Ben Caplan “O Holy Night” (2020)

Rhyme and Reason Records
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I think this may be the only time I’ve ever written, or will ever write, about “O Holy Night” on this blog. I don’t normally warm up to the classics, as the classics are classics for a reason… they are done, and done, and done… so to me, they are done. Ben Caplan, this Canadian, Jewish, folk musician has managed the near-impossible… because here we are. On his Bandcamp page, Ben writes about why he decided to record this song, and it is enlightening:

I didn’t grow up listening to much Christmas music. Being Jewish, Christmas wasn’t a big thing in my home [read: non-existent]. That said, we all know it’s pretty hard to ignore the Christmas season; just like everyone else, I am constantly bombarded with Christmas cheer outside of the home. I have to admit that I find a lot of that music a bit corny. Where is that minor fall? Where is the major lift? Where is the bafflement?

I’ve always loved the idea of recording my own take on this music. There are a lot of great Christmas songs out there, but I don’t love all the aesthetic choices. Where are all the violins and clarinets!? I have a deep felt belief that if you don’t like something, you should do something about it. It’s not enough to complain from the sidelines!

I had my first opportunity to dip my toe into the icy Christmas music waters in 2012 when I recorded Fairytale of New York with Norwegian artists Katzenjammer and Trondheimsolistene. On that project, I got to work with a huge string ensemble and a terrific arrangement. On my recording of O Holy Night, I wanted to use a similarly lush and over-the-top arrangement, but take it in my own darker direction. That said, I can’t take much credit. I owe a lot to my collaborators.

Ben then goes on to break down the full journey of this recording – from the intital concept, to the particulars of the recording. All said, he worked with sixteen other artists over four years from concept to final song. There is a dedication there that you can truly hear in the music – there is not a note off, and those notes are fascinating. Ben has imbued “O Holy Night” with power, perhaps unsettling at times, that you did not expect, and cannot deny. The song is stirring and emotional, and it leaves me amazed. I tip my cap to Ben Caplan, as well as the sixteen other musicians and artists involved in this triumph.

Bottom Line: Ben Caplan and Co. have taken white bread and created a bloody feast.

LISTEN