Some people know how to send just the right gift, how to find the perfect greeting for the holidays. Classically trained A Cappella singer and YouTube wizard Peter Hollens is among them, sharing A Hollens Family Christmas, his first-ever holiday offering and a heartfelt take on the season’s brightest and most hopeful songs.
The album is also a tribute to his connections to the millions of fans who asked again and again for a Christmas album; Hollens has dedicated his astonishing career to responding to his listeners’ requests. After competing on NBC’s The Sing-Off and traveling the country to record other A Cappella groups, Hollens turned his focus to his own artistic career. He discovered YouTube was the perfect platform for his music and message. Hollens organically built a fan community on YouTube with over 1.5 million subscribers and then translated that following into thousands of Patreon patrons.
A Hollens Family Christmas is a festive gift to these supporters. With favorites old and new (and one strong original), Hollens taps the spirit and warmth of the winter holidays to remind us of life’s simpler, yet powerful and often overlooked principles. “I love this music and these songs because they are familiar,” he says. “At their core, these songs embody peace, love, unity, family, community, hope, new beginnings, and appreciation for the things we often take for granted. These are values that resonate with people all around the world, from all backgrounds and walks of life.”
Hollens teamed up with long-time friend and arranger Tom Anderson to arrange the songs on A Hollens Family Christmas, adapting many of the holiday classics to the modern A Cappella sound that is attracting new fans to the genre. Hollens also enlisted the help of several collaborators, like Jackie Evancho, One Voice Children’s Choir, Brigham Young University (BYU) Men’s Chorus, and BYU’s Vocal Point, to bring the collection of songs to life.
Each song on A Hollens Family Christmas was chosen because his community of supporters and viewers asked for them. It’s an artistic approach that Hollens has perfected, using fan passions to spark his own creativity. He gathered years’ worth of Christmas-related requests, selected songs that resonated with him personally, then crafted engaging new arrangements.
“This is an album for my supporters, and made possible because of them,” Hollens explains. “My patrons have been involved in virtually every step of the creative process of this album, which I think is incredibly unique in today's world of modern music production. Instead of taking the traditional route of leaving all of the creativity up to industry professionals, my actual fans played a huge role in putting this together!”
A collection of both classic holiday works and more contemporary songs, A Hollens Family Christmas appeals to the enthusiast of time-honored tradition as well as the youthful and spirited listener. Kicking off the album with the opening track “Little Drummer Boy,” Hollens breaths new energy and life into an age-old classic, infusing Latin American rhythms with elements of club music to create a catchy, groove heavy dance track.
A beautiful arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” does not stray far from the original and familiar carol. Featuring One Voice Children’s Choir, BYU Men’s Chorus, and BYU Vocal Point, the song speaks directly to the transcendent power and reach that these songs have to draw people together regardless of background, boundaries, and differences.
The cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” is a duet, featuring classical crossover singer Jackie Evancho. Setting the stage with flawless execution of harmonies and adaptation of the instrumentation from the original song to vocal parts, Hollens and Evancho exchange lines back and forth throughout the song, creating a captivating and dynamic performance that concludes with them singing in unison.
Hollen’s profound gratitude for his supporters shines in the A Cappella version of the album’s premier track, “December Song.” An original song written by Hollens, the track delivers a powerful call to listeners to embrace the ideals of the winter holidays at all times, not just during the holiday season. Stripping away the instrumentation, Hollens’ intimate vocals and impassioned performance demonstrate the impact the voice alone can have, highlighting the genuine connection, appreciation, and love Hollens has built with his listeners.
“Everyone talks about peace and goodwill one time out of the year,” says Hollens. “We celebrate this ideal that all is calm and bright, but 11 months out of the year we fight and hate. All year long should embody the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season. Love is greater than hate.”