As you’re preparing for Christmas and having your ears bombarded with Santa and Rudolph everywhere you go, you might find John Schlitt’s new Christmas album a refreshing change. John, the former lead singer for Petra, takes his unique style and applies it to some favorite standards of the season. You will enjoy his new CD, The Christmas Project, especially if your taste tends to 70s and 80s rock, but there may be something here for almost everyone.
The album contains ten songs, mostly Christmas standards, with two original additions. The titles included are: “Halleluiah Chorus,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “O Holy Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,”"Good Christian Men Rejoice,” “That Spirit of Christmas,” “We Three Kings,” “What Christmas Needs to Be,” and “What Child Is This.”
I tend to be a purist when it comes to classical music like Handel’s Messiah, so I had a hard time with John’s first song, which is his rendition of the “Halleluiah Chorus.” It was fine until he got to the high soprano parts using a falsetto, and then it got too rocky for my taste. I really enjoyed the rest of the album, though. John’s pleasant voice with its periodic, hoarse tones worked well on the arrangements. I especially appreciated the creative rhythms in “Little Drummer Boy” and “O Holy Night” and “What Child is This.” “Do You Hear What I Hear” is introduced by a sweet child’s voice and animal sounds. Then the song alternates between a driving rock beat and a gentler one. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” has a slightly stronger rock feel, with a “dirty” guitar sound, but I like it. “Good Christian Men Rejoice” has an 80s rock sound. The original song, “That Spirit of Christmas” is an easygoing, toe-tapping and pleasant song. “We Three Kings” is also an enjoyable, easygoing rendition. “What Christmas Needs to Be” talks about the true meaning of Christmas. In this song, John sings, “The hope of God’s salvation is what Christmas needs to be.” I really like this song and believe it will become a Christmas standard. My favorites are probably “Little Drummer Boy,” “O Holy Night,” and “What Christmas Needs to Be.”
John and his friends have done a great job on this album, and I recommend it, especially if you like John’s style of music. This album is a nice addition to the repertoire of Christian Christmas music, and I hope it does really well.
I have watched the delightful animated musical The Promise: Birth of the Messiah twice. The scenery and music are beautiful and the characters filled with vibrancy and natural emotions. The animated characters move smoothly and naturally, even though their features are sculpted and cartoon-like.
I found the camera angles to be interesting and creative, as well. The animators’ rendition of the temple and temple court left me breathless, thinking about what that building must have been like.
The director and writer, Todd Shaffer, who was our guest this week on Heritage of Truth, is a teaching elder in his church in Canada. For him, it was paramount that the script stay true to biblical accounts. Therefore this story, which covers the events told in the first two chapters of Luke, takes liberties only in areas where the Bible is silent. For instance, it portrays Mary’s parents and their possible reactions to Mary’s news that, even though still a virgin, she would bear the promised Messiah. Mary’s mother is a somewhat stereotypical Jewish mother, and her father a doting, matchmaking father.
The filmmakers also took a small amount of liberty with timing, undoubtedly for proper pacing of the musical numbers. Mary’s solo “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” comes a bit later than her first encounter with Elizabeth as reported in Luke 1:41–55. However, this serious, worshipful song would not have worked immediately following Elizabeth’s upbeat one. I liked the way the animation of Mary’s song portrayed a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry as she prophesied about His future. Mary’s song is a beautiful number, especially as Elizabeth joins her to praise God for His wondrous works.
Speaking of the songs, the singers are outstanding. I thought in a couple of places the characters danced around a little bit too much and had a few too many large arm movements, but for the most part, their actions seemed natural for the emotions being portrayed.
The final song is a tender lullaby. Some may find that ending a bit anticlimactic, but I thought it was sweet. I’m not sure how else the story could have ended, since it was intended only to cover the time prior to and just after the birth of Jesus. My only disappointment was that Anna was not portrayed giving thanks to God and telling people about Jesus in the Temple after Simeon talked with Mary and Joseph. That little bit of excitement would have a been good contrast to the final lullaby.
I think parents and children alike will enjoy The Promise: Birth of the Messiah. What a welcome change to have something scripturally accurate and of such high quality available for Christmastime entertainment!
© 2013 Jeanne Gowen Dennis