Most musicians have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. Mostly hate, though. Ask just about any gigging musician and they’ll tell you so. Yet, for lounge piano players like myself, December is usually the busiest (and most lucrative) month.
I play for holiday luncheons and dinners at country clubs and private homes, mostly the standard songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” But I’ll sprinkle in jazz versions of the hymns, which I’ve learned people still know the best and will, when drunk enough on cups of cheer, sing along to.
For the church musician, Christmas music is similarly tolerated. We usually tire of the songs long before anyone else because we began working on them well before daylight savings ended. Further, we put a lot of work into songs that will be used usually just once, whereas with our other songs, they typically have a shelf life of at least six months. A far cry, I admit, from that of hymns, which are like the Twinkies of sacred music. This is also why I don’t usually buy Christmas CDs. Why would I buy music I’ll only listen to for a month?
Well, if you like to buy Christmas music, or if like me you don’t, I have a recommendation for you. Last year Chris Tomlin released his Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship, which is exactly that: a worship album. Tomlin and his longtime producer Ed Cash didn’t dress up the well-known hymns too much. They just simplified the arrangements so the electric guitarist, who usually feels ostracized around Christmastime and drowns his sorrows in egg nog, can feel at home playing them, while the choir can still sing familiar harmonies (mostly).
A Christmas worship concert, really, this CD is how I’ve always approached Christmas Eve services. Instead of a big anthemy show, I like our Christmas Eve services to resemble our regular Sunday morning worship gatherings with a similar music style but different songs and with an expectation that God will meet with his people.
Tomlin does this with anointed worship songs like the tender “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and rocking “Angels We Have Heard on High,” as well as a song he co-wrote, “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.” Christy Nockels, who has an amazing voice, sings “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” and Audrey Assad contributes her unique vocals to “Winter Snow” beautifully. (I’ll be checking out Assad’s other music.) Throughout December and on Christmas Eve, we’ll be using a number of these songs, including the title track, which our congregation already loves.
Tomlin’s Christmas release is on par with his other music and will surely become a favorite of yours this time of year. You won’t regret buying it. A month of worship will be worth the download price.
What do you think? Have you heard the CD?