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O Holy Night - Best vocalization

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
The song O Holy Night has achieved a place in the Christmas holiday catalogue of most singers. The song itself is beautiful, usually with a piano introduction slowly building to its dramatic conclusion. This is where artists like to use their unique style as their "walk off shot". Regrettable that the great Karen Carpenter never did a lead vocal on it. What is your favorite vocal performance of this particular song? If you can, pls post the performance with a brief explanation of why you feel that way.

I boiled it down to 4 performances;

Nat King Cole - Great in every respect. Not over-produced like nowadays.

Celine Dion - A little over-the-top at the end. I guess she had to live up to her billing.

Carrie Underwood - Don't laugh, she does an awesome version. Very emotional.

Josh Groban - See below;

All great performances, but I felt that Groban's was absolutely flawless and captured the emotional magnitude that the lyrics where designed to inspire;

 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I'd add Donna Summer's version to your list. Just a great performance where you can tell the song lyrics mean something personal to her.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I'm sorry to be a little difficult, but from childhood, the version of "O Holy Night" that always pushed my buttons and to which I always compare every other version I hear is the magnificent version from MUSIC OF CHRISTMAS by Percy Faith. As a child, I had a two-record 45 RPM set with 8 tracks. Here's "O Holy Night", the mono version, from that release, all cleaned up nice here.


It was later re-recorded in stereo and has been issued a number of times. I have an old Columbia stereo LP, a CD from the 80s, and a 2017 CD remaster on Real Gone Records. It gives me goosebumps to this day.

So forgive me for using essentially an instrumental version when you asked for vocals. I'll plead semi-innocent since there are some choir vocalizations here! :)
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
Josh Groban. He actually sings it correctly.
Celine Dion is alright too.
I’m not a big fan of either artist, but they both do the song well. Very listenable.
 

cam89

Well-Known Member
Mariah Carey does it for me. I saw her Christmas album when it first came out...was it 1994? I was at HMV and at a listening station and I clicked on the O Holy Night track and was blown away by her version....the deep notes! And fell in love with that version....still to this day! Another one that comes second would be Sandi Patty.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member



I like Evie Tornquist, Sandi Patti and Prism’s versions. Prism’s version is pretty unique. It kind of reminds me of the jazz song that Rita Coolidge performed on “The Muppet Show” with Animal (and Animal didn’t like playing the drums on).
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
All great performances, but I felt that Groban's was absolutely flawless and captured the emotional magnitude that the lyrics where designed to inspire;
"O Holy Night" is possibly my favourite Christmas song, and yet, when it comes to recordings of it by popular artists, I am usually disappointed at best, and infuriated at worst. They almost always find a way to mess it up! That Groban performance is not "flawless". The first verse is wonderful, and then, for some inexplicable reason, he didn't sing the first lines of the second verse: "Surely He taught us to love one another. His law is love, and His gospel is peace." Why omit those lines? As for Carrie Underwood's version from her new Christmas album, in the second verse, she substitutes the lyric "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother", with "Chains shall He break, for His child is our brother". I've never heard it done that way before... I guess that slavery is still a touchy subject with some southern country listeners. Also, most recordings of the song, including those by Groban and Underwood, seem to skip the third verse entirely. Either an artist sings the first two verses and stops, or they sing the first two verses and then repeat the first. It drives me nuts.

The best performance I've ever heard, oddly enough, was by Kenny Rogers. He was a guest on a Christmas concert with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, that aired on PBS years ago. When I heard the first notes play, I thought "Oh no, here we go again!", but damned if Kenny didn't sing all THREE verses, without botching any of the lyrics! I remember jumping to my feet and applauding at the end!
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
I made an error in my post above. Most versions recorded by popular artists include the FIRST and THIRD verses, and skip the SECOND verse entirely. On his Christmas album, Kenny Rogers only sang verses one and three. He sang the full song on that one TV appearance only.

These are the complete lyrics of the English version, written by John Sullivan Dwight in 1855:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
 
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Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I second you, Murray, in "Oh Holy Night" as one of if not my very favorite Christmas song. I love Richard's performances of it, but I so wish Karen had sung it.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Like many Aussies, I’m not the least bit religious, but I do enjoy Christmas music and a lot of classical choral work, which, obviously, often has a religious base.

For me, nothing means Christmas like Kings College Choir, Cambridge, so I put their version as one of the best.

I enjoy a lot of Christmas songs but, I have to say, ‘O Holy Night’ is not one of my favourites. However, I do like Richard’s instrumental arrangement and performance.

By the way, there is a lot of moral and ethical reasoning behind my atheism - it’s not that I’ve just not decided to become religious.

Having said that, I think that Karen’s performances on some of the Christmas songs are amongst her best and I particularly like her vocals on the ‘An Old Fashioned Christmas’ album.
 

Timmerman

Well-Known Member
I agree with Murray. I love "O holy night" but many performances, even by "big names" don't really do it justice somehow.
That said, I'd like to add to renditions that haven't been mentioned above yet.
Jewel's version from her 1999 "Joy: A Holiday Collection" album is quite delightful. I was quite surprised by her vocals on this one. And it's produced and arranged by Arif Mardin.


The first version I heard as a child that really made any impact (besides the short part in a medley on Ray Conniff's "We Wish you a Merry Christmas") was Plácido Domingo's performance in the Christmas special "The Sound of Christmas" (it starts at 9:52 under Julie Andrews' voice-over and continues once she's inside the church where Domingo is "rehearsing" with the orchestra). Perhaps not the greatest version ever but it did make me sit up and take notice of the song for the first time.

 
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