By Pamela Pike and Rosanne Simunovic
Pamela Pike’s Recollections
O Holy Night” was composed by Adolphe C. Adam in 1847 to the French Christmas poem “Midnight Christians” by Placide Cappeau. It was translated into English by Unitarian Minister John Sullivan Dwight, editor of Dwight’s Journal of Music in 1855. The Carol’s text reflects on the birth of Jesus and of mankind’s redemption.
On Christmas Eve 1906, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden broadcasted the first AM radio program and played “O Holy Night” on the violin, making the popular carol the first piece of music to be broadcast on radio. The carol has been covered by artists from just about every style of music.
Every Christmas for the last five years, I look forward to listening to one of David’s songs, O Holy Night. I can’t describe what he does with this Christmas classic. It is overwhelming for me to listen to him and especially when I watch him in concert.
When watching and listening to this song I get a very emotional feeling. I am totally used-up, drained of energy and I sit in awe with tears in my eyes. He is very stirring and memorable and delivers it with such majesty and meaning.
David starts this song off in a smooth and reverent low tone and slowly builds it up to sounds that truly are heavenly. Listen to it; at one point it seems it’s no longer David but something greater belting out those incredible notes.
For a few minutes I am spellbound hearing “O Holy Night” being sung like I had never heard it before. I am stunned with the beauty of his rendition and wondered if I would ever hear him sing it again. It’s difficult to stay true to an original yet somehow still put your stamp on the end product, but David Archuleta has accomplished what most singers can’t. He sings carols so sincerely and solemnly it’s divine. He has the ability to conjure images so vivid; you need only to close your eyes in order to see that holy scene.
Anyone who believes in the special day of Christmas must listen to O Holy Night as performed by David Archuleta at least once in a lifetime. It’s unbelievable!
David singing carols reminds me that Christmas should be a time when opening our hearts, is as important as opening our gifts.
Rosanne Simunovic’s Recollections
On December 7th, 2008, I had the opportunity to review David’s beautiful video performance of “O Holy Night”, as featured in the first video accompanying this article.
He performed this number during the Tree Lighting Ceremony in Los Angeles. Oh how I wish I could have been there. This is what I had to say:
“It doesn’t get much better than this. David Archuleta rendered an inspirational performance of O Holy Night at the Holiday Of Hope Tree Lighting Ceremony in Los Angeles this weekend.
His interpretation of this beloved classic carol was absolutely gorgeous and I especially fell in love with his creative melodic twists to the original melody during the second verse. It was just beautiful and truly came from the depths of his soul. This is how this song was intended to be sung – with reverence and respect for the lyrics.
David’s performance was tasteful, sincere and ringing with a consummate blend of vocal artistry and technical skills. His sustaining ability, coupled with his liberated soulful style, always ceases to amaze me – it is absolutely stellar.
Magnificent Masterclass performance David! Bravo!”
And, in the spirit of giving, as we approach yet another Christmas season, I would like to add a few more comments in relation to the second video performance of this beautiful carol.
On this occasion, a more mature and refined David performs this song in Salt Lake City in 2011. It is interesting to note, while watching this video, how much David’s voice has developed in the three years that passed between these two exceptional performances.
Before I begin, however, I have to say that the glowing confidence and poise he displays during the instrumental introduction to this song is a joy to behold. The spirit of the music possesses his soul before he even opens his mouth, banishing any doubt that this song is going to be a Masterclass Performance – in all respects- once again.
And, even before he starts to sing, it is evident that he is breathing fully and deeply from the diaphragm, engaging and energizing those muscles to start the process of proper vocal support.
And, look how relaxed his shoulders are! They never move up and down while he breathes, but rather stay quite stationary and free, thus signalling the absence of tension in the upper part of his body.
However, interestingly enough, once he begins to sing, his shoulders start the old heave-ho, but I feel this is due, in part, to the vocal cord paralysis that he continually fights to overcome in his performances.
Yet, he still stays true to the bel canto vocal regimen, gluing his voice to the purest of vowels, allowing his expressive voice to grow and stretch through the lovely phrase lines.
As he begins the second verse, the look on his face is truly transcendent – one of absolute joy, purely happy. I love his creative twist on the words “And His gospel is peace” – he took his voice to a place that I never heard before in previous performances of this song by other artists. Again, the Archuleta Vision!
And what can I say about the “Christ is The Lord” refrain? How about breathtaking, controlled vocal delivery mixed with deeply ingrained passion? It does not get better than this – no way, no how.
And the creative risks he takes when entering the higher melodic line during this part of the song is absolutely incredible. He twists and turns and does somersaults with his voice, all the while remaining true to the spiritual intention of the song.
Finally, David’s round mouth and relaxed jaw when sustaining his vowels, particularly the trickier ones like the “eh” vowel in “Noel“, give proof to the fact that this circular shape is key to exceptional tuning and clairvoyant, liberated vocals. Plus the relaxation in the face and upper body focuses the energy and support in the lower body, where it belongs.