When the members of Avalon initially got together five years ago, they were individually gifted vocalists but they had yet to form the chemistry that would bond them as a unified group. Since then, Jody McBrayer, Janna Potter-Long, Michael Passons, and Cherie Paliotta have come a long way, chalking up three best-selling albums, twelve consecutive number one Christian radio singles, five Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, but most importantly honing in on their calling, and the message that they want to deliver.
"Avalon exists because we are ordained to be here," says Cherie, "I know for a fact that God has called each one of us to do this and that He has put such a burden on our hearts to bring the Gospel to people who just don't know Jesus."
The most recent manifestation of that message is Joy, the group's first Christmas album, which was released this fall, Joy, produced by Brown Bannister, is a blend of both original and familiar holiday favorites, interpreted in Avalon's unique vocal style and dynamic musical arrangements. Many of the tracks incorporate the backing of the prestigious London Festival Orchestra.
From favorites like the pop-driven "Joy (To The World)," to a big band rendition of "Winter Wonderland," to a powerful version of the ballad "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day," co-written by Celine Dion, Joy highlights Avalon's love of holiday music inspired by the members' deeply rooted faith. Joy features two medleys of traditional carols - the "Angels Medley" with standards "The First Noel" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" while the "Manger Medley" sings a mixture of "Away in a Manger," "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Silent Night."
The album also includes a heartfelt version of "Jesus Born on this Day," featuring Cherie on lead vocals. "I felt like my love for the Lord really came through, in the words in that song," said Cherie, "It just really is a beautiful display of how Christ came to earth."
Janna's personal highlight was recording "The Christmas Song." "I always loved it," she recalls. "It was a challenge because so many people have done it, but it's really dear to me."
For Joy, Avalon consciously wanted a combination of familiar and new material. "We know people like traditional songs," Jody says. "But, we wanted to arrange them in a unique way. Each of us brought different ideas to the table. I really wanted to sing 'Don't Save It All For Christmas Day.' I performed it two years ago on a Christmas tour and I wanted to record it."
But it is the message found in David Meece's classic recording "We Are The Reason" that capsulates the message and goal for Joy.
Says Jody, "We Are The Reason' just contains a powerful message-'We are the reason that He gave His life,'-the whole reason He came was for us! That is what will cross over the seasonal boundaries into the other 11 months of the year."
"Joy is a great variety, a buffet of Christmas as we see it. Joy is something that you curl up to with a cup of hot chocolate, be by the fireplace and listen to 20 years from now," defines Michael.