Audrey DuBois Harris: Joy to the World: A Christmas Celebration

Posted December 22, 2018 by in Classical



2.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Genre: Gospel, opera
Label: Noble World Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 55:%4
Release Date: 29 October 2018
Spin This: "What Child Is This," "O Come, O Come, Emanuel"


"O Come, O Come, Emanuel" and "What Child Is This" shows off the majesty of Harris's register and glorious operatic tone


Production, arrangements, musical direction deserves more

Opera singer famous for performing at Queen of Soul’s homegoing gift puts a bow on gospel-meets-opera album

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Opera singer famous for performing at Queen of Soul’s homegoing put a bow on gospel-meets-opera album

audreyduboisharris-00You may not know the name, and maybe opera isn’t exactly your forte, but you’ve certainly heard of the voice of Audrey Dubois Harris. Bolstered by a world watched solo performance of the gospel hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” at Aretha Franklin’s highly televised homecoming, the classically-trained singer kicks out an eleven-track holiday album full of familiar holiday favorites and 21st century spirituals on Joy to the World: A Christmas Celebration. And although has astonished opera houses and concert halls worldwide, this project relocates her into a different context, one that feels unapologetic spiritual and even soulful.

Harris’ soprano sounds radiant and poised, particularly on the more acoustic-meets-recital laidback performances like “O Come O Come Emmanuel” or the tranquil jazzy “Silent Night.” There’s a good chunk of soul-soaked opera fusion inside, exposing the ballsy, yet effective risks she takes. The calypso-driven “What Child Is This” finds Harris belting glorious high crescendos, showcasing the sheer beauty of her upper register.

Everything comes to a boil on “Little Drummer Boy,” a standout cut peppered with juke joint swag and Allen Toussaint soul. Even the sprightly Carribean-tinged “The First Noel” sounds at home with the vocal sweetness of Harris. But some of the carol arrangements simply demand more from her arsenal of musicians. When they go for Sunday morning soul on the five-minute rendering of “Jesus the Light of the World,” a song that Aretha Franklin once recorded for 1987’s One Lord One Faith One Baptism, the organist tends to overwork their performance and somehow the production feels lackadaisical. It’s also molded with a perkier tempo, distancing away from the Thomas Whitfield arrangement, is injected with repetitions and sparsely sprinkled “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” lyricism. “Joy to the World,” the album’s title cut, is giving the churchy splash that Whitney Houston used on her Georgia Mass Choir-featured remake, except she’s choirless, surrounded by airy production and carries the weight of it on her shoulders. Plus, her consistent vibrato can be a little taxing on the low notes.

Still Joy to the World does an fair enough job in putting the budding opera singer in a contemporary context. Despite being wonky and awkward at times, the disc finds her willingness to widen the boundaries of soul and traditional holiday music, much like Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli did with their easy listening crossover opera and even as Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle have done with their Negro spiritual updates. It’s certainly bound to expose her gift to a larger audience and to those hungry for more of what she brought to the lives of Aretha stans.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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