We play a LOT of versions of popular Christmas songs…. When you think about it, there are a limited number of “Christmas carols” and we want to play a good variety to enhance the listening experience. But still, everyone has their favorites! Here are a few of mine:
- Away in a Manger – Bryan Duncan’s version from 1995 is still my all-time favorite, but I do really like the new worship take that Phil Wickham did in 2019.
- Do You Hear What I Hear? – honestly this was one of my least favorite carols… until amazing composer and arranger David T. Clydesdale brought together Bryan Duncan, First Call member Bonnie Keen and a “Christian rocker” at the time named Andy Denton… he put them with a full orchestra and made what had always been a slow boring carol into a huge soaring “stunner.” It’s a hard to find version as it’s not available on streaming services… so it makes The House of Praise pretty exclusive these days.
- O Holy Night – Gateway Worship featuring Rebecca Pfortmiller just blows me away. To me… versions of O Holy Night should do that… blow you away… it’s such an awesome song with so much potential for musical expression. There are other great versions for awesome vocalists but this version is just “next level.”
- Angels We Have Heard on High – pretty much everyone goes after a take on this one, Michael W. Smith’s “Gloria” has been a favorite since I was a teenager so some sentimentality there. Avalon put out a great version in 1997 that remains a favorite, too, for its driving tempo and soaring vocals. Probably my favorite “traditional” version goes to Chris Tomlin… he leads worship with it and it just works.
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas – you’ve got your classic Bing Crosby version, of course, but I love what Phillips, Craig and Dean did with it years ago incorporating a “sonic throwback” in the middle of the song. I also think MercyMe’s more recent take is pretty solid, too. I think this one will really hit “home” for a lot of people this year if COVID continues to keep people apart.
- Little Drummer Boy – everyone’s first thought these days are the multiple versions from for KING & COUNTRY (which are really good!)… but I really like the version from Marc Martel… there’s a real “ramp up” in this song… and Marc makes the most of it. I also like some older versions from Mandisa and Newsong because, like for KING & COUNTRY, they make big use of…. DRUMS!
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Steven Curtis Chapman’s first Christmas project “The Music of Christmas” in 1995 has always stood out to me because he took the familiar carols and gave them slightly new melodies. His version of this classic is especially beautiful to me and pulls out so much emotion.
Some news songs that are sticking out to me this year include “Hope is Here” from Building 429 (featuring Terrian), “Feels Like Joy” from Micah Tyler, plus the full projects from Rend Collective and especially Francesa Battistelli who really turned out an amazing “traditional” sounding Christmas project that checks all the holiday boxes. And Marc Martel continues to establish himself as Mr. Christmas with another slate of classics in his amazing voice.