My wife and I attended the Michael W Smith Christmas concert near Seattle, WA this past Sunday night. It was the finale’ of his “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” tour. The concert was advertised as including a 60-piece orchestra but the reality was that the orchestra was joined by a 40-piece choir and a 9-person acapella group called “Voice Avenue.” At one point Smith noted that there were 120 people on the stage! Here are a few observations.
1) Legacy – I appreciate Michael W Smith’s willingness to wear the mantle of Christian music’s elder statesman. He blazed a trail some years ago that many of our favorite contemporary christian musicians are traveling today. It is obvious that he finds great joy in seeing young talent emerge. The look on his face while Voice Avenue sung was one of a proud mentor. He shared the stage well.
2) Voice Avenue was phenomenal! They are new to me. These 9 men and women sung with amazingly precise harmony and confidence. It was a joy to listen to them.
3) The conductor – David Hamilton – is a friend and collaborator of Smith’s. He is an accomplished conductor and arranger. Much of his work sounds like something that could be used in movie soundtrack – something that Hamilton has a great deal of experience with.
4) The orchestra – Northwest Symphonic joined the concerts for the Portland and Seattle performances. They were more than up for the task. I especially enjoyed their apparent familiarity with Smith’s work when he led us in the singing of ‘Above All.’ Clearly, some members of the orchestra were worshiping with us.
5) The sound. I like my music ‘big’ and this concert delivered. The fullness of the arrangements, the complex harmonies, and presence of a full orchestra that blended perfectly with strong voices was a real highlight for me.
6) Bagpipes. You either love them or you hate them. But the guy who played them that night (what IS his name?) is an amazing musician and just might make a believer of you!