“Emmanuel” Semi-final and Final Rounds

There is no surer sign that Advent Caroling Madness has captured the heart of America than this: I am being bullied and threatened and intimidated as we get closer to the finish. There are people out there (Bylsma and Rourke) who, in a telling sign of their own insecurity about their pet favorites in the bracket, are resorting to Christmas-cancelling threats and hypnotism from afar. But rest assured, good readers, the integrity of this little endeavor shall not be compromised! If Nelson Mandela could endure 27 years in prison and emerge as an icon for justice in our broken world…I can listen to an Advent Carol with unbiased ears in the face of immense pressure! We shall overcome!

I held the Semi-finals and the Finals all today, as technically tomorrow starts the second week of Advent. The nuns were first up, and I kid you not–as I listened in my kitchen I literally had to stop unloading the dishwasher. They were that moving. The moment of worship over, David Crowder gave it his best shot. He’s got his own little short bridge that he works into the song, and when it came through the first time, I was like “this reminds me of something.” Sure enough, the second time it was right there on the tip of my tongue. And when we hit the end (go take a listen, fast forwarding to 4:18 and listen for ten seconds or so) I smiled as the recognition fell into place.

Bearded, indie, hip coolster Crowder, methinks, has been listening to some Amy Grant! Go here and fast forward to 0:25 and listen a bit. I’m serious! Amy could just sing those lines right over the top of Crowder’s little bridge!

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, on to the finals.

Then came the matchup for which I am getting such hate mail and death threats BUT I WILL NOT BOW TO INTIMIDATION! This whole journey began with what do I like, and I…I like…

(Hang on, my phone just buzzed…)

Yikes. Well I mean I like them both. You know, Punch Brothers and Pentatonix, they are both so talented. But I will stick with my own heart and… (Just a sec, I just got a tweet).

NO! I will not be moved! Here I stand, and can do no other: Pentatonix on to the finals!

(I’d like to take a moment here before rendering my final verdict to say that I truly didn’t have this thing all planned out at the beginning. I’ve really and truly gone through the process of listening each time to each version in each matchup. So none of this was a foregone conclusion…)

The Benedictines  get to have their “One Shining Moment” for Advent 2013, week 1. I do love me some cappella. And it just seems that the simple coming of a baby in a manger is best prepared for by listening to nuns singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” unaccompanied in an echoing cloister.

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 11.13.28 PM

Thanks for joining me on the journey! Next week’s bracket will be to find the best version of “Angels We Have Heard on High”. I won’t be able to give nearly as much time to it, so your votes will decide every round. Send me your recommendations for the versions you like, and I’ll post the bracket on Tuesday night. Deadline is 5 pm PST on Tuesday!

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