Behind the Songs
Glory To God In The Highest
Back in 1992, I was living in Nashville and singing Tenor for the Speer Family. We performed about 225 concerts that year. When December rolled around, we took our annual Christmas break from the road. I always looked forward to staying home for a while and not traveling for a week or two. But on this particular Christmas break, I had a very good friend getting married in Oklahoma City, on December 19th. So in stead of kicking back and taking a time out from the road, I got in my car, and drove to Oklahoma.
During that long drive back home, I was playing a cassette tape that I had bought at Quartet Convention back in October. The tape was ONE MORE HALLELUJAH, by the Original Hinsons. Song number 2 on side 1, was a new song written by Larry Hinson, titled Joy Comes In The Morning. Although it was a new song, the Hinsons turned the last chorus into an old time Convention Style barn burner, as only they could do. It had been many years since I had heard any artist attempt to perform a song in that style.
Now, like I said, it was December, and Christmas was on my mind, but this up-tempo Convention style singing was also on my mind. I started thinking about it, and I could not remember ever hearing a Christmas song performed that way. Although I had already written about 500 songs by that point, I had never written a Christmas song. So now I had a challenge before me. How could I write a Christmas song and turn it into a Convention style song at the same time?
As I drove a little further down Interstate 40 toward the Tennessee state line, I began to think about the first Christmas song that was ever heard. It was sung by Angels to Shepherds in the field. The lyrics were simple. They simply said GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TO MEN. Since we will never know what the melody of that first song sounded like until we get to heaven, I began singing that lyric with a simple melody that I made up myself. And then I started hearing how the other lyrics and counterpoint harmonies would fit around that melody.
By the time I reached the Mississippi River, I had two verses and a chorus written in my head. I stopped and made sure it got written down quick.
I knew that I was having a lot of fun singing it to myself, but I thought it was just a novelty song, that no one else would ever be interested in singing.
I was getting ready to sign a new publishing deal with Centergy Music in January, and I needed some new songs to bring with me. So, Glory To God In The Highest was the first one I submitted to them.
I really didn't expect to get much reaction from it at all, but to my surprise, they loved it. After we made the demo, they began to pitch it to various artists. And again to my surprise, there was interest in recording it. The first group to release it was Don DeGrate and Strong Tower, on Homeland Records. At about the same time, the Mike Speck Trio recorded it and sent it out to radio as a single. I was working on a solo project to sell on the road with the Speers, and I recorded a version of my own, singing all the parts.
But then I was amazed when Homeland Records gave me a copy of the new Inspirations project, and Glory To God In The Highest was on their new album as well. Then an even bigger shock came, when not one, but several of the major Choral companies produced octavos of this little Convention Christmas song. It was a hit!
Within just a few years it was recorded by the Booth Brothers, Skyline Boys, again by the Inspirations on another recording for a new record label, along with many custom cuts. Then the unthinkable happened. I thought that for sure, the song had breathed it's last note, when the phone rang. It was Ben Speer telling me that Bill Gaither was looking for an uptempo song for the Old Friends Quartet, with George Younce, Jake Hess, Wesley Pritchard, and Ernie Haase, for a new Christmas Video. Well, to make a long story longer, they recorded it on a Country Christmas Gaither Homcoming. Then the Old Friends Quartet released it, yet again, as a radio single.
When Ernie Haase formed the Signature Sound Quartet, he decided to hang on to this little song. They have performed it on nearly every concert they've done for the last 12 years. They have it recorded on several videos and CDs. And it has almost become a Signature song for the Signature Quartet, pun intended.
Every year since then, I have found a new recording of that little song, that I thoughT no one would ever like. It just goes to show, when God has a special gift for you, just except it and say THANK YOU!
Until next time . . . Merry Christmas