Essential Christmas Music: SG and Non-SG

Yes it’s been forever, but I have been in the Christmas spirit and still swamped at a new job.  I’m thankful for both of those things, but blogging time has still been slim.  I don’t want to go without posting SOMETHING for you for Christmas, so I decided I’d join the crowd and post my essential Christmas music.  Here’s a list of essential SG albums, and essential non-SG Christmas albums, trying hard to balance classics with “hidden gems” in both lists.

5 Essential SG Christmas Albums:

5. Ball Brothers – Christmas
4. Martins – Light Of The World
3. Gaither Vocal Band – Still The Greatest Story Ever Told
2. Gold City – Voices Of Christmas
1. Cathedrals – A Cathedral Christmas, Acappella

5 Essential Non SG Christmas Albums

5. Take 6 – He Is Christmas
4. Imperials – Christmas With The Imperials
3. Michael Buble – Christmas
2. 4Him – Season Of Love
1. Carpenters – Christmas Collection

Whatever your taste, I hope you’ve enjoyed the Christmas Season, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  I have a special Christmas post in the queue for tomorrow that I hope you will all enjoy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE BURKE FAMILY!!!!!

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Concert Review: Deltacappella and Take 6

Saturday night, my wife and I enjoyed a night out as an early Christmas present from my brother.  He surprised us with 6th row tickets to see Deltacappella, a local acappella group of 12 guys from the Memphis area, and Grammy award winning vocal group Take 6.  I’ve been a huge fan of Take 6 since high school, but this was the first time I’d ever seen them live.  Take 6 was also celebrating the news that their newly released Christmas album, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, had reached the #1 spot on the iTunes jazz chart.  The concert was sponsored by Deltacappella, and was held in the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Memphis.  There were probably a couple hundred people in attendance, but the auditorium was nowhere near filled.

Deltacappella opened the concert with about a 30 minute set.  Here is their setlist:

  • Little Saint Nick (with a clever lyric substitution of “Merry Christmas Memphis”)
  • White Christmas
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Dahum Dores/You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch
  • Blue Christmas
  • Vocal Percussion/Drum solo
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Rudolph
  • 12 Days Of Christmas

Deltacappella was very impressive.  The singers come from all different walks of life: jewelry store owner, teachers, music ministers, and one is even an ENT doctor.  A significant portion of the audience appeared to be family/friends/coworkers of the guys in the group.  Their vocal percussionist, Paul Koziel, was especially impressive; his vocal percussion solo absolutely wowed the audience.  Their performance of “12 Days Of Christmas” is similar to the Straight No Chaser version in which they start mixing in parts of other carols, instead of singing the song straight through.  These guys have some nice harmonies, and I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by their part of the concert.

After a 15 minute intermission, Take 6 hit the stage.  Unlike Deltacappella, their set was a mix of their regular material and a Christmas set in the middle.  Here is their setlist (I wasn’t familiar with a couple of songs, so I may have the titles wrong):

  • Straighten Up And Fly Right
  • I’ve Got Life/Spread Love
  • Wade In The Water
  • Smile
  • Windmills Of Your Mind
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  • Joy To The World
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • Let It Snow
  • Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy
  • Sweet Little Jesus Boy
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (dedicated to our troops)
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • When I Fall In Love
  • There Will Be No
  • You Can’t Hide
  • What A Fool Believes
  • Stay
  • Just In Time
  • We Got The Victory
  • Mary (Encore)

Take 6 is Claude McKnight (brother of R&B superstar Brian McKnight), Mark Kibble, Joey Kibble, David Thomas, Cedric Dent, and Alvin Chea.  Their set was incredible.  The “I’ve Got Life/Spread Love” medley was kicked into overdrive.  Claude McKnight does my favorite version of “Smile”, and did a great job on it that night.  Joey Kibble’s vocal muted trumpet is even more amazing to hear it done live, and he provided some of it on several songs throughout the evening.  “Windmills Of Your Mind” has some exquisite harmony.  All of the guys will take turns as emcee, though David Thomas doesn’t tend to say as much as the rest of the guys.  The primary emcees are really Cedric Dent and Mark Kibble, with Alvin Chea, Claude McKnight, and Joey Kibble speaking less frequently.  They all for the most part keep the mood light and entertaining, but Cedric and Joey are both very adept at bringing the concert to serious moments.  Aside from a couple of jazz standards and a little mini-set of secular music influences, the rest of their material is unabashedly and unapologetically Christian.  Take 6 makes no apologies for their faith, and strive to make their concerts, even when they are doing some secular tunes, always be pointed to Christ.

The Christmas set was great.  They did a fairly good mix of songs from all three of their Christmas CDs.  They mentioned that the Memphis show was only the third time that they had done “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” in the US, but it was a really enjoyable rendition.  While there are no lyrics, the harmonies and swinging rhythm they give the tune is a nice twist from the traditional classical rendition.  Joey Kibble threw the rest of the guys a curve by calling “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and they nailed it.  I’ve always loved their arrangements of “Hark The Herald” and “Joy To The World”, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is given an excellent doo-wop treatment, with Joey Kibble shining on the lead line. Easily the highlight of the Christmas set was “O Come All Ye Faithful”, however.  After singing the song through, Cedric Dent led the audience in singing the “O Come Let Us Adore Him” chorus, then Take 6 repeated their tag, and really led to a worshipful moment.

They ended the concert by doing a little mini-set of music that influenced them, highlighted by a fantastic rendition of the Doobie Brothers “What A Fool Believes” and Joey Kibble taking on the standard “Just In Time.”  They left the stage after “We Got The Victory” to a crowd screaming for more, so they came back on stage and performed their classic “Mary” as an encore, complete with the ad-lib contest between the Brothers Kibble.  The audience absolutely ate it up.

When one takes a harmony course in a collegiate music program, Take 6 should be required listening.  Unlike the typical group in Southern Gospel, Take 6 has had exactly one personnel change since their 1988 debut recording, and that was when Joey Kibble joined his brother Mark in the group, replacing Mervyn Warren.  They have had the same 6 members since 1991.  With that type of stability, you would expect their stage presence and performances to be second nature, and those expectations are met very well when you see the group.  The men of Take 6 are consummate professionals from the minute they step on the stage.  They do a fine job of mixing up the material in their concert, as “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Windmills Of Your Mind” are from their latest non-Christmas release, The Standard, while “Spread Love” and the song they did as an encore, “Mary”, are both from the 1988 debut.  I’ve always wanted to see them live, and after having finally had the opportunity, they didn’t disappoint.  Even if you’re only a casual fan of jazz or acappella singing, please don’t miss out on a chance to see this legendary group live.  Their performances are incredible, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see them live again!

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