If you look at the list of songs on Sara Groves’s latest Christmas album, “Joy of Every Longing Heart,” you might think that it is mostly traditional carols with the addition of a few new songs. It is true that Groves, in this, her 15th album, uses the texts of traditional carols, but she has crafted new melodies, often with echoes of the original melodies, that add a freshness to the lyrics, allowing us to hear them in new ways.
The second half of the album features a trio of new songs (plus the short instrumental, “Tidings”), which bring the recording to a peaceful and reflective conclusion with “Let Our Gladness Have No End.” It is clear that Groves wants to help us step away from the noise and superficial nature of much of what North American culture has made of Christmas. By including a pensive cover of “Winter Wonderland,” she signals that she values many of the traditions of the season but she presses us to see Christmas as a call to peace and deep joy rather than busyness and shallow happiness.
“Joy of Every Longing Heart” provides a soundtrack for the season that brings us to a place of thoughtful reflection. (Fair Trade Services)