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On A Quiet Night Song Notes
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Al Hilgendorf
Oct 27, 2018
11:48 AM
I never had any intention of recording a Christmas album.

There are so many good ones out there that I didn't think anyone needed another Christmas album by some unknown guy recording in his home studio. And I was certainly not going to record any well-known Christmas tunes. Many artists have done a much better job at that than I could.

But in winter of 2017 I wrote “Our Little Town” as kind of a challenge to myself. I thought maybe it was good enough to release as a single, but then, as they say, the hits kept coming. Paired with a couple of other songs I had written some time ago I ended up with 9 songs that became a cohesive Christmas package. Did I think I would get it done by Christmas 2018? I was sure going to try!

On A Quiet Night is a journey. From the opening instrumental to the peacefulness of the last song it is intended to take the listener through the nativity and, hopefully, bring back a sense of meaning and wonder to the holiday. I know. It's a tall order. Please let me know how or if I've succeeded. (Smile emoji here)

With that overall intro, here are the notes for each song:

Prelude To A King – After I had assembled the songs and came up with an order, I felt the whole project needed an introduction. I wanted to create something that sounded like the beginning of a journey. A journey on a donkey through the desert toward a new place and adventure. This is where my Alan Parsons/Steven Wilson influences took over. (Sorry for the obscure references) The wind at the beginning brings a feeling of traveling, loneliness, vulnerability. The music moves back and forth between minor and major and the instruments are a mix of electronic and organic. I also wanted a mix of high highs (bells) and low lows (bass). By juxtaposing so many opposites I wanted to show that this was a story for all mankind.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel – This song is sort of a rewrite of one of my favorite Christmas hymns “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. That hymn always begins the Christmas season for me. The cry of Israel for centuries for Messiah is what I wanted to portray. Not only that, but the cry of our hearts for our God to deliver us. The music is old world with acoustic type instruments to give it a feeling of time. My favorite part is when the accordian comes in. It always gives me a feeling of wistful longing.

The Prophet – I've always been fascinated with Old Testament prophecy and I seem to find prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus more and more. I tried to pack this song with as many Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament as I could. There are many, many more though. Trust me. It's an upbeat song but I still wanted to keep it very acoustic oriented with a simple arrangement. The electric guitar is there mostly for color.

Our Little Town – As I wrote above, this was the first song written here. It is my version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” from the perspective of a skeptical resident who doesn't “believe in any miracles because we've seen way too many fools.” I love the back country feel of the resonator guitar that, yes, I bought for just this song. (I'll use it more, I'm sure).

Lullaby – I actually wrote this tune many years ago as a freshman in college but I never really knew what to do with it. It really seemed to fit here, though. I got my wife, Carolyn, to play flute on the melody, which should satisfy all of our friends who say “When is she going to play flute on your record?”

All Kings Must Be Babies First - I don't know where I got this title, whether I thought of it or I heard it somewhere. I don't remember. It's a pretty cool concept, though. The toy piano was a little hard to find. I finally found a phone app and recorded that. I also used my friend Darren's acoustic guitar on this one.

Oh, Magi – I wanted to write a song that was a little more true to scripture about the wise men.
We so often see pictures of them bowing at the manger, but they didn't show up until some time later at Joseph and Mary's home in Bethlehem. Of course, after I'd written it, the island style of music seemed to fit. So, hopefully this is one Jimmy Buffet could be proud of.

O Come, Let Us – This is a song I wrote over ten years ago but I changed a couple of things that were bugging me about it. It's a very joyous call to worship, so that means lots of bells. The violin and mandolin give it a bit of a Celtic feel.

Winter's Day – I used to turn out the lights, sit on the couch and stare at the softly lit Christmas tree while listening to one of my many favorite Christmas records. I tried to capture that feeling in this song, which sums up all that the holiday is about.

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