Taking Us to Church: The Spiritual Dimensions of Christmas from the Heart
Reprinted from The David Chronicles.
I must admit that David scares me sometimes. He digs a whole lot deeper than I would ever expect from an 18 year old of the Wired Generation. When I impatiently downloaded Christmas from the Heart on iTunes after Amazon.com failed to deliver my physical CD on time (hey – I don’t mind shilling out moolah for my beloved Voice), I was quite giddy listening to the Voice’s interpretation of Christmas carols I’ve heard all my life. They all sounded so different from what I’m used to hearing.
It wasn’t until I finally received my physical CD and popped it into my surround sound stereo that I actually heard Christmas from the Heart. David’s vocals boomed loudly and earnestly, with orchestral and synthesized instrumentals embellishing that one-of-a-kind Voice. It was during the opening carol, “Joy to the World,” that I was truly transported. In the lingo of Black church goers, David “took me to church” on this one. It was during the “break down,” which routinely occurs in much of gospel and R&B songs that allow for vocal improvisation and free-styling, that got me in a spiritual mode.
“And wonders / and wooooooonders …. ooooooof / hi-i-i-is looooooooooooooove”
Gah! The lovely crevices and valleys that David’s vocals journey on that “love” note surpasses.
“Hi-i-is Looove / He rules the world with His truth and grace” (wow, I’m hearing that Kirk Franklin inspiration right here) … Fade out. *Swoon.*
This, my friends, is David “testifying,” and it’s such a grand testimony. David is on fire towards the end of the song (indeed, a YouTube commenter describes David’s vocals at the end of JTTW as “sick,” and I’m inclined to agree). Was David having a “Holy Ghost” moment? I would not be surprised because the boy was feeling it.
So, that’s the spiritual journey I’m on just from Track no. 1. It’s during this time that I start reading the liner notes, and I think: “Aha! No wonder I’m feeling this way.” Have you all read David’s acknowledgements?
I first would like to thank God, who comes first in all of this. It’s because of Him that I’ve gotten the chance to do something I love so much. I dedicate this Christmas album especially to Him, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. May it be another way I can give back to them, and to all those who listen to the songs as well so that they can feel the spirit and message within them.
Feel the spirit? Did David just write that?
My mind is blown. How old is he again, and how in heck did he wind up on American Idol and on Simon Fuller’s Jive record label?
He is scary, I’m telling you. No wonder so many in the public try to dismiss him as some “teen pop star” or some “Disney tween.” They couldn’t handle the Voice if they didn’t.
Between David’s liner notes and his vocal skills, inspired by everything from gospel to classical to traditional hymns to Spanish ballads, which all get showcased on this album through one carol or another, it’s quite apparent how bold David has become in declaring his spiritual influences without being the least bit preachy. He’s not trying to “convert.” He’s only trying to get us to “feel” it.
And we do “feel” it. If I could rename this album, I would call it Christmas Lullaby, because David’s Voice elicits the feeling of one who is singing the Baby Jesus to sleep, as Rascal already noted in his review. ”Hush, little Baby, don’t you weep. For you are here to save the world with grace and love.”
That’s the mantra, the leitmotif as it were, on every song on this album – especially on the more soulful ballads, like “What Child is This” (a masterpiece in and of itself, from David’s trademark humming to the grand strings provided by Prague’s Philharmonic Orchestra), “Silent Night,” “Ave Maria,” and “O Holy Night.” A bit more on “What Child is This”: as others have commented, specifically Raelovingangels, it’s as if David’s soft vocals capture the humility and simplicity of Baby Jesus tucked away in a manger while the orchestra signals in epic sweep how world-transforming this event has become.
Secular and non-Christian listeners can stand back in wonder at the Voice, while Christian listeners pick up on the nuances and subtleties. (And I imagine Mormon listeners can detect other subtleties that non-LDSers would miss.) Most effective are Kurt Bestor’s syncretization of numerous Christmas hymns, providing that subtext for the “spirit” of Christmas. Whether it’s the echo of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” slipping in on “Angels We Have Heard on High,” or “Carol of the Bells” intruding on the Spanish carol, “Riu Riu Chiu.”
This is a gorgeous call to worship, delivered by the Voice. After giving us an album so profound, I cannot imagine the Voice going back to pop fluff. His gifts are too precious, and his calling too great. After CFTH, I look forward to David “taking us to church” through different genres of music – whether in an actual house of worship or just through our very bodies. This is a soul meditation and one that might inspire us to contemplate the “true meaning” of Christmas and cut down on holiday expenses during a recession this coming Christmas season. Well, except to gift everyone we know a copy of Christmas from the Heart.