I finally managed to find some “me” time to savor the golden voice of David Archuleta in his wonderful Christmas recording, “Christmas From The Heart”.
As expected, David’s vocal artistry, combined with his magical team of musicians and arrangers, offer the listener fresh, exciting arrangements to these popular Christmas songs and carols.
Here is a link to the credits for this album. It’s a long list, so is it any wonder that this album is a winner?
So, I invite you to sit back and enjoy David’s music as you read this Masterclass review.
1. Joy To The World
This begins with an ethereal orchestral introduction followed by David’s luscious vocal style. This is a very good arrangement that becomes increasingly better as the song progresses. The chord progressions in this song are very good indeed.
Personally, I felt that the song rose to enormous heights in the middle of this song, where one can hear the orchestra play the closing refrain of “Angels We Have Heard On High”. At this point, David not only highlighted the strength and beauty of his gorgeous upper range, but also emphasized what a creatively mature artist he is and will continue to be.
Additionally, the background vocals added a mystical quality to this song.
The ending is truly spectacular -the goosebumps are starting to form on my arm. David’s liberated vocal style, that soulful quality that we have come to know and love is revealed in splendor and glory as he vocalizes the final strains of this beautiful song. Excellent!
2. Angels We Have Heard On High
The producer(s) correctly programmed the inclusion of this song. As I mentioned above, the refrain of “Angels We Have Heard On High” was heard in “Joy To The World” and someone was intelligent enough realize that this would make a logical segue for the second track. Kudos!
I loved the instrumental opening – very baroque in style and hinting at an harmonic underlay from J.S. Bach’s, “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring”. Just lovely and extremely creative.
David’s voice sounds wonderfully focused and pure in this song and his voice stays true to the “oh” vowel during the sustained “Gloria” segments.
It was exciting to hear the multiple key changes during this song, culminating in a grandiose and dignified finale to this number
Oh my – here is the “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring“. Please believe me when I say I did not know David was going to go full throttle at “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring” in the middle of this song when I stated earlier: “…hinting at an harmonic underlay from J.S. Bach’s, “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring”.
I was typing as I was listening – similar to when I watch American Idol. I guess my ear has not aged along with the rest of my body. Ha!
This is an excellent arrangement of this beautiful sacred carol. David’s voice is gorgeous beyond belief and just soars with ease and transparency above the orchestral arrangement.
Ah, yes, now the lovely quiet ending of “Jesu Joy”once again, with David’s soulful vocal gift to complete this exquisite arrangement. Bravo!
3. O Come All Ye Faithful
I have always loved this song. The harmonic progressions in this song introduce endless possibilities for arrangers, so I am interested to hear what happens over the course of this number.
However, I must say that, although David’s voice sounds rich and resonant in his upper range, I wish he would support his lower range more efficiently.
Also, he has to monitor his decision-making process when he breathes. For instance, when he sings “O Come Ye, O Come Ye To Bethlehem”, he should breathe after the first “Ye” and then carry the rest of the phrase through in one breath. The phrase would sound less fragmented.
He encountered the same problem when he sang “O Come Let Us Adore (breath) Him, Christ the Lord”. That phrase should be sung in one breath.
I felt that the orchestral accompaniment was moving too quickly for him. David’s phrasing would have been more fluid if he had been given the opportunity to create more space in his musical line, thus giving him ample time to breathe in a relaxed manner.
However, David’s articulation is so crisp and so clear- you never have to strain to understand a word.
The key change in the middle of this song is dynamite and, at this point, David and the musicians go on their own magical adventure through Bethlehem. As David and his team of musicians work their melodic and harmonic wizardry, the overall effect is just phenomenal, . Beautiful beyond belief!
Additionally, the percussive elements were wisely interjected in this song, thus increasing power and authority in this arrangement.
4. Silent Night
This is, for many, the most treasured of Christmas carols. It speaks so simply and, yet, so beautifully to the truth, spirit and meaning of Christmas.
David’s voice sounds controlled and expressive at the beginning of this song and, as the song moves forward, David’s reverence for whom he is singing is absolutely heavenly. How can one not feel and appreciate David’s strong and very spiritual communicative skills?
The orchestra confidently grows in momentum and sound before the key change into the third verse – but not too much! Very tastefully, done!
And, as David ends this lovely carol, I am left with a sense of peace.
Thank you, David and team for keeping the song’s meaningful lyrics front and center. So often, I have heard this song butchered beyond recognition, so I am grateful to be listening to artists who respect and appreciate composer Franz Xavier Gruber’s original composition.
5.The First Noel
Oh my, how I love this song. When I have a moment, I will have to add a video of my choir performing an adapted John Rutter arrangement of this song. This is truly a singer’s song. The wonderful melodic lines of this song allows the singer’s voice to soar and the orchestral possibilities are endless.
But I digress. Time to press the “play” button” and hear David’s personal vision of this most sacred of carols. Here we go!
I hear bells, then David, then strings and some soft percussion. I love the baroque “feel” to this arrangement – very similar to one performed by my choir, the Timmins Youth Singers. This style perfectly compliments this carol – the melody has a music-box quality in the rhythmic component that I absolutely adore.
David’s voice sounds very good – always so expressive and so passionate.
And, once again, we are treated to a neat key change at the end of the second refrain, on the word of “Israel“. And, it allows David to access his baritone range with better strength and clarity than was heard earlier on in this recording.
And as David approaches the final segment of this song, he adds his liberated soulful style, improvising melody and lyrics. Although I was hoping for a more powerful ending, it is still a beautiful performance and sets the perfect tone for the next number on the CD.
6. O Holy Night
And now I get to hear the most powerful sacred carol ever written, “O Holy Night”. Originally composed in French by Adolphe Adam and officially known as “Cantique De Noel”, this is an extremely popular song. Every student I have ever taught wants to learn and/or sing this song at some point in time in their singing career.
I love the opening strains from the orchestra – totally innovative beginning and different from what I have heard in previous recordings by other artists.
As David begins, I just sit back and relish the beautiful and expressive quality of Mr. Archuleta. And can I tell you how happy I am that David doesn’t bellow and wail the “Fall on your knees” section of this song? So often the singers “throw caution to the wind” and “let ‘er rip” in this section.
However, David has great respect and reverence for the lyrics, thus allowing him to communicate the very special story contained in the lyrics with spiritual meaning and grace.
He grabs and sustains the pure vowels so very well in this song, as evidenced in the word “night“, where he sustains the word on the “ah” vowel, thus avoiding the “eye” diphthong. Perfect!
And as the trumpets and the percussion triumphantly herald the key change into the second verse, David’s voice becomes more passionate and intense. I love the melodic variation he introduces in the second verse. Very memorable and very innovative!
The “Christ Is The Lord” section is everything it should be and so much more. David’s voice sounds luscious indeed.
However, I would have preferred a more pronounced focus on the “eh” vowel in the word “Noel“. To my ear, the “eh” vowel sounded too wide and the mouth less circular and/or relaxed as I know it could be. One could hear the rasp and tightness in his throat during and after the last upper register “Noel”
And, the breath in the middle of the word “divine” is a “no-no“. David should have accessed a fuller compliment of his air supply and used it more efficiently. This is not a long phrase, but he sure sounded winded at the end of the song.
I sense that David’s voice was tired during the recording of this particular song. I wonder how many takes of this song he endured and/or how tired he was during the recording of this track?
However, overall, this was still a very beautiful performance. The quality and the maturity is clearly evident but singers need to remember that they are not machines. The vocal cords are part of their physical make-up and rest and pacing ensures consistency and excellence in their vocal product.
7. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas with Charice Pempengo
I am quite anxious to hear this duet featuring Charice Pempengo along with David. If ever two artists were meant to sing together, it most certainly includes David and Charice.
Originally written for the movie and stage musical, “Meet Me In St. Louis“, David begins this nostalgic Christmas song, with his signature “oos“. And, then his expressive, luscious voice begins the opening strains of this song. And, before you know it, young Charice comes in, sounding absolutely perfect, matching David in mood and style.
Oh my, what a beautiful performance. And the harmonies are perfect; both singers are so “in tune” with one another figuratively and literally.
The orchestral arrangement is exquisite – lush, yet relaxed. These young voices just “blow my mind” with their extraordinary artistry and expressiveness.
What more can I say? This song should be played 24/7 on the radio during the Christmas season. Both are vocal and personal role models for this generation of young artists and their combined talent is cause for celebration beyond the Christmas season.
Bravo and Brava David and Charice! Here’s to future collaborations!
8. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Once again, the inclusion of this song after “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is perfect. The producers took great care in ensuring that this entire CD flowed from track to track, similar to a live performance.
Note to other artists: you can learn a great deal from listening to this CD. This CD was produced with enormous thought and attention to the finest detail, once again highlighting the work ethic and intelligence that embodies the Archuleta team.
This arrangement of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has a nice relaxed, jazzy feel. And, we are treated to David’s gorgeous lower register voice. He focuses this area of his vocal range exceptionally well in this song.
There is a lovely key change as the song moves toward the finale – a chance to enjoy David’s phenomenally potent upper register vocals. Accompanied by keyboard and percussion, this song was perfectly realized by singer and musicians, tastefully capturing the nostalgia that the lyrics evoke.
This is a very cute song – very similar in content to the slightly more popular song, “The Little Drummer Boy”. I conducted a very busy arrangement of this song with my choir and, although it was a lot of work, it was also a great deal of fun once the end product was realized.
David begins this song with the traditionally French version of this sweet carol. I must say that his French diction is exceptional. He has a wonderful ear for this language- and all languages-, something that I feel will become increasingly evident throughout the remainder of this CD.
He then continues in English and his youthful, exuberant voice is so perfect for this song. And, of course, there is an excellent percussive track in this song.
I love, love, LOVE the wild musical ride that David and the orchestra embark on midway through this song. The arrangement takes on a very cool classical sound and the result is truly spectacular. Listen to those synthesized strings - lots of fun!
Once again, this adventure modulates to a higher key and David’s upper register voice just explodes with such passion and verve. And then, in a blink of an eye, he vocalized down the octave with a hushed nuance in his voice. while layering his variant background vocals. And then, all too quickly, the song fades to black.
This is a VERY current arrangement of this song and I truly hope that it receives the exposure that it truly deserves. Just excellent!
10. What Child Is This
Now, a change of pace – at least, I think so. This is a more sedate carol, similar to “Silent Night“, and I am anxious to hear David’s version. So here we go – press play, Rosanne!
The instrumental opening is beautifully calm, perfectly capturing the mood. And, although this is a very tricky song for the singer in terms of planning one’s breathing, David manages the long lines of the phrases superbly well.
The accompaniment is relaxed and affords David space to breathe and interpret the phrases in a comfortable manner. Oops – “Son (breath) of Mary” – should be sung in one breath.
I love the almost a cappella sound of David’s voice midway through this song during “This, this is Christ The King“, followed by the grandiose entrance of the full orchestra. How wonderful is that? This is an another example of the wonderful nuances from singer and musicians throughout this CD.
The orchestra is then given an opportunity to shine while David adds his soulful “oos” and “ahs“. This is truly a magnificent moment in this number – I feel transported to another dimension.
Kudos to the arrangers for taking a very simple song and turning it into a masterpiece, while still preserving the original melodic content.
11. Riu Riu Chui
This song brings back memories – my choir performed this with a Latin American artist many moons ago.
I love the “Carol Of The Bells” melody that is incorporated into the beginning of this song. Makes me wonder if David will sing portions of “Carol Of The Bells” midway through this song. We shall see!
And, as David begins this Spanish carol, I sit back and enjoy the perfect articulation of his Spanish diction. This melody is slightly different from what I have previously heard. I love that David is once again given the opportunity to grab the beauty of his lower range.
And, then, in a blink of an eye, David moves to the phenomenal beauty of his upper range, accentuating his soulful and liberated vocal style in the process. What a great moment in this song!
And, as the song moves toward the closing bars, we hear “Carol Of the Bells” from the orchestra. The song gently fades away and we are left, once again, with the memory of an exceptionally performed Christmas rendering from David.
12. Ave Maria
The exceptional voices of the Salt Lake Children’s Choir provide the a cappella opening strains to this beloved prayer by Charles Gounod/J.S.Bach. Their voices sound angelic and true – nothing beats the sound of an exceptionally well-rehearsed children’s choir. Their addition perfectly establishes the reverent mood of this song.
And, as David begins to sing, I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with his Latin diction. He is one of the handful of singers who correctly pronounce “Gratia“. In the countless number of performances of this song I have heard over the years, the singers always pronounce this word with the Italian diction – “grazia” -and not the Latin. Drives me crazy! But, I digress!
This is a very difficult song, but David masters the technical pitfalls very well. The breathing spots in this song need to be firmly established or the phrasing can sound fragmented.
Oh no – he breathed in the middle of “ventris“! He should have taken a breath after “fructus“, thus enabling him to carry the rest of the phrase through in one breath.
However, the rest of the song moves along quite beautifully and he manages his breathing much more efficiently. Good for him! This is a very difficult song and, yet, he is performing this song exceptionally well.
At the end of the first verse, the Salt Lake Children’s Choir add their gorgeous harmonies, followed by David’s more soulful rendition of the second verse of this song. And this time around, the choir provides beautiful background to his solo voice and, as a result, the song truly flows to another dimension.
I love the melodic variation he incorporates into the original line – just enough to say “wow” but not too much to detract from the original beauty of the original composition.
I always love listening to David weave his vocal magic and artistry through well-known song material. He is an extremely innovative vocal artist and sings with a maturity far beyond his years.
This was a stellar performance! Can you come and sing at my Church? (smile)
13. Melodies Of Christmas
This is an original composition and, for the life of me, I cannot find the name of the composer. Could someone help me here?
Update From Tom Suzuki: Melodies of Christmas was conceived by Jeff Archuleta and David Archuleta.
I love the title and I love the concept. The lyrics and the melody are cohesive and contagious. I think we have a new Christmas hit on our hands, folks!
I do love and applaud the incorporation of fragments of familiar carols through this song. The song is resplendent with the joy and spirit of Christmas and leaves the listener with a great feeling at the end of this CD.
If you don’t love and appreciate the season and true meaning of Christmas after you listen to this CD, I’m sorry, I can’t help you! As once quoted by Jerry Seinfeld, “you need a team of specialists” to help you.