Several reviewers have noted that this project contains few of the tradional elements associated with Christmas music. As a worship pastor in a modern church for the last twenty years this is what I appreciate about Glory in the Highest. Tomlin's great strength has always been an ablility to craft biblical truth into catchy, singable songs. This project serves the church well by presenting six fresh songs of praise and worship that focus on the incarnation of Christ along with six more modern reworks of traditional songs.
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) focuses on the prophetic aspects of the Christmas story. My Soul Magnifies The Lord (drawn from Isaiah) and Born That We May Have Life (focusing on the dichotomy of God becoming man) are joyful, uptempo songs of praise. Matt Redman's Light of the World is a solid contribution and Audry Assad's haunting Winter Snow is a jazz-tinged, completely fresh contemplation of Jesus birth. The remainder of the songs are modern worship takes on classic Christmas hymns.
I have very much enjoyed listening to the entire CD over the past Christmas season, but I already have my own favorite arrangements of many of these songs so this part of the project is more a place to glean a few ideas or suggestions rather than slavishly copying Tomlin's arrangements.
Two other points have come up in reviews of this CD: Tomlin is a high tenor - the average congregant is not. Many, if not most, of his songs need to be transposed down as much as two full steps so that men are not forced to sing above a high "E." I do this all the time and our congregation loves to sing Tomlin's songs. Second, Tomlin does tend to simple song structures, but I do not see this as a drawback when viewed in the proper light. To be blunt, simple songs are easier for the untrained person in the pew to sing. Because Tomlin's intent (as should any worship leader's) is to get people to join in, musical innovation is sacrificed for the sake of the average person's ability to participate. This is even true of the musicians. I love to have "Guitar George who knows all the chords" on the worship team but reality says that there are many churches across the country who are getting by with less-than-stellar musicians. Simple means that virtually any church that desire to do so can use these songs in their services.
If you understand Tomlin's goal in creating an enjoyable modern worship experience focused on the incarnation of Christ, you have to applaud this effort.
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