Sara Groves was born Sara Lee Colbaugh on September 10, 1972. She is married to Troy Groves. The couple have three children. Sara received a Bachelor of Science degree in History and English from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri in 1994. She was a high school teacher in Minnesota for four years. Her debut album was 1998’s PAST THE WISHING. Two of my favorite albums of hers are 2005’s ADD TO THE BEAUTY and 2011’s INVISIBLE EMPIRES. In 2008 she released O HOLY NIGHT (INO Records/Sponge Records). Musicians appearing include: Zach Miller, Ken Lewis, Troy Groves, Aaron Fabbrini, and Tyler Burkum. Ben Shive serves as the producer.
This Christmas album begins with ‘Star of Wonder’, a short, gentle track that makes the following request: “Star of wonder/Star of Light/Star of royal beauty bright/Guide us/Oh, guide us/Won’t you guide us?” ‘It’s True’ was penned by Sara and starts and ends with her son Toby reading in a cute voice from The Jesus Storybook Bible. This pretty song reminds us just how good the Good News is: “In your heart you hope it’s true/Though you hold no expectation/In the deepest part of you/There’s an open hesitation/But it’s true/Kingdoms and crowns/The God who came down to find you/It’s true/Angels on high/Sing through the night ‘Alleluia’”.
‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ takes us back to when Christ was so wonderfully born: “’Peace on the earth, goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King’/The world in solemn stillness lay/To hear the angels, to hear them sing.../Sing, Sing, Sing/Still through broken skies they come/With peaceful wings unfurled/And still their heavenly music floats/O’er all the weary world/Above the sad and lowly plains/They bend on hovering wing/And ever over Babel sounds/The blessed angels, the angels sing”. A soft, newly imagined version of ‘O Holy Night’ follows. These words from it, speak of the transforming power of Christ: “Truly He taught us to love one another/His law is love and His gospel is peace/Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother/And in His Name all oppression will cease.../O Lord when You came to the earth/O my soul, my soul felt it’s worth/O my soul, my soul felt a thrill of hope”.
‘To Be With You’ is a soothing folk song written by Sara, Ben Shive, and Andy Gullahorn. It reflects on the atmosphere of Christmas Eve: “We set out milk and cookies/The kids are quick to bed/They know St. Nick is coming/And nothing need be said/We gather by the fire/Reminiscing by it’s light/The kids will be up early/But it’s hard to say goodnight”. A subdued version of ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is up next. Jeff Taylor plays accordion and John Mark Painter plays trumpet. It includes these lyrics: “Angels we have heard on high/Sweetly singing o’er the plains/And the mountains in reply/Echoing their joyous strains/’Gloria, Gloria, Gloria/In excelsis deo’”.
‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ includes these well wishes for one and all: “May your heart be full of gladness/And the peace that covers sadness/May your joy be overflowing/And your many blessings growing/May you have the time you’ve longed for/With the people that you love/May you have yourself a Merry Christmas now”. ‘Toy Packaging’ was written by Sara Groves and Ben Shive. This bouncy pop song is a humorous offering: “Nothing makes me lose my cool like/Toy packaging.../I guess it’s anger management/Toy packaging.../I’m drawing up a battle plan/To extricate this robot man/My self-esteem is in the can/Toy packaging.../I hope to have it by tonight/Nevermind this dynamite/Toy packaging”.
Sara, Ben Gowell, and Aaron Fabbrini wrote ‘Peace Peace’. It takes a realistic approach message-wise: “Peace, Peace/It’s hard to find/Trouble comes like a wrecking ball/To your peace of mind/And all that worry, you can’t leave behind you/All your hopes and fears (3X)/Are met in Him tonight”. The ballad ‘A Cradle in Bethlehem’ is decidedly about the nativity: “A mother tonight is rocking/A cradle in Bethlehem/While wise men follow through the dark/The star that beckons them/A mother tonight is rocking/A cradle in Bethlehem/’A little child will lead them’/The prophets said of old’”.
‘Silent Night’ is a timeless lullaby: “Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon Virgin Mother and Child/Holy Infant so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace”. An acappella version of ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ closes things off. It urges us to tell others about the glorious Incarnation: “Go tell it on the mountain/Over the hills and everywhere/Go tell it on the mountain/That Jesus Christ is born”.
In the liner notes one can find the following: “We would like to dedicate O HOLY NIGHT to our friends at International Justice Mission who have helped us to see that the slave is our brother, and that there is hope against oppression...” Sara Groves is right at the top of the list in the CCM world when it comes to artistry and creativity. O HOLY NIGHT is no exception. Several holiday classics are here set to new tunes and melodies, all the while remaining reverent. The original songs are well-composed. Most of the album is easy listening in nature. Sara’s voice is warm and inviting. This album is by no means Christian rock. Fans of Sarah McLachlan and Michelle Tumes should buy this record. I’m rating O HOLY NIGHT 90%. For more info visit: www.saragroves.com and www.ijm.org.