Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 29, 2007

Christmas Music Recomendations: Majesty and Wonder

An Instrumental Christmas

In the past few years, I have longed for some fresh new Christmas music in light of the ridiculous attempt of retail stores to play the usual material over and over again, earlier and earlier every year just so that they can trigger the “buying-bone” in their customers since Christmas is now the season of “how many gifts can we squeeze up under this tree!” rather than simply buying endearing, and shall I say, enduring gifts for the ones that you love. And, I don’t even know where to begin on how to tell the radio stations to take it easy on the Christmas music overload. But, in the next week or so, I want to make known to you a few of the successful attempts that I have had in discovering Christmas music that keeps intact the spirit of the season, but also communicates the message of the gospel story of the birth of the Incarnate, Son of God in a unique and fresh way. My first recomendation is Phil Keaggy’s Majesty and Wonder: An Instrumental Christmas.

I’m not going to say too much about this album due to its nature. My primary aim is simply exposing you to it and inspiring you to purchase it and integrate it into your Christmas music rotation whether in your car’s 6-Disc changer, at home in the under-the-cupboard stereo, or in the iPod. The title explains itself. The album is purely instrumental except for the few background harmonies of Michelle Tumes; however, her voice is not out of place here at all.

Joining Keaggy on this recording is the London Festival Orchestra. Adding strings, wood-winds, and horns to the already exquisite musicianship of Keaggy makes for a rich listening experience. There is a good mixture of traditional Christmas material on the album such as “What Child Is This?” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” as well as plenty of new songs by Keaggy including a piece reminiscent of other Keaggy work called “For Hearth and Home” and then an entire closing piece hand-crafted by Keaggy entitled, “Nativity Suite” which unfolds into three separate arrangments.

The mood of the album is very quiet, but it does gain some intensity at varying points. All of the special arrangments of the songs are complimentary and carry a shared vibe of contemplativeness and awe in light of the story of Christ’s birth. It is a beautiful album and makes for wonderful background music, and would definitely serve your households well in sustaining a continual atmosphere of fluid-melodies, peaceful tones, and a stilling of the soul. For me, the standout track is Keaggy’s rendition of “Silent Night”. I think it is absolutely poetic and elegant. But, all of the tracks are worthy of finding a nice home for the holidays among everyone within the Christian community and without.

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Responses

  1. Thank you Billy – I love Phil Keaggy and I enjoyed listneing to the clips on you Box.net player. I’ll have to buy this CD. Silent Night is awesome! I’ve seen Phil in concert many times, though, not recently. I used to work at Sparrow Records 30 years ago in the warehouse along with Herbie (can’t remember his last name at the moment) who used to play for the 2nd Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy and others.

    Stop by my blog if you’re interested: http://whereschristmas.wordpress.com/ I’ll link to you. Merry Christmas!

    Todd

  2. Todd, I bet working at Sparrow was an interesting job. Yes, I’m very familiar with 2nd Chapter of Acts, but I can’t remember his last name either. I’ve seen Phil in concert twice too, and was absolutely blown away. In fact, I listened to his music minimally before the concerts, but after seeing him, I realized that if God had gifted someone to play like that, then he ought to be heard! In Christ, Billy

  3. Well, since I only worked in the warehouse, it wasn’t all that interesting. But I have such fond memories of working with everyone there. I was the only non-Charismatic in the bunch so they all had a good time poking fun at me. I was “the crazy Baptist”. It was all in good humor though, and we loved and respected each other very much.

    Keith Green, John Michael Talbot, and others would stop in from time to time, but since I was a student and didn’t work fulltime, I always missed these special visits. A few musicians worked there when they couldn’t find gigs too, like Herbie. He had a great sense of humor, and was a lot of fun to be around. He told me he cut some 20-30 albums one year. Then, the next year, Abraham Laboriel became a Christian and Herbie only cut 2-3 albums that year because everyone wanted Abraham to play bass for them – that’s why he was working at Sparrow.

    Everyone at Sparrow who knew Phil Keaggy said he was just the neatest guy. He always plays for an hour, dismisses his band, plays for an hour on his own (usually to cover all the audience requests), then brings the band back for another hour. The guy loves to play for people. Most of the time I saw him at Knotts Berry Farm at their Christian nights. People were always setting up their little tape recorders – he didn’t seem to mind.


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