One of the greatest recordings of one of the greatest hymns.
The best time of year just got better because Luke Spehar has released a new and outstanding version of “O Holy Night”. Collaborating with Matt Patrick, who produced Spehar’s 2018 album, The Pilgrim, Luke has arranged this timeless hymn to perfection.
The song opens with Spehar’s guitar revolving around sets of triplets and when he sings the first verse, he gives a little time between each line to let the lyrics sink in. During this verse he maintains the comfortable tone of a lullaby, as the lyrics reflect the birth of Christ. We especially liked how when he sings “A thrill of hope,” the drum comes in with the rhythm of a heartbeat, as if to say the hope came with the heartbeat of Christ.
The exact moment we fell in love with this rendition was at around 2:25, with the line “Chains shall he break.” Here the accompaniment becomes truly breathtaking. It sounds like a violin and a penny whistle weaving in and out of each other in pleasant, almost Celtic tones. From this point on the song becomes a shiver factory and goosebumps rise on our arms until the end.
The orchestration is masterful as it builds into the last chorus, becoming intense with the line “Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we.” Then, as Luke approaches the final chorus, rather than reaching for the bombastic high note, he gently eases his voice up one step on the long-held “night”. While it doesn’t sound like much to describe, the result in the music may be the most touching arrangement of “O Holy Night” that we’ve ever heard.
We asked Luke what inspired his new arrangement of this timeless Christmas classic, and he explained:
“The incredible lyrics of O Holy Night cut my very core. It so eloquently expresses the heart of why Christ came. There were moments in the studio where the beauty of the words and the music would simply overwhelm me. Although thousands of versions have been made before, I still feel honored and privileged to put my heart and voice into this beautiful song and to make the truth about what it proclaims my own.”
It was also an outstanding decision to allow the strings to play the song out after the final chorus. From start to finish, Spehar’s “O Holy Night” is Christmas music perfection.