My encouragements (which I have no way of enforcing) are to please actually listen to the songs before voting and only vote once. I will declare a winner based on the vote totals at 9 pm PST on Wednesday!
Welcome, one and all, to week 2 of Advent Caroling Madness! This week, 16 versions of “Angels We Have Heard on High” will face off to see which emerges as the best.
I received many suggestions again this week, and only added one of my own. I largely based the seeds on my personal preference, since the winner will be decided completely by your votes. The one exception is that so many people recommended The Piano Guys that I simply felt they had to be the number 1 seed, even though I would not have put them there. So thank you to Catherine Trzeciak, Judy Woolsey, Bethany Muhr, Lisa Hereford, Paula Hampton, Craig Morgan, and Lisa Nauman for that recommendation!
The #2 seed is my contribution, from Committed. These guys won the second season of the Sing-Off (before Pentatonix in season three), and I absolutely love this arrangement and their sound.
Heidi Tschan recommended the #3 seed, Christmas at Luther. In her note, she recommended it mostly for the arrangement, although “the choir is good, too”. I really liked it.
Coming in at #4 was a serious out of the blue contender for me, recommended by Carol Sherwood. Cody Carnes and David Osmond give a very fun version.
#5 seed Pentatonix was Martha Wood’s suggestion, and it’s one that would have been on my list.
Andrea Bocelli is not my usual style of music, but this #6 seed earns it simply on the quality of the voice. Bethany Bylsma recommended it “for the high note at 4:19. KILLER.” Doreen Fertello also offered this one.
Bylsma the overachiever also offered #7 seed Ella Fitzgerald. Just fantastic.
#8 “A Kenton Christmas” by the US Army Brass Band was Howard Macy’s excellent suggestion. Wonderful arrangement.
We have ANOTHER Bylsma offering in the #9 slot, one of my sentimental favorites as well, from Michael W. Smith.
Before I post what I shared today in worship, I’d like to take a little time to say a few things.
I’m a theme and big picture person, and have to work hard to give concrete examples of the things I am talking about. In addition, because my brain constantly takes in information and makes inferences about how all those pieces fit together, I sometimes speak without filling in all the steps or giving all the evidence for why I draw the conclusions I do. So I would like to take a bit of time to add to what I said today, giving some context. I’ll try to clarify any assumptions that I or others may have made and give some more specific arguments/examples from the book of Micah. Continue reading →
There is no surer sign that Advent Caroling Madness has captured the heart of America than this: I am being bullied and threatened and intimidated as we get closer to the finish. There are people out there (Bylsma and Rourke) who, in a telling sign of their own insecurity about their pet favorites in the bracket, are resorting to Christmas-cancelling threats and hypnotism from afar. But rest assured, good readers, the integrity of this little endeavor shall not be compromised! If Nelson Mandela could endure 27 years in prison and emerge as an icon for justice in our broken world…I can listen to an Advent Carol with unbiased ears in the face of immense pressure! We shall overcome!
I held the Semi-finals and the Finals all today, as technically tomorrow starts the second week of Advent. The nuns were first up, and I kid you not–as I listened in my kitchen I literally had to stop unloading the dishwasher. They were that moving. The moment of worship over, David Crowder gave it his best shot. He’s got his own little short bridge that he works into the song, and when it came through the first time, I was like “this reminds me of something.” Sure enough, the second time it was right there on the tip of my tongue. And when we hit the end (go take a listen, fast forwarding to 4:18 and listen for ten seconds or so) I smiled as the recognition fell into place.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, on to the finals.
Then came the matchup for which I am getting such hate mail and death threats BUT I WILL NOT BOW TO INTIMIDATION! This whole journey began with what do I like, and I…I like…
(Hang on, my phone just buzzed…)
Yikes. Well I mean I like them both. You know, Punch Brothers and Pentatonix, they are both so talented. But I will stick with my own heart and… (Just a sec, I just got a tweet).
NO! I will not be moved! Here I stand, and can do no other: Pentatonix on to the finals!
(I’d like to take a moment here before rendering my final verdict to say that I truly didn’t have this thing all planned out at the beginning. I’ve really and truly gone through the process of listening each time to each version in each matchup. So none of this was a foregone conclusion…)
The Benedictines get to have their “One Shining Moment” for Advent 2013, week 1. I do love me some a cappella. And it just seems that the simple coming of a baby in a manger is best prepared for by listening to nuns singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” unaccompanied in an echoing cloister.
Thanks for joining me on the journey! Next week’s bracket will be to find the best version of “Angels We Have Heard on High”. I won’t be able to give nearly as much time to it, so your votes will decide every round. Send me your recommendations for the versions you like, and I’ll post the bracket on Tuesday night. Deadline is 5 pm PST on Tuesday!
In 7th grade journalism I was taught that you never bury the lead. Our number one seed is gone, in only the second round.
(Bethany Bylsma is so going to yell at me. In all caps.)
Whitney. I’m just not sure where to begin. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s nothing you did wrong. You did it all. Hit every note, changed keys effortlessly like a boss, even a little jazz scat. Everything you did was perfect. And…everything you did pointed me to what you were doing. It’s an arrangement that just screamed, “Look at me! Look at what I am able to do!” That. So. Worked. For the national anthem; seriously, you were the best ever at that. But for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”…and like I said, it’s not you, it’s me…for this song, I don’t want my attention on you. I want to be reminded of my own longing, that there’s nothing I can do on my own, that I have need, and that there is a promise that Emmanuel will come to meet it. While I loved what you did with the song, Whitney, I mean please: there’s nothing you need. You got it all. So I’m sorry, you’re the best, it’s not you. It’s just that I need something different for this song, and David Crowder Band came much closer.
The second matchup of the day went into overtime. In all seriousness. I listened to the Benedictines of Mary, enraptured again. I listened to The Civil Wars, and liked it even more than the first time. I couldn’t decide, and I had to literally play them both again. And then I had to figure out why this was so hard for me to decide.
I think it’s the tension between old familiar love and the heat of a new crush. I have a crush on The Civil Wars. I’m captivated by the blend of their voices, the unique and shifting harmonies as they progress through the verses. They’ve got, to quote the great Ricky Bobby, “A tractor beam of hotness.” At this point in my life, though, I’m wise enough to know the blessedness of old familiar love. My heart is broken, but I choose steady love as the Benedictines advance. What I really wish is that at the very beginning I had just slid The Civil Wars down to the 6 seed, because then they would still be alive right now. Ah well.
Then came the Piano Guys. In the first round, I was just going for a little joke with the line about how the cello made the song and that seemed a little incongruous for a group called the Piano Guys. But today it was no joke. Seriously, it’s the cello alone that I like with this piece. I can’t stand that little constant rain-falling-down thing the piano does over and over again. And over and over and over and over again. The Punch Brothers just deepened even further on the second listen, and I absolutely love the musical movement and tension. The 3 seed is gone, and we’ve got an 11 seed in the semi finals with the Punch Brothers.
And in the final match of the day, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic vs. Pentatonix had an evenly matched, well played battle. The close win goes to Pentatonix. The Ormandy piece was a little bit like Whitney for me-beautiful, but just too focused on the high, straining violins. Too much wanting to move me. A bit too manipulative of my emotions. Frankly, it may be as simple as the fact that I think this song calls out for the lower registers; it’s why I love the cello on the Piano Boys and Avi on Pentatonix.
So here’s the bracket after two rounds:
Which means, dear readers, that I humbly ask you again to vote in the semi-finals:
(Sorry to post so late-had a great night with friends.)