Christmas cheer is all around

With Christmas fast approaching, a number of artists are already releasing their holiday albums and projects to get us in the festive spirit.

Emmy Award-winner and five-time Grammy nominee, Brandon Heath, is releasing his debut holiday album 'Christmas is Here'. His fifth studio album and first Christmas collection follows his recent work, Blue Mountain, which was also released this month.

The album features three original songs and seven classics, including "Silent Night" and "O Co me All Ye Faithful".
One of Heath's new songs, called "The Day After Thanksgiving" pokes fun at Christmas commercialism whilst "Momma Wouldn't Lie to Me" is a light-hearted tune where Heath sings of a real-life conversation he had with his mother about the truth of Santa Clause.

"I want people to just hear a song and slip back into the past," he says. "Good Christmas music is really about sparking people's memories."

Renowned worship leader and songwriter, Paul Baloche, is also releasing his first ever Christmas recording, titled Christmas Worship, out on October 29 from Integrity Music.

Guest vocalists include All Sons & Daughter, Kathryn Scott and Aaron Shust.

Like most Christmas projects, the album features new festive songs alongside re-imagined classics, including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".

The goal of this three-time Dove Award-winning artist and worship pastor was to create a Christmas album that could be used within a church setting.

Baloche explained: "We all love the content of Christmas carols, but often they don't facilitate a vertical expression of worship towards the Lord. So the idea of this album was to take classic Christmas carols that we all enjoy singing and combine them with modern worship choruses to encourage worship all throughout the Christmas season."

Grammy nominated Dave Barnes has announced the release of his second Christmas project, A December to Remember, available on October 29.

This album is a follow up to Barnes' 2010 holiday album, Very Merry Christmas.

Like his previous work, A December to Remember features six original tracks, four written and two co-written by Barnes, as well as five Christmas classics.

North Point Music are also getting into the Christmas spirit with their second Christmas album, North Point Christmas: Let There Be Light, releasing next week on October 29.

Let There Be Light was produced by two-time Grammy Award-winning producer Nathan Nockels, and is a collection of timeless classics and witty new tunes - altogether a great festive listen.

North Point worship leader Casey Darnell said of the new album: "It was such a privilege to be part of a project like Let There Be Light. A lot of people only attend church at Christmas or Easter, so hopefully this CD is a way for them to take something meaningful that they hear or experience with them throughout the season."

Grammy and Dove Award winner John Schlitt is releasing his first collection of Christmas songs, The Christmas Project, on November 12.

Last month, Canadian singer David Ian released his second holiday album, Vintage Christmas Wonderland, as a follow up to his popular 2011 release.

This album sees a number of classic holiday tunes revamped in a jazzy vintage style, including "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and holiday favourite "Jingle Bells".

Without question, Ian's vintage sound captures old-time festive spirit and sends listeners back to the Christmas of the 1950s.

Instead of producing an album, multi-platinum recording artist Michael W Smith is once again taking the word of God on tour. His annual "Celebrate Christmas" starts December 1 in Tennessee and features special guest, American Idol finalist Angie Miller.

Smith commented, "Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas, so I always look forward to touring at Christmas. Having Angie Miller out with us will be a lot of fun. In addition to an incredible voice - she brings an excitement and enthusiasm to the shows that I think will be energising. Christmas is special. It deserves to be celebrated and that's what we plan on doing!"

Miller shares: "I have looked up to Michael forever and have been singing his songs in church my whole life. I am incredibly honored to be on this tour with him now!"

Christmas cheer is also being transported to our screens this season.

EchoLight Studios are releasing a holiday movie 'The Christmas Candle' in UK theatres on November 26.

The tale set in a 19th century English village marks the acting debut of Scottish singer and Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle.

The film is based on the book by Max Lucado and also stars Samantha Barks, who played Eponine in the film adaptation of Les Miserables.

In addition to acting in the film, Boyle recorded the song "Miracle Hymn" for the soundtrack.

EchoLight Studios said: "The Christmas Candle will remind audiences of the spirit and sense of wonder of the season – something that is often lost in our modern era."