Acclaimed movie soundtrack composer Tommee Profitt set out to make “the most epic Christmas album ever made."
Popular carols, spiritual Christmas hymns, Gregorian chants, even jazz versions … There’s hardly a famous singer, from Frank Sinatra or Elvis to Enya, Sting or Annie Lennox, who hasn’t applied his or her talent to holiday music old and new.
This year 2020 has been an epic one for all of humanity. What better way to celebrate this unusual Christmas than with a soundtrack suitable for an over-the-top action movie?
We’re celebrating the true story of God ripping open heaven to come down to Earth to hide in the womb of an unknown woman; having to flee his homeland to escape from a massacre, hunted by a tyrant; being adored by the wise men and proclaimed by the music of angels from on high. Could anyone say that’s not “epic” enough?
Tommee Profitt thinks it is. The 36-year-old composer from Michigan already has a track record as a composer of epic music for the cinema. In an interview with The Knockturnal, he said:
My goal was to make “the most epic Christmas album ever made” haha…. Something that felt like The Lord of the Rings … except instead it’s about the story of a King being born, greeted by angels, who’s coming to save the world! That is an epic synopsis if I’ve ever heard one!
Profitt is a musician with a solid career. To his talent we owe soundtracks such as the second installation of The Hunger Games trilogy, but he has also participated in creating music for series such as Bones or The Good Doctor.
He has also written music for video games including Assassin’s Creed and Apex Legend. He worked with Christian rapper NF during much of his career, which has possibly been his greatest source of fame.
However, ever since he was a student, he’s had a dream: to follow up on an assignment he once had to make a new arrangement of a classic Christmas carol, doing something new with it. He told The Knockturnal:
I enjoyed doing that so much, and it birthed the dream of some day making a HUGE Christmas album, and taking all of the classic carols, and putting my own spin on them. Obviously, I wanted to keep some of the timeless and classic, while others I either added choruses, or straight-up changed the entire thing into a reimagination. But I wanted it all to feel cohesive … like an epic movie about the Christmas story.
A powerful story
Thus was born The Birth of a King, an impressive, solid, powerful album, which has nothing to do with what most of us have heard before. Tommee Profitt says that he’s simply unpacking the potential already present in those Christian hymns we know so well. He told The Christian Beat:
It’s been amazing. I’m so super grateful that people are finding the album and listening. The response has been far beyond what I had imagined, but not just by people liking the record, but by the way God is working through it.
Take “What Child Is This,” for example. The lyrics were written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix, an insurance company manager who was going through a very difficult time in his life due to physical illness and depression. He overcame the situation thanks to an unexpected spiritual experience. The melody, “Greensleeves,” is a traditional English folk song.
Sung by Avril Lavigne with Profitt’s arrangement, it becomes a grandiose hymn:
“The First Noel” (“Noel (He Is born)”), a traditional English hymn from the 17th century, in Profitt’s hands begins with a simple piano accompanying the delicate voice of Stanaj, and ends up with a powerful chorus that gives you shivers:
Profitt told The Christian Beat:
I don’t think people start listening to a Christmas album thinking that they’re going to be impacted by something powerful, but I felt very much like God was in this process (…). I felt like this was an album that HE wanted to be made, so that He could offer hope to people at the end of 2020, arguably one of the worst years in history, and point them to worship Him. Or maybe even think about the story that sometimes gets brushed over in the midst of family, presents, and snow. People are desperate for hope today, and maybe because of this difficult year, they’re more open to receiving that hope. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be hit with that surprise while listening to The Birth of a King.
Listening to his version of “We Three Kings,” a hymn originally written by John Hopkins in 1857, gives an even more dramatic touch to the way we imagine the heroic journey of the three mysterious Magi following a prodigious star!
On this album, “Angels We Have Heard on High”—an old French carol—is sung by the remarkable voice of Nicole Serrano:
We’ll end our overview of this album with his moving rendition of “Silent Night,” the famous German Christmas carol composed in 1818 by Franz Gruber, sung here by Fleurie over a musical background that evokes the infinite spaces of the heavens:
The entire album is available on multiple streaming platforms, including Spotify.
Click and enjoy!