Ingeborg von Agassiz wants you to have a scary little Christmas

The story, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, concerns King Herod’s rule that all male children aged 2 and under living near Bethlehem must be murdered – an attempt to, in the process, kill Christ. Although she did not include the song “Coventry Carol” in the sequel to “O Giver of Dreams”, she named the album – billed as offering the “dark side of Christmas” – “Coventry Carols”.

“I just didn’t have the time,” she said of the inclusion of the track that launched the album.

This new collection, which released Friday and is available to stream, is a 10-song mix that includes a version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”, a nod to ghostly young chimney sweeps, and a melody that considers what the narrator wants of, not for, Xmas. This is the second album by Ingeborg von Agassiz, the local electronic / loop artist whose debut album was described by a News Tribune reviewer as “one of the best locally made albums in the history of made albums. locally”.

And that was just the warm-up of the critic.

“(O Giver of Dreams) seems to come from a parallel Duluth where an idiosyncratic musician working totally alone can produce a collection of world-class songs that one might imagine finding a much larger audience almost without the hype, almost solely on the strength of the artistic vision that gave birth to it, “Tony Bennett wrote in his 2018 review.” But that Duluth parallel really does exist, and we live in it.

His intention with his latest album: something that speaks of the darkness of the season.


Before Ingeborg von Agassiz fully emerges as the named act for Hildegard von Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitane in addition to her great-grandmother and the area of ​​Minnesota where she was born, she performed her first show – a night of spooky Christmas covers with the curls and rhythms she would become known for.

“I like to perform songs my way,” she said.

Ingeborg von Agassiz is a church attendant who some time ago noticed that much of Advent music was dark and scary. She loved him – in fact, she had always loved him.

It wasn’t just the religious works – this dark tone could also be found in, for example, “Walking in the Air”, a song from the soundtrack of the 1982 British silent film “The Snowman”.

“It’s so absolutely, hauntingly beautiful,” she said.

It will be reminiscent of the holiday season of yesteryear, even before Scrooge, when Christmas was already the time of ghost stories.

A 2016 Smithsonian magazine article quotes a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The darkest day of the year was seen by many as a time when the dead would have particularly good access to the living,” wrote Professor Justin Daniels.


In mid-August, Ingeborg von Agassiz began in earnest to finish the last half of the album, which involved working around the clock and burning a balsam fir candle to make it smell like Christmas.

"Coventry Songs" By Ingeborg von Agassiz is now available for streaming.  Contribution / Ingeborg von Agassiz

Ingeborg von Agassiz’s “Coventry Carols” is available to stream. Contribution / Ingeborg von Agassiz

She describes “Coventry Carols” as a concept album. She built it around her version of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”, a rendition of the character where the lyrics find him crawling up the fireplace, but on a melodic level, could emerge from the depths of a basement.

“I chose it because it’s in the early piano books,” she said. “You can literally play the melody on the black keys. I rewrote the melody a bit to make it minor and more sinister.

“That’s what I wanted to do with a bunch of Christmas carols.”

She had envisioned a 50-50 mix of covers and original songs, but ended up with 90% original songs. “St. Children’s Choir” is inspired by the practice of using children as chimney sweeps, often for tragic ends. “Snow Globe City” has the feel of a piano music teacher and children singing in a show.

Along the way there are lights in the dark, spirits and shadows, gothic choirs, misfortune and madness and angels. It’s the lyrics, she says, that make it a holiday album.

“You have to mention some of the stereotypical things, right? Said Ingeborg von Agassiz, then referred to a joke she made on Twitter.

“I made a Christmas album and just realized I forgot to use sleigh bells on one of the tracks,” she tweeted.

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