I started to write this post several weeks ago, when these tours were just starting, but didn’t have time to finish it. Better late than never, I guess…
There are several good Christmas tours going out this year, and I thought I’d write a little bit about a couple of them.
Of course, the biggest must-see Christmas concert every year is Andrew Peterson and friends’ Behold the Lamb of God tour. This is my fourth year to see the tour – third time at the Ryman – and I was also able to catch the dress rehearsal this year. It’s always great to see friends up on stage, playing their hearts out, and the musicianship level is so high on this tour. And the reprise gets me every single time I hear it. It was fun to introduce several friends to Behold the Lamb of God this year.
Probably the biggest mainstream CCM tour this year was Casting Crowns, with guests Natalie Grant, Denver & the Mile High Orchestra, Avalon, Michael English, and pureNRG. I’ve worked with producer/arranger Bernie Herms on recent albums for Crowns, Natalie, and Michael English, including the new Casting Crowns Christmas album, and was glad to hear they decided to add a small string section to the tour, which meant they played a couple charts I worked on. A week before the tour started, they decided to have Bernie write a new overture to kick off the show, with an arrangement of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee that would feature different artists on each verse, and I worked on that chart with Bernie the day before Thanksgiving. Then after the tour started, Mark (the lead singer of Casting Crowns) decided he wanted to use their big hit East to West as the encore each night, so I sent Bernie the parts for the new version we worked on for the Dove Awards earlier this year. I’m sure it was a good show all around.
The other show that I was hoping to catch, but that didn’t play anywhere near me, was the Jars of Clay / Sara Groves / Sixpence None the Richer / Leeland tour. Jars’ Christmas album, Christmas Songs, was released last year, and is a great album, one I’ve listened to quite a bit this year. Sara’s O Holy Night, produced by Ben Shive, just came out this year, and is a nice addition to her catalogue. I haven’t heard the Sixpence CD yet, but Matt Odmark, the guitarist for Jars, had an early release copy before the tour started and told me it was a great album.
David Phelps, former member of the Gaither Vocal Band, did another Christmas tour this year, performing again with church choirs and orchestras. I worked on his new Christmas album last year, One Wintry Night, with David and producer Monroe Jones, and then put together all the string and vocal charts to be used on the tour. David has a great voice, so I’m sure you wouldn’t regret catching one of his shows.
Michael McDonald went out on his second annual Christmas tour this year. I haven’t heard if they used a string section in the shows this year, but last year I worked with keyboardist/arranger Pat Coil on a couple charts for the first tour, doing some music preparation and orchestrating the strings in a couple songs. I’m a big fan of Michael’s voice, and enjoyed meeting him earlier this year at a rehearsal for the 4th of July show he did with the Nashville Symphony. Both of his Christmas albums are great.
Another show that looks like it was entertaining, from the youtube clips I’ve seen, is the Jim Brickman / Tracy Silverman tour. Tracy plays a six string electric violin, and is also an arranger and composer. They did two or three shows with an orchestra on this tour, for which I printed out the charts for Tracy. I met Jim last year when I was working on a Richie McDonald (formerly of Lonestar) album. Since Richie joined him for the Christmas tour last year, Jim dropped by the studio when we were recording the strings to see how it was going.
So those are some of the shows that I heard about this year. Any other good shows I should know about?