“I think it’s always reaching for hope…. Always hopeful, always hopeful. And as joyful as it can be. I think we’re striving for joy, and then when you can’t have that, the least you can do is be honest.” -Leslie Odam Jr., musician
Listening in Advent
The season of Advent is a time of waiting and listening for God. When we get caught up with the season’s many tasks – decorating the home, working on projects for church or school, sending cards – we let busyness drown out our watchful listening. Silence can be golden. But so can music!
With so much to listen to, from ancient hymns and contemporary remixes of carols to wintry pop songs, how do we create a sense of hopeful waiting? Streaming online music allows you to be as creative with your choices as you want, moving seamlessly from song to song. Set up an Advent playlist (or 2) that includes well-known hum-alongs, new music, instrumental music, and of course, songs you love to belt out.
There are several ways to stream music. My favorite is Spotify, because it allows you to create playlists to listen to a wide variety music. I love that I can listen from my laptop or on my phone. Creating a free account and downloading the player is fairly straightforward. (For a monthly fee you get more features including playing music while offline and no ads.) Find music by song, artist, or genre or by friends’ lists, then create your own playlists with the simple right-click function on the three dots to the right of each song.
Creating your Advent playlist can be a simple list of your favorite seasonal songs. Or shape your playlists, narrowing your search by genre, year, or artist. You can also create a list around a specific seasonal theme: light in the darkness or hope. Feeling more complex? Josh Hosler created the following Advent playlist, structuring the mix of sacred and secular around the O Antiphons. Josh created the first version of this playlist several years ago; he adds to it each year as he discovers new music – another benefit of an online playlist!
Make and Share Playlists with Friends
Spotify allows you to work collaboratively on playlists. If you want to make a playlist with friends, right-click any of your playlists and select “Collaborative playlist.” Anyone with whom you share the playlist will be able to subscribe and add/remove songs. You don’t have to help create a list to listen to it. Sharing your playlists with others is part of the joy of online music.
Two New Albums for 2016
As I looked for songs for my own Advent playlist, I discovered the following two albums, just released. You can find selections from both on Spotify, or you can buy the whole album from retailers.
O Emmanuel by JJ Wright – A fresh exploration of the O Antiphons including traditional Advent and Christmas music. The album combines a jazz trio with children’s choir and adult voices in just the right mix of expectation and joy.
Simply Christmas by Leslie Odam Jr. – In keeping with his work on the musical Hamilton, Odam explores how to bring new light to an old story, specifically how to express the joy of Christmas in 2016. In an interview with the Observer, Odam said “I think it’s always reaching for hope. If you lose that, you lose everything. [The album is] always hopeful, always hopeful. And as joyful as it can be. I think we’re striving for joy, and then when you can’t have that, the least you can do is be honest.”
Charlotte Hand Greeson shares her passion for formation as a manager, editor, and writer for Building Faith. She currently lives in California with her husband and teenage son.