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Merry Christmas Music: Making Spirits Bright

  • Staff CCM Magazine
  • 2005 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
Merry Christmas Music:  Making Spirits Bright

You’ve been waiting for oh-so-long, and the snowy season is finally here. But what would Christmas be without the music we love? Join us as we deck the halls with CCM’s 10 merriest albums of the season – with a jolly twist: You’ll experience these magical offerings through the eyes of the artists themselves!


STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN
"All I Really Want for Christmas" (INO)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

I listened to a lot of Christmas music, and we put some lights up in the studio ... and I gave myself a present every day [laughs]! I did break family tradition to listen to Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song," which I don’t listen to until at least the day after Thanksgiving. 

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

I need absolutely nothing … but recently at the airport, my wife sat in one of those massage chairs that you can find at the mall, so we may get each other a his/hers massage chair – from Mary Beth to Steven, from Steven to Mary Beth!

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Friendly, inviting, familiar, sentimental, vintage.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record?

It’s so hard to just pick two! I like all of them.  If I pick two, then I feel guilty because the other songs are yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!”  But I do love “The Night Before Christmas” and the diversion in “Angels From the Realms of Glory” and “All I Really Want for Christmas.” OK, so I picked three!


SANDI PATTY
"Yuletide Joy" (INO
)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

I turned the thermostat down really low in the studio so it felt like winter!

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

[I’d like to] share Christmas with one of the evacuee families that have come to our town since the hurricane.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Joyful, celebration, holiday spirit, thoughtful, thankful.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

I love this crazy version of “Jingle Bells,” “Star of Bethlehem” with [my son] Sam singing with me, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”


CAROLYN ARENDS
"Christmas:  An Irrational Season" (Reunion)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

We had elaborate plans to put up Christmas lights and dust off some fruitcake.  But we … never got around to the décor. Honestly, though, it’s such a gift to get to work with fabulously talented musicians and watch the music come to life; it made every day feel like Christmas to me! 

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

When my son Ben was four, he made this very cool coaster/pot-warmer thing at preschool featuring his handprint.  It’s still on display in our living room. This year, my daughter Bethany is four, and she’s attending the same preschool. ... I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but a matching set of coaster/pot-warmer things would be awfully nice.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Original, organic, warm, contemplative, joyful.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“My First Christmas” and “Come and See.”  “Come and See” has lines written from the perspective of someone in Bethlehem who has heard of Jesus’ birth:  “If his mama says that it's alright/ We can see the face of God tonight.”


SHELLEY BREEN, Point of Grace
"Winter Wonderland" (WORD)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

When you have the London Symphony playing Christmas songs in your headphones, it doesn’t take much else to get into the spirit! However, we did have one Yankee candle in the “Christmas Wreath” scent that we faithfully lit every single day before we sang a note.

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

I actually hope nothing is under mine! My husband and I are going to Hawaii in February, so we are saving our pennies! Maybe a nice big bottle of Coppertone. ...

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Nostalgic, snowy, big-band, warm and fuzzy, harmonies
for days!

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

Heather singing “All is Well” with Smitty accompanying on piano. My other favorite is “Jingle Bells.” It’s so “old-school” Christmas, and harmonically we pull out all the stops!


NATALIE GRANT
"Believe" (CURB)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

I am Christmas-crazy 365 days a year, so getting in the “Christmas spirit” was not difficult for me. It was June, however, and 90 degrees outside, so we turned down the air conditioning, plugged in some Christmas lights and cranked up Nat King Cole.

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

Time. All I want for Christmas is more time with my hubby.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Classic, festive, magical, sentimental and timeless

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” because my husband plays a killer piano part – making it really ragtime and fun – and it reminds me that I am truly a kid at heart. “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” because it is recorded with a chamber chorale, and I love mixing the element of the completely classical choir with a soulful, contemporary lead vocal.


MICHAEL MCELROY, MUSIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR
"Great Joy:  A Gospel Christmas" (Sh.K.Boom)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

It felt like Christmas because of the music. The songs all tell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, so when we started to sing, the joy of the season filled us up.

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

As the last song on the CD says:  “I wish joy, love and peace in our world not just during the holiday but all year around.”

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Inspirational, spirit-filled, joyful, praise and glory.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“Go Tell It,” because my sister Avis Graves sang the lead, and it reminds me of growing up in my church in Ohio. “Joy to the World” summarizes the reason for the holiday season.


NATHAN COCHRAN, MERCYME 
"The Christmas Sessions" (INO)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

We actually started recording the album last holiday season, so I guess you could say we got a jumpstart on the whole thing. It wasn’t hard to play “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when you’ve just finished setting one up.

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

Honestly, now that I have kids it’s more fun for me to watch them open their gifts than get anything myself. I think my son is going to get a set of drums this year, which is all he has ever wanted. That, I am sure, will be a great memory-making moment.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Fun, timely, heartfelt, joyful.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” It’s not your typical, happy-go-lucky Christmas song, but … the story behind it not only gives great substance to the holiday season, but also points all the attention back where it should be, to our Lord of humble birth.


BRYAN DUNCAN
"NehoSoul Christmas!" (Red Road)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

I never took my Christmas decorations down from last year!

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

Actually I’m just hoping for the tree … an aluminum one with a color wheel! And I’d like a few days off to celebrate.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Best record I ever made.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“What a Wonderful World” moves me the most, and “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” captures the overall feel of what I wanted to do on this project. My favorite 30 seconds on the record is right after the organ solo on “Christmas Time Is Here.” When the horn section comes in and the “angels” are singing with me, it makes the hair on my arms stand up every time.


JEFF JOHNSON
"Stars in the Morning East: A Christmas Meditation" (Ark
)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

I recorded [some of my] musicians at various locations, including my home studio here on Camano Island, Washington. The touch-up tracks were done in Ireland this past February. It’s still pretty bleak and cold in Ireland and the Northwest in February and March, so I didn’t have any troubles getting into the whole “bleak midwinter” vibe!

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

If you could wrap up a little rest and quiet, that would be nice. I’d take a gift certificate to iTunes, too.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

A Celtic instrumental Christmas meditation.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 
 
“In The Bleak Midwinter” & “That Very Night In Bethlehem.”  (For more info visit Arkmusic.com.)


STEVE HINDALONG, PRODUCER
"Come Let Us Adore Him" (Essential)

1.  When you recorded the album, how did you capture the Christmas spirit?

Marc Byrd gathered stacks of liturgical text for inspiration. We spent several days just perusing content pertaining to the Advent.  Profound ancient words can be truly soul-stirring. Also, to get into the spirit, I got out every sort of jingly, chimey percussion gadget and spread it all around the place. One of my favorite things about working on Christmas music is all the bells I get to ring!

2.  What are you hoping is under your tree this year?

I ask my daughters for the same thing every year – bright, colorful socks.

3.  What five words would you use to describe this record?

Reflective, prayerful, joyous, whimsical, heartfelt.

4.  What are your two favorite songs on the record? 

“Messiah Has Come,” “Silver Starlight.”

 

 © 2005 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.   Click here to subscribe.



 

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