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humble king: christmas around the world
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HUMBLE KING: CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD (2002)
Humble King - Click to view! One of my favorite events of the Christmas season are the choir concerts. Most high schools and colleges, both public and private, have choirs that sing of Christ's birth. They usually include a wide array of Christmas melodies, from the traditional carols to funky arrangements of old songs to brand new Christmas songs. On the days when I am not able to attend one of these gems, I enjoy listening to Humble King: Christmas Around The World. As would be expected from a Vineyard Music release, there's a little less choir sound and a bit more worship band feel to the disc than your local choral concert. But the disc is largely fueled by vocals and harmonies, and the diversity of the music is amazing. Many Vineyard worship releases tend to sound the same throughout, yet this disc manages to celebrate diversity because of the many parties involved from all over the world. It is a powerful experience and a great meditation on Christ's birth.

Many traditional songs are included in this fifteen-track celebration, but not all the songs are the typical ones we are accustomed to finding on most Christmas discs. Such songs as "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day", "Once In Royal David's City", "I Wonder As I Wander" and the traditional Irish "Wexford Carol" are presented here. More well-known songs include "Joy To The World" and "Angels From The Realms Of Glory," a different set of lyrics that parallel the tune of "Angels We Have Heard On High". An instrumental arrangement of "The First Noel" provides a quiet interlude to the latter half of the disc with beautiful guitars and jazzy keyboards.

Some of the most outstanding songs on Humble King are the originals written by Vineyard worship leaders. Many Vineyard listeners are familiar with the title track, which first appeared on Vineyard UK's Hungry album. The song appears here with a Christmas feel and a new verse by the original songwriter, Brenton Brown. "Lord Come This Christmas" starts out with the lyrics of "Away In The Manger" and ends up asking Christ to come into our lives this Christmas. Two new settings of the popular chorus "Gloria In Excelsis Deo" are included on this album. The first is "Adoramus Te", which is split between the traditional Latin and today's English. "Glory To God" is also a song of praise to the Father echoing the cry of the angels which appeared in the fields 2,000 years ago. A new instrumental song, "Advent Carol", is played beautifully on the sax and provides a short intermission to the concert.

The many countries where Vineyard Music has a presence give Humble King the worldwide feel that distinguishes it from so many other Christmas releases. The most memorable is "Shout", a joyous celebration of Christ's saving birth written and performed by the Vineyard India worship team. After a few time listening to the chorus, "We will shout / With cries of joy / The Lord our God is with us," you will be singing and dancing along. The singers from South Africa provide us with memorable versions of "Joy To The World" and "I Wonder As I Wander," keeping their offerings mainly choral and distinctly African. The New Zealand chapter of Vineyard Music chimes in with "My Soul," a contemporary setting to the Magnificat, Mary's song of thanks. Vineyard UK, the group that has created many of the best albums to come from the label in the last five years, is represented well, including a final medley of "Once In Royal David's City" and "You Are God." Vineyard Canada also does a great job, including a powerful version of the Amy Grant classic "Breath Of Heaven (Mary's Song)" complete with haunting keyboard intro. The only disappointing part of the worldwide contributions is that every song is primarily sung in English. At least a couple of the fifteen tracks could have been in a foreign language, and it would have felt like a more worldwide project.

The focus on choral arrangements makes Humble King: Christmas Around The World a unique Vineyard album. Despite being recorded at studios in their native countries, the disc maintains a cohesive and live feel. Many songs feature backing choirs that take the place of the audience and provide beautiful harmonies. It brings the listener to a place where they can almost picture the choir at the front of the church and the congregation listening quietly to the beautiful artwork before them. Fans of Vineyard Music's albums, as well as lovers of Christmas music, will find this album an indispensable addition to their collection. We all need to be reminded what Christmas is all about, and Humble King tells the story of Christ's birth in a way only Vineyard Music can.
- Dan Ficker
December 2004
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