the Northwest’ features Woodinville composer
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Writer
.Christina Shehi realized it was not the ordinary type of note sent home. Her daughter Caitlin, a sixth grader at Wellington Elementary, had just given her a handwritten note from school bus driver, Jill Roberts. The note began: “Dear Christina, I heard on the radio they’re searching for local talent ...”
Roberts went on to state that a record producer was accepting auditions for the fifth volume of the ‘Christmas in the Northwest’ compact disc (CD), a compilation of holiday and Christmas music performed by local artists. She suggested that Shehi, a composer and pianist, audition for the new album.
“Every Christmas I usually give the teachers and bus driver one of my CDs,” Shehi says, explaining why Roberts had thought of her when hearing about the auditions. She decided to follow through with the suggestion and submitted one of her piano arrangements, a Shaker tune called “Simple Gifts.” Even though she had recorded three CDs of her own, her piano piece was by no means a shoo-in. Approximately 50 other Northwest artists, including a number of well-known local celebrities, also sent in submissions.
A month later, an e-mail lit up Shehi’s computer screen. “I got this wonderful message back,” she recalls. “They had chosen ‘Simple Gifts.’” On November 15, the new “Christmas in the Northwest 5” CD hit the stores in time for the Christmas season. The CD features Shehi’s uplifting piano melody along with a number of other Northwest talents -ranging from Loni Rose singing “Evergreen Christmas” to Tim Noah belting out “All I Want For Christmas” in his upbeat-feel-like-clapping-and-jumping way.
Accompanied by a string orchestra, “Simple Gifts” delivers its own dose of Christmas spirit in a dynamic pianistic rendition, although the joyful song suits all seasons. “I have some wonderful performers with me on that,” says Shehi, “including Michael Miropolsky, Simon James and Terry Benshoof.” The string portion of the song was recorded in the St. Edwards Cathedral, a European-style chapel with 36 handcrafted stained glass windows located on the Bastyr University campus in Kenmore. The college of natural medicine was once a Catholic seminary and its chapel has retained much of its grandeur. “The acoustics in the chapel are wonderful,” Shehi says, adding, “The soundtrack for ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ was recorded there also.”
Although Shehi recorded her part of “Simple Gifts” on a Yamaha Grand in Pearl Jam’s studio, it’s her 1911 Steinway where she spends most of her time playing, composing and practicing. She talks about her piano, a magnificent ebony wood Steinway with its original ivory keys, as if she was speaking of an old friend. And actually she is. The Steinway and Shehi have been together since she was 13.
“It’s got a rich, soulful voice and it’s so comfortable and cozy,” she says. “It’s like putting on a faded pair of jeans in the morning when I play it.” Laughing, she adds, “But it does have a mind of its own and is sometimes cranky. It slips out of tune and the pedal squeaks. I can use a whole can of WD-40 on it.”
Executive producer Steve Lawson says that Shehi’s ‘Simple Gifts’ submission made an impression on him as soon as he heard it. It was Lawson who chose Shehi’s piano variation on the Shaker tune to be included in the album and he explains why. “It was really pretty,” he says. “It’s mostly soft pop, light and smooth jazz. Hers just sort of snuck in because it was really nice.”
According to Lawson, 100,000 copies have sold since the first ‘Christmas in the Northwest’ albums were released in 1985. “Which is fairly phenomenal for a local release,” he says. “This year we’ve pressed about 23,000 copies and sales are brisk. It’s going really well.” He mentions that he has a goal to raise $150,000 this year. Total net proceeds from the album, as well as past volumes, benefit Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. To date, that amount exceeds $500,000. Many local radio stations and KOMO TV have given a number of selections from the CD a good amount of airtime.
Christina Shehi says she’s happy to be a part of the project. “It makes me so happy to give back to the community in a way that best represents me. I was really thrilled they picked ‘Simple Gifts.’ The title itself brings to mind things money can’t buy like loved ones, freedom, smiles, hugs and health. It’s the simple things that make the holiday special.”
Her current project involves a collaborative effort with published Woodinville pianist Lynette Maynard. The two have been working on a compilation of contemporary and traditional Christian music. In addition, Shehi has a new CD on the horizon, but won’t reveal what it’s about. “It’s always rewarding for me to see how my audience responds to the theme of my new CD. So, I don’t want to give it away.”
Even so, she has a lot to give, stating, “It’s very healing and soothing for people when they listen to my music and that’s such a wonderful and positive gift to give to others.”
‘Christmas in the Northwest 5’ CD can be found at Bartell Drugs, Tower Records, Pacific Northwest Bank Financial Centers, Western Washington Wal-Mart stores, Silver Platters locations and FYE stores (formerly Camelot Music) located in most major malls. For a retail list, visit
Mills Music in Bothell and carry Shehi’s CD’s, ‘Celebrating the Season,’ ‘Seasons of the Soul,’ and ‘Harbour of the Heart.’

Field of Lights
On Sunday, Dec. 22, some of the artists featured on the “Christmas in the Northwest 5”º CD will perform for the Field of Lights holiday celebration at Safeco Field, 4 to 9 p.m.
Local talent scheduled to perform include Tim Noah from Snohomish, Eileen Johnson from Bothell and Brenda Kutz White from Bellevue.
Over a half million lights and numerous light exhibits, plus a variety of fun events, such as appearances by Santa Moose and workshops for cookie decorating, will add to the festivities. For more info: see