Music

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Karen Peris of the Innocence Mission

Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.
Karen and Don Peris of The Innocence Mission. Image via www.theinnocencemission.com
I can name any Innocence Mission in two notes or less. Half a second if the song begins with Karen Peris' voice. If you're a fan of the Innocence Mission, which is comprised of Karen Peris, her husband, Don Peris, and bassist Mike Bitts, you know precisely what I'm on about.
 
Karen Peris' voice is what I would imagine one of the Sirens (the nice one) might sound like, or perhaps the voice of a selkie — those mythological beings the Celts believed were seals who could shed their skins and become human for a time. Karen's voice is sweet, but never saccharine. Earnest, certainly, but never straining toward pathos or reaching for an emotional response.

It's light and full of delight. Simply (and it's simplicity is part of its great charms) beautiful.

The Innocence Mission's rendition of "Away in a Manger" is a prime example of what Karen Peris' voice can do. It's in high rotation in my Christmas 2011 mix on iTunes and rarely fails to put a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye — signs that the Holy is drawing nigh, according to the great sage of Vermont, Frederick Buechner.

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Jason Harrod

Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.
Jason Harrod in concert, Raleigh NC 2010. Image via the artist.

The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.

We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.

Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: There's an App for That

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's offering is a group effort that comes compliments of the clever folks at Pavone Advertising in Harrisburg, Penn., the even-more clever designers of the Melody Bell app for iPhone and iPad, and the cleverest of them all, the late great Steve Jobs (for it is he who blessed humanity with the iPhone in the first place.)

In its 2011 Holiday Greeting, Pavone employees perform Handel's timeless Christmas favorite — entirely using their iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Watch their epic peformance inside ...

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/stvGiZ
Sam Phillips. Image via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/stvGiZ

Sam Phillips is achingly honest.

Whether she's singing about relationships — with loved ones, the world or God — politics, art, the church, Aimee Semple McPherson or Christmastime, you can count on Sam to bring her singularly pure voice and the truth. She is true blue (and one of her favorite guitars is as red and shiny as RudolfOn her new album, Solid State: Songs from the Long Play, Sam has two songs that have quickly become new favorite Christmas tunes for me. One is explicitly about Christmas, and the other is not, but both speak eloquently (and truthfully) about the mystery and melancholy that the season brings to many of us.

In "It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas," Sam talks about missing someone special during the holidays. The lyrics are sad, her voice is sweet, and the juxtaposition of the two strikes a deep chord in my heart. True. Difficult. Beautiful.

 

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: David Wilcox

David Wilcox
David Wilcox
In this season of expectation as we await the incarnation of God-with-us, my heart turns to a song that, to me, captures the spirit of Christmas.
 
It has no jingle bells or chestnuts roasting by an open fire. There is no explicit reference to mangers, magi or a baby boy. But Asheville, N.C.'s favorite son, singer-songwriter David Wilcox, nails the heart of the Christmas story in his song, "Show the Way."
 
The sense of expectation, pearched on the edge of our seats waiting for something to happen — waiting for the divine surprise — is palpable in the song David first recorded on his 1994 album, Big Horizon.  And while David's tune "Miracle" — a whimsical retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men (whom he calls the "Three Wise Guys") — is also a Christmas favorite, it's "Show the  Way" that I return to in Advent, as we abide with joy, waiting to hear the cry of a tiny baby in a stable in a backwater town in the land we call "Holy."

Hit the Hallelujah Button: The Roches

The Roches
The Roches

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from Maggie, Terre and and Suzzy Roche, aka The Roches, that iconoclastic folk sister act from Park Ridge, N.J. The Roches have been performing their quirky musical stylings since the 1970s. 

Their rendition of "Hallelujah Chorus" comes from a performance at the 1982 Improv.

You can enjoy The Roche's high-pitched Hallelujah inside...

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer
Carrie Newcomer

In her inimitably lovely way, Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker singer-songwriter, tells the story of June and Emmett and their children gathered at their Christmas table to sing carols and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in her should-be classic, "Long Christmas Dinner." It's a celebration of simple pleasures and the powerful quotidian blessings of family, hearth and home.

It's a quiet, soul-stirring tune with images so vivid and familiar they stay with me throughout the year.

http://youtu.be/MYeIgrYpk8k

We asked Carrie what her favorite Christmas song was and this is what she said...

Hit the Hallelujah Button: Kazoolaluia!

Kazoo. Via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3142599975
Kazoo. Via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3142599975

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's installment comes from a YouTube user named JazzMary and her friends, who, apparently, have an annual gathering for kazoo lessons and carols.

So we give you, Kazoolalulia!

Watch it on the blog...

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