The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 11: David Phelps' "O Holy Night"

The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 11: David Phelps' "O Holy Night" January 4, 2014

It’s the penultimate day of our series, and I have saved the best for near-last! “O Holy Night” is quite possibly my favorite Christmas carol, but it’s hard to do it justice. On the one hand, it really needs the no-holds-barred, all stops pulled out treatment. On the other hand, singers with the technical  chops to get it done vocally are tempted to lapse into mere vocal showboating (paging Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey).
In my opinion, David Phelps’s version walks that fine line perfectly, resulting in a recording that is definitely a must for any Christmas collection. Anthony Burger on piano is certainly an added benefit. Without further ado, I present…

David Phelps’s “O Holy Night”
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  • Saved Girl

    Perfect! As I’ve said before, David Phelps isn’t my favorite tenor, but I have to admit that no one can beat his rendition of O Holy Night. Have you heard him sing it more recently? It’s become even better.

  • Yes, I heard him sing it at a Gaithers Christmas concert a couple years ago. Hearing it live was an amazing experience!

  • Lydia

    Okay, I’m not in general a Phelps Phan, but that was a great performance. When he sang, “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and In His name all oppression shall cease,” I actually believed it.

  • Agreed! I sense a pattern emerging here. 😀

  • Wonderful wonderful wonderful. Your comment is an example of why I always prefer to hear believers doing Christmas carols.
    You got me wondering about day 12… you haven’t had “Carol of the Bells” yet – many cool performances of that one around. Steamroller’s is still one of my favorites (even including the somewhat spooky sampled vocals).
    I would have to sit and think for a while to decide what I would make my day 12 if I were to do one. Maybe that Grinch song with James Earl Jones or whoever does it? I’m kidding of course – but that one always brings a smile. Very clever lyrics I think.
    I always come back to Handel’s Messiah as far as favorites. I don’t know if you are familiar with the group that was around for about 40 years called “Truth”. I suspect you or at least many of the readers are. They have an arrangement of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” that I always loved. And the Young Messiah Tour from ~20 years ago – got to sing in that when it came through my town. Cool new arrangements of the most popular parts of that. The one that ends with Twila Paris doing “Worthy is the Lamb” – more of a Gospel-styled version of The Messiah – is one I have on CD and I always look forward to pulling it out at Christmas.
    Sorry for rambling – I have enjoyed this little series of posts!

  • Thanks Jim, I appreciate the comment! Handel’s Messiah is really in a class by itself, so I didn’t even try to make it part of this series, which is more for carols and popular songs. Our family also makes it regular Christmas listening.
    There are lots of very cool arrangements of “Carol of the Bells,” and I believe I’ve heard Mannheim’s version. However, they had so many songs vying for the top 12, with two already chosen, that I chose to leave room for a few other songs. I also enjoy Steven Curtis Chapman’s version and the Piano Guys’ version. I considered the Piano Guys for this list actually, but they narrowly missed out. Number twelve will be something lesser-known and unexpected that I think you will enjoy. 🙂
    Oh yes, I’m quite familiar with 90s CCM. Truth was like a “future 90s harmony groups” farm. Although I was pretty young, I can still remember what it was like to tune in to the radio and hear 4Him, Point of Grace, and Phillips Craig & Dean instead of… whatever they’re playing now. I couldn’t tell you because I don’t listen anymore. Some say it’s better now, but I beg to differ. Not that I can’t think of any good artists, but still.
    I’ve heard the Young Messiah and my favorite arrangement from that is Steve Green’s “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” Overall I prefer to let my Handel be Handel and my 90s Christian pop be 90s Christian pop though. 🙂 However, I do also love that arrangement of “Worthy the Lamb,” although I actually first heard the Brooklyn Tab’s cover of it. Although I’m a big Twila fan, I think their more soulful touch gives it added “oomph”:

  • Marcia

    Well, since I’ve watched this DP rendition of “O Holy Night” a zillion times, I don’t need to view it here to comment with great expertise 🙂
    Haven’t yet heard a version that tops this vocal performance for sheer magnificence of sound and strength of conviction. All the vocal gifts, refined and empowered by technical training, anointed by the Holy Spirit, set the gospel message ablaze that night.