(from Thought Quotient)
Gloria - A Rocketown Records Christmas album
GLORIA - buy it now
In early 2004, Rocketown Records’ artists and a few other friends gathered on a brisk winter morning at Charlie Peacock’s Art House studios in Bellevue, Tennessee. Their goal was to capture immediate reflections on the Christmas season and to write freshly out of those experiences. What emerged were the blueprints for Gloria, a new Christmas collection that combines traditional music in new settings with several original songs that are sure to become part of new Christmas traditions.
Gloria addresses the anticipation that is part and parcel of the Christmas season: waiting… waiting for the birth of the Savior 2000 years ago and waiting today for His glorious return. The music of Gloria envelops the light and darkness of walking in expectation as songs range from the haunting but hopeful notes of “Prepare a Place” to the joyous summation of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”
It also rests on the idea of community, a theme vital to the holidays and a concept that’s always been at the heart of Rocketown’s identity. Runway Network producers Charlie Peacock and Scott Dente directed artists and writers through the process of collaboration that resulted in several of the 11 songs on Gloria. Pairing the artists in unexpected co-writing combinations fostered both creativity and anxiety, but ultimately produced great results. “Co-writing with people you don’t know too well can be intimidating,” notes Peacock. “Our job was to be encouragers and affirm the good ideas we were hearing.”
With writing and performance contributions from Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Charlie Peacock, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Cindy Morgan, Ginny Owens, Watermark and more, this album is a must-have for any Christmas music collection. “For many years our loyal and faithful Rocketown followers have been asking the question ‘When will there be a Rocketown Christmas record?’” says Rocketown Records President Don Donahue. “For a while now we’ve been brewing up what we hope will be a collection of songs that fans will have in their homes for many, many Christmas seasons to come. We want this music to help each of us rediscover the true rhythm of the entire season through songs that focus on the anticipation and expectation that surrounds our celebration of Christ’s birth.”
Co-producer Charlie Peacock notes that the idea of Advent influenced how the artists wrote for Gloria. “Advent is about the season before Christmas, the first four Sundays to be exact,” he explains. “It is also more specifically about the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God. Advent got us thinking bigger, bigger than the single day of Christmas. It became for us an invitation to a season of reflection on the birth, life, cross and resurrection of Jesus.”
“I love the idea that the Advent season is a journey to the cradle of the Christ,” adds co-producer Scott Dente. “The Gloria record is filled with themes of anticipation, excitement, awe and longing.”
Those themes emerge from classic traditional favorites like “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” as well as from newly written original songs from a variety of writers in collaboration. “I liked the community aspect of Gloria,” says Peacock, “the fact that it was born out of Rocketown first with an invitation for others to take part. I can only hope that we achieved some of the cohesion that other Christmas albums sometimes lack. I trust we got more right than wrong by banding together the way we did.”
All various artist compilations offer the special challenge of creating a cohesive album from musically diverse artists, a feat apparent with Gloria as the styles represented range from the pop sensibilities of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and Ginny Owens to the bluegrass-influenced folk of Alathea to the modern rock attributes of Taylor Sorensen and nearly everything in between. In order to find common ground, the artists began meeting in early 2004 in community-driven writing sessions. Unique combinations surfaced from Michael W. Smith and Christine Dente (”Prepare a Place”) as well as from Taylor Sorensen, Alathea and Jars of Clay’s Steve Mason (”Love Came Just in Time”). Other new tracks inspired by these community sessions included Cindy Morgan’s “Follow That Star” and a song written by Wayne Kirkpatrick and recorded by Amy Grant, “God Is With Us.”
Scott Dente says, “All of these artists have a very strong identity, either vocally or stylistically, so retaining their uniqueness was never a problem. The trick was in combining their efforts to make a record that made a strong overall statement. A bit of a puzzle to be sure, but a lot of prayer and conversation took place to try and achieve the goal. We tried to weave a thread of continuity through the record by using sounds and musicians that could be constant throughout all 11 songs since the voices and even the styles of music would change.”
Not only do those individual artists blend together well on Gloria, but audiences across the country will hear those voices come together once again for this Christmas season’s Gloria tour. Currently being booked, the “Gloria” tour is expected to hit 15 markets during the first three weeks of December and will feature such artists as Ginny Owens, Watermark and Shaun Groves, among others.
Watermark’s Christy Nockels says, “It is my prayer that this tour will be a real meaningful time for all of the artists to worship, reflect and celebrate together. When I think about Christmas, I think about gathering together with people you love. It will be a cool thing to get with other artists and to bring that into different parts of the country.”
It’s a tour that makes sense for Shaun Groves as well, since it allows the celebration to extend beyond Christmas Day alone. “I don’t really feel like Gloria is just about one day out of the month. I think we hope that it is something you can listen to way before Christmas, getting your mind and your heart around the idea that there’s anticipation for Christmas. There’s anticipation to Christ being here. It made the gift that much more special because it was long awaited and felt overdue at times.”
Scott Dente says, “I just hope that listening to Gloria is a reflective and joyful experience that brings people closer to the wonder of the Incarnation of Jesus. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
quotes: the artists comment on the making of…
Christine Dente (on “Prepare a Place”):
I find in our culture it is so difficult to focus. I thought this would be a great song for me and Michael, and I thought it would be wonderful to create a meditative kind of sound to help people be quiet, to listen, prepare their hearts, prepare a place.
Amy Grant (on “God Is With Us”):
I heard about Gloria through my manager whotold me that Charlie would be producing it out at the Art House and that Wayne had written a song. That did it for me. Work is a great excuse to be around people you enjoy. I liked ‘God is With Us’ the first time I heard it. How nice it is to have your attention grabbed right up front, and Wayne always has something great to say in his songs.
Shaun Groves (on Gloria, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the “Gloria Tour”):
The Gloria record is an invitation to experience Christmas in a new way, putting Christ in the center of that, to come to this child in a manger as if it’s for the first time. Hopefully, it will help people experience that by showing the waiting that went on for Christ to come. There was anticipation for hundreds of years for this Messiah that was going to come. “O Come All Ye Faithful” is saying, “Come. The dream has been realized. The promise has been kept. The hope is really here. It happened. Some of us didn’t think it would, but it happened. It’s here. This is what we’ve been waiting for”… I had a blast on the last Rocketown tour. It keeps you laughing. I like hanging out with songwriters even though I like things that are pretty different than George [Rowe] or Ginny [Owens] or the Dentes or the Nockels. Still at the heart of what we do are songs, which means we aren’t the prettiest people, we can’t dance. I like being around artists that know that all we really know how to do is write songs. There’s a bond there that I don’t necessarily have with other artists. So if I have to be away from my family around the holidays and on the road, I like to be with people I really like hanging out with. I really do like hanging out with our artists.
Cindy Morgan (on “Follow That Star” and working with Rocketown Records):
After we had our first meeting about the project and about the idea of Advent, I started thinking about the spirit of Christmas and about all the parts of the story that we know and then the mystery behind so many of the events, the small details. How did the wise men know? How did the shepherd boy end up following that star? What were his emotions? Where was he in his life? I started thinking about the shepherd who is lying on his back looking up at the stars in Bethlehem, wondering ‘what my life is about’ and the amazing impact beholding the Savior must have had on his life� I was involved with the Exodus record and A Night in Rocketown and have done a couple of Rocketown tours. It is funny; I don’t know why in the world, but I just love the folks at Rocketown. I connect with them creatively, and I’ve always loved the records they’ve done, so when they asked me I was thrilled.
Christy Nockels of Watermark (on “O Come O Come Emmanuel”):
It is probably one of my favorite Christmas songs; I love it. Melodically I think it is very mysterious. I really love it because it goes along with the Advent theme so well. That the Messiah would come and rescue us, save us and ransom us - I love that whole theme. I think it is beautiful to dwell on at Christmas time. It is a song of healing and recognizing where our healing comes from, that He has come to set us free.
Charlie Peacock (on production of Gloria):
Though we wrote more songs than we could actually use, I think we ended up with the best combination. We were able to keep some in the mix that have a playful, celebratory mood like so many classic Christmas recordings. We put some very introspective and personal songs in the mix, too. The collaborations are some of my favorites, especially the Alathea/Taylor cut… All the artists are unique singer-songwriters. Still I have to reserve a special comment for Christy Nockels. She is a stunning singer.
Mandee Radford of Alathea (on “Love Came Just in Time”)
The night before our songwriting day I was trying to think of waiting for Christ to come, and the line came to me ‘when everybody’s looking for a sign, love came just in time.’ I talked to Cristi [Johnson] about that, and she and I looked up in the Bible the story in Luke 2 about Simeon and Anna. Simeon was a priest and Anna was a prophetess who spent their whole lives at the temple. They knew they weren’t going to die until they saw the Messiah. I thought, ‘There’s no better picture of anticipation and waiting for Christ than what they went through their whole lives, living that out.’ I was really touched by this story about Anna. She was an 84- year-old widow. She had been married as a young woman for only seven years when her husband died. She spent the rest of her time at the temple praising God and waiting for the Messiah. Her tired, old eyes got to see her salvation and ours. Her story isn’t just the story of the day that Mary and Joseph came to the temple with Jesus, but the story of all the days that led to that one. Day after day of hope and belief that love would come, and He did.
George Rowe (on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the “Gloria Tour”)
“O Come All Ye Faithful” is actually one of my favorite traditional Christmas hymns. I think it is a really rich and thought-provoking lyric, and even more so musically. I’ve always loved the melody and harmonies of it. So I was psyched to record this one… In terms of the tour, it’s always fun to be together, and we don’t get a chance to do that too often, maybe once a year. I’ll try to stay out of trouble.
Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith (on “Prepare a Place”)
I think it’s a miracle in itself for two people who have never written together to have a song within an hour. It’s just one of those things that happened quickly. I love it. I think Christine sounds great, and the song sounds like Christmas to me, like a hymn. I think I started playing the melody first, just put my hands to the piano and Christine came up with “Wait for the holy one” line. There was automatically a marriage of the melody and the chorus, and she got the pen and paper and started writing away.
Taylor Sorensen (on “Love Came Just in Time”)
It was Mandee’s idea, and I ran with it. She was thinking of different characters that normally don’t get thought about in the Christmas story. There’s just an amazing sense of anticipation. Anna and Simeon kind of represent Creation as a whole, especially the Hebrew people. I thought it was a good insight. We opened up Luke and started reading through some of the descriptions, observed what was going on and tried to put ourselves into the shoes of Anna and Simeon.