Category Archives: Christmas

Remember Peter Furler from the Newsboys?

Whatever happened to Peter Furler from the Newsboys? He’s still singing…and has a new Christmas record from Prescott Records with Naxos and New Day Distribution. Peter Furler Christmas (Feat. David Ian) is now on iTunes.

Furler and multi-talented jazz instrumentalist and arranger, David Ian, who produced the album, assembled a unique listening experience with the new recording, showcasing vintage sounds of the holiday season from ancient past to present. The unexpected duo set out to create a vintage, classic and meditative album that harkened back to the jazz sounds of Vince Guaraldi and the minimalist era of Miles Davis.

Using singers and musicians from around the world, including from America, Armenia, Lebanon, Russia and South Africa, Furler and Ian also incorporated traditional orchestration as well as exotic instruments like the Duduk (an indigenous Armenian wind instrument) to create an unconventional and introspective Christmas album.

“David and I wanted to create an album that shares the story of Christmas, one that we hope you will enjoy for years to come,” says Furler. “We had in mind for this music to be played while listeners engage in their favorite Christmas traditions, enjoying a warm fire, a quiet dinner party, watching the snow gently fall outside.”

In a time where music listeners are looking for authenticity, Peter Furler Christmas offers not only authentic music and arrangements, but Furler and Ian deliver what could very well become a classic Christmas album.

“With a slight departure from my previous two Christmas releases, I wanted to set this collection apart and create a sound that brings the sacred to light,” adds Ian. “We deliberately wanted to bring new life to Christmas songs that are often overlooked.”

With three of the newly arranged traditional carols, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “What Child Is This” at radio now, Furler also delivers two spoken word tracks accompanied by Ian’s contemplative piano, string and chamber arrangements. These spoken word tracks include the prophesies of the birth of Christ, as well as the Luke account of the Christmas story. They offer a beautiful reminder of the meaning of Christmas and the narrative for all the tracks on the album.

Ashley Cleveland’s favorite Christmas music

Ashley_ClevelandFrom Ashley Cleveland…

I confess, this is not my favorite question—primarily because I have trouble finding Christmas recordings that I really love. And when I do find something wonderful, I eventually lose it or it drops into discontinued obscurity. I had a combined symphony/chorale recording on a cassette—a bootleg someone had passed on to me that was absolutely magnificent. It wasn’t just the song selection or the musical and vocal arrangements; it was the overall soulfulness of the entire album. I never once listened to it without losing myself–the mark of a truly classic album. So, of course, I lost it. I never knew which symphony it was and I have purchased at least 50 discs trying to find it again. No luck.

Another favorite of mine is an album of original compositions telling the Christmas Story called Precious Child. It was conceived and produced by two wonderful Nashville songwriters: Thom Schuyler and Craig Bickhardt. It was recorded on Warner Brothers in 1993 and featured some of Nashville’s best vocalists: Vince Gill, Maura O’Connell, Dave Loggins and Janis Ian to name a few. I sang on it too as: ‘The Lord’s Messenger’—an undeserved title but one that I promote tirelessly anyway. It is out of print now but can still be found on iTunes, and at Amazon. ReverbNation has a nice marketing layout of it for more information. I keep it on repeat play between Thanksgiving and January–it is the good stuff and Craig Bickhardt’s guitar playing is just ridiculous.

Finally, over the years I have increasingly tended more to Advent than Christmas itself. That, for me is the place of genuine spiritual renewal and preparation for the coming year. To that end I have found a fantastic disc: Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. It can be found on Amazon as well. –Ashley Cleveland

An update of a Christmas classic from Family Force 5

Alternative pop-rock band Family Force 5 releases their Christmas single, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on November 18. True to form, Family Force 5 adds their signature electronic/dance/pop vibe to this interpretation of the holiday classic, complemented by their trademark over-the-top artwork.

Like many bands, the creation of the song all came down to the right inspiration. Unlike many bands, their inspiration revolved around some cheap green velvet from the basement. Derek Mount (a.k.a., “Chap Stique”) explains: “We were sitting around the studio struggling to find the right sound until Riley (Friesen, producer) grabbed a cheap, velvet Christmas tree costume that was lying in his basement and gave it to Hollywood. As soon as he put on that ridiculous green suit, the rest of us started cracking up and then blared early 2000’s hip-hop through his headphones so he could play along for inspiration.  After a few minutes, Hollywood came up with a ghetto, bouncy beat and the track pretty much wrote itself. Once we had the pocket, the remaining parts felt very natural, and very Family Force 5.”

The single drops just two days after the band wraps their 28-city “We Believe Fall Tour” with the Newsboys and 7eventh Time Down, closing out a dynamic year for the band. In October, they landed their first Hot AC/CHR No. 1 radio hit, “Let It Be Love” from their critically acclaimed album, Time Stands Still, that shot to the top of multiple album charts when it debuted Aug. 5 from Word Entertainment. Additionally, “BZRK (feat. KB),” the first music video from Time Stands Still, became the No. 1 most-viewed music video at MTV.com.

The band recently finished shooting its next highly anticipated video, “Sweep the Leg” and can be seen on Winter Jam 2015, which kicks off its 47-city run January 2. Family Force 5 will be joining label-mates Skillet, Francesca Battistelli, for KING & COUNTRY, Blanca, About A Mile and VERIDIA.

Amy Grant honored at The Hollywood Museum

Amy Grant will be honored at Lights, Cameras…Stars! Holidays Hollywood Style, which is a holiday exhibition at The Hollywood Museum honoring iconic celebrities who have made Christmas a significant part of their careers.

The exhibit opens on Thursday, November 13, with a special ceremony and cocktail party. Amy Grant’s ‘Christmas Career’ will be one of the highlights. She has recorded four Christmas albums, hosted two christmas television specials and toured with the Nashville Symphony on several holiday tours.

Other stars to be showcased at this year’s holiday extravaganza include Karen Carpenter, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Vera Ellen and Mel Torme, all of whom have become synonymous with Christmas.

‘Tyrone Power: Man, Myth and Mayhem’ will also be premiering that evening celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tyrone Power. Bob Pranga, better known as ‘Dr. Christmas…Tree Stylist to the Stars’ is decorating for both the museum and this event said, “because all of these stars have been at the very heart of our Christmas experience, this provides a great opportunity for families to come and experience the magic of Christmas with a little Hollywood glitter, because everyone loves the holidays, and everyone loves Hollywood, it’s a perfect combination.”

The Hollywood Museum, the official museum of Hollywood, has the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world. The museum, featuring four floors of breathtaking exhibits, is home to more than 10,000 authentic show biz treasures– one of a kind costumes, props, photographs, scripts, stars’ car collections and personal artifacts, posters, and vintage memorabilia from favorite films and TV shows. The museum also showcases the history of Hollywood and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.