A Christmas Wish

by Daniel Berkman

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A Christmas Wish is a collection of traditional Christmas songs plus two originals (One Of My Favorite Syllables and A Christmas Wish) performed on rare instruments that were made in America between the 1920's and 1950's.
The Marxophone, Ukelin and Tremoloa were unusual string instruments sold door to door by salesmen or in the Sears Roebuck Catalog and advertised as easy for the whole family to play.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and these instruments required frequent tuning and a bit of a learning curve.
Nowadays, these instruments are likely to fall in the hands of antique stores and yard sales.

I inherited the Marxophone and Ukelin from friend and colleague, Frank Garvey. He had had them for many years. I'd see them on occasion at his performance space (The Omnicircus) but passed them off as junk. Years later he was getting rid of them and asked if I was interested. After a quick research on YouTube I was suddenly intrigued.

Frank had a farewell concert for the Omnicircus on November 15th, 2014. Artemis Robison and James Groft (who are featured on two songs on "Wish") were in town and Artemis brought HER Marxophone. I thought we should form a temporary band of zithers and perform at the concert as The Marxist Phonies.
We all dug the name!
The following February I composed dozens of songs for the instruments and compiled an album called The Marxist Phonies which has yet to be released.

The question for A Christmas Wish was whether or not to use the name Marxist Phonies. It was controversial, for sure and in these political times, the pun might have gotten lost on my listeners.
I thought I'd play it safe and use my brand name.

I recorded A Christmas Wish in two weeks in November, 2016. It was totally a last minute decision. In fact, I had purchased a Tremoloa just three days before the completion of the album. It was the missing link, a strange twang from a forgotten chapter in our American history and it gave the album a haunting character.

Also on the album, I threw in Viola Da Gamba and Ukulele for good measure. I've been practicing the Viol for two years now and my fondness for the instrument grows daily! I knew this was probably the first time the Viol, Marxophone, Ukelin and Tremoloa were featured on the same album. In fact the only known album I know of that features them is Holiday Ukelin Fest by String Solo Celeste. A strange Ukelin album of Holiday songs with very little information about the instrument or the performer(s). It was here I learned some of the Ukelin techniques and got the inspiration to revisit the Ukelin Holiday album concept!

I hope you enjoy listening to A Christmas Wish as much as I had enjoyed making it.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone....or Happy Holidays.....or whatever you celebrate!

Daniel Berkman


released December 8, 2016

Produced by Daniel Berkman

Daniel Berkman:
Marxophone, Ukelin, Tremoloa, Viola Da Gamba, Ukulele
Artemis Robison:
Marxophone on One Of My Favorite Syllables and We Three Kings
James Groft:
Ukelin on One Of My Favorite Syllables and We Three Kings

Special thanks to:
Lynn Chaplin Noe, Artemis Robison, James Groft and to Heejay Chung for offering her space to record this project <3 <3 <3



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Daniel Berkman San Francisco, California

Daniel Berkman is a Bay Area electronic musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, looper and innovator of the Kora (a 21-stringed harp-lute from West Africa) and it's modern counterpart, the Gravikord.
Daniel also has recordings under his electronic music moniker Colfax (also on Bandcamp). Instruments: kora, gravikord, guitar, handsonic, ukelin, synths, cello, uke, viol, keys and more.
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