SALT LAKE CITY — Christmas is less than a week away and there's a good chance you've reached your holiday music quota. "All I Want for Christmas is You" started getting playtime on the radio and in the stores as soon as the calendar flipped to November, but now that Christmas is really around the corner, it's time to face the music.
Check out unique versions of holiday classics — ranging from piano and guitar instrumentals to dance/electronic renditions — from seven Latter-day Saint musicians who released Christmas albums this year.
The Piano Guys: 'Christmas Together'
Fans of The Piano Guys got to hear music from the group’s album, “Christmas Together,” performed live at the recent Vivint Arena concert. The album, which was released Oct. 27, highlights a variety of talent in the Beehive State — from David Archuleta’s smooth vocals in “Angels from the Realms of Glory” to the soaring notes from 15-year-old Lexi Walker in a medley of “O Holy Night” and “Ave Maria” to the powerful accompaniment of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Other highlights include a lively rendition of “I Saw Three Ships” and the final track, “The Sweetest Gift,” dedicated to pianist Jon Schmidt’s daughter, Annie Schmidt.
Nathan Pacheco: 'O Holy Night'
A vocal performance graduate of Brigham Young University, Nathan Pacheco’s latest album, “O Holy Night,” features a compilation of Christmas classics such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “What Child is This?” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” — all showcasing Pacheco’s smooth tenor voice.
In a past interview with the Deseret News, Pacheco shared how his LDS mission in Brazil helped him overcome his fear of singing in front of people, as he would take opportunities to sing on buses and in the streets, parks and churches.
"I'm sure the people thought I was an absolute weirdo. I probably was," Pacheco said. "But I loved the way it broke down barriers, created a spirit of friendship and bridged the gap between cultures. Through music, you can feel like instant friends with people.”
Kaskade: 'Kaskade Christmas'
Ryan Raddon, a Mormon DJ and producer best known by the name Kaskade, has made his first foray into holiday music. Released Nov. 24, the DJ’s album, titled “Kaskade Christmas,” brings a dance/electronic twist to Christmas tunes including “Deck the Halls,” “Winter Wonderland” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” — the latter featuring vocals from Lower Lights singer Debra Fotheringham.
Kaskade attended BYU before serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japan, and shared in an interview with The Daily Beast how he is somewhat of an anomaly in the DJ world as an active member of the LDS Church.
“I don’t party at all!” he said. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I’m a bit of a freak that way because I’m completely different from what you would think. Look, you can’t put all electronic musicians or DJs or whatever you want to call us in one pot. A lot of these guys live in the night and party, but with me, I’m married and have three children. I have a life outside of this.”
Garth Smith: 'A Sacred Christmas'
“A Sacred Christmas,” released in November, features 11 Christmas tunes with original arrangements by LDS pianist and Brigham City native Garth Smith. The record marks the pianist’s first holiday album, according to the Deseret News. Listeners are immediately given a taste of Smith’s piano flair with the opening track, “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” and can also hear his delicate fingerwork in arrangements of “O Holy Night” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Other album highlights include a rendition of “I Wonder as I Wander” with stirring vocals from the Sun Valley Carolers, and an acoustic instrumental version of “Still, Still, Still” featuring LDS guitarist Michael Dowdle.
Lindsey Stirling: 'Warmer in the Winter'
Violinist/dancing extraordinaire — and "Dancing With the Stars" finalist — Lindsey Stirling came to the Eccles Theater earlier this month and presented a wide array of holiday classics from her fourth album, “Warmer in the Winter.” Released Oct. 20, the album blends jazz, pop and classical music in renditions of 10 Christmas standards and three original tracks. From the delicate, airy violin on songs such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Angels We Have Heard of High” to the violin frenzy produced in the rock-based “Carol of the Bells,” the album gives listeners an eclectic taste of Christmas — and in a surprising twist, the jazz-infused title track features Stirling on vocals and New Orleans-based musician Trombone Shorty.
Ryan Tilby: 'Joy to the World: A Guitar Christmas'
He’s played bass with Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand, banjo with The Lower Lights and for his latest album, Ryan Tilby arranges and performs guitar instrumentals for some of his favorite Christmas songs. Released in November, “Joy to the World: A Guitar Christmas,” features acoustic renditions of Christmas classics including “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” and features an original track from Tilby titled “Light Through the Trees.”
”I've always loved the organic peaceful texture of acoustic guitar, and that's the framework of every arrangement,” Tilby wrote in an email to the Deseret News. “I kept a clear picture in my head for the mood of the album —that feeling you get when you first glimpse the lights of your destination after traveling through the cold and dark of winter — I love that feeling, and wanted it for the whole record.
"The song 'Light Through the Trees' is one I wrote to describe how it feels to me to be with the people I love during Christmas. my arrangements of my favorite Christmas songs are all meant to be just the right soundtrack for an evening of friends and family.”
Josh and Lindsey Wright: 'Sleigh Ride for Two'
Husband and wife duo Josh and Lindsey Wright kicked off their holiday season with the album “Sleigh Ride for Two.” Released in November, the album was two years in the making and is filled with piano duets covering a large range of Christmas favorites such as “Sleigh Ride,” “Away in a Manger,” “Jingle Bells” and selections from “The Nutcracker.” Josh Wright, a concert pianist with two degrees from the University of Utah, has been a participant of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and was also featured on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014. His wife, Lindsey Wright, earned a doctoral degree in piano performance from the University of Utah. Listen to the pair’s lively renditions at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/sleigh-ride-for-two/1308778336.
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