Todd Agnew didn’t set out to create a CD full of great Christmas songs when he wrote and produced Do You See What I See, he wanted to tell a story. For several months Agnew immersed himself in the nativity story, everything leading up to it and related to the birth of Christ. What has emerged on this disc is a musical with wonderful tunes that are sensitive, thought provoking and are told through rich vocals and instrumentals.
Listeners will wonder about Agnew’s choice of titles for the CD. It all sounds vaguely familiar. Agnew told me in a recent interview that he mistook the original title of the song Do You Hear What I Hear as being Do You See What I See. After he had written pieces that tell the birth of Christ as seen through the eyes of various people the original title didn’t fit.
“No Room” is seen through the eyes of the innkeeper and Joy Whitlock puts in an astounding vocal performance as she joins Agnew in a duet. The song is reminiscent of last season’s “Love Came Just In Time” by Alathea and Taylor Sorenson. With a strong backbeat and blues tinged chords “No Room” is a great tune.
As Joseph looks down at Jesus lying in a manger his humanity comes to life through the words of Agnew, “I’d always dreamed I’d build the cradle we’d lay You in.” “This Is All I Have To Give” paints a humble brush stroke across a canvass of majesty.
Christy Nockels who semi-retired earlier this year to spend more time with her school aged children appears on the fourth track as Mary. In my time around the music scene Nockels has never been known to disappoint an audience. She turns in another sparkling performance.
The gentle lullaby “Sleep Well” penned by Agnew receives a beautiful reading from Shelley Jennings. Gentle and beautiful are the only words that I know of to describe a song that portrays tenderness from first note until last.
As the gritty vocals of Agnew find their way through “Did You Know” he wrestles with the question most of us have asked at one time or another, ‘Was Jesus always cognizant that he was the Messiah?’ At what point did Immanuel-God with us realize He was God incarnate? Agnew asks, “Did the cross cast a shadow over the cradle?” The song combines the beauty of the nativity with the horror and yet necessity of the cross. There can be no salvation without a birth and the angels’ proclamation of His birth is meaningless without the cross.
There is something about Agnew singing the part of the Magi in “God With Us” (track eight) that is so right. His gravelly, deep vocals capture more realistically the sense of weary travelers then the sometimes polished unblemished picture often portrayed. This was an event that on many levels had more questions than answers, more individuals perplexed than clued in. It was adoration from complete strangers bearing gifts.
This record however is not only about deep theological questions seeking answers but it is also about unbridled praise as “Glory To God” breaks loose into a moving, jubilant chorus “Glory, glory to God, glory in the highest”. We are presented with a splendid chorale presentation.
I remember as a child my parents buying me LPs (yes I really am that old) that would tell stories set to music and I would sit for hours on end and listen to the story unfold and the eyes would watch the drama unfold before my eyes. Sometimes I would cry, sometimes I would worry and other times I would laugh. The same deep rooted emotions that were evoked in my childhood will be prompted in your children’s lives and in yours as you listen to the Christmas story unfold in a way you have seldom heard it recorded before. Make this a family event and this Christmas as a family share over and over again and for years to come in the drama and the majesty of our Lord and Savior’s birth.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.