If the calendar says â€œDecemberâ€ and David Phelps is ready to sing, it can only mean one thing: It Must Be Christmas!
Phelps, the powerful tenor who is one of gospel musicâ€™s most recognizable voices, has been bringing the message of hope through Jesus Christ across the country in his annual â€œIt Must Be Christmasâ€ tour.
We caught up with David after he performed to an enthusiastic crowd at Shelby Christian Church in Shelbyville, Ky. It had been a night of dynamic worship, fun and a challenge to help others.
â€œIt has been great,â€ Phelps said of his 20th Christmas tour. â€œWe have just been blown away.â€
And if the night in Shelbyville was indicative, that reaction goes both ways. The energy flowing from Phelps and his backup band of six musicians and
two vocalists — Phelpsâ€™ daughters, Callie, and Maggie Beth — charged a crowd of about 1,000 slightly more than two weeks before Christmas Day.
The tour is sponsored by the KORE Foundation, which promotes the work it does in Haiti, helping farmers become self-sufficient in the poultry business. Midway through the program, Phelps paused so that concert-goers could see a
video of the foundationâ€™s work and be challenged to contribute.
Itâ€™s about giving for the One who gave his life. And Phelps makes sure the concert focuses on the season that celebrates God becoming man.
â€œWe drop our non-seasonal music and just do completely Christmas for the month of December,â€ Phelps says. â€œItâ€™s a lot of fun.â€
Early in the concert, he sang the theme song of the tour, â€œIt Must Be Christmasâ€ and soon after covered Jackie DeShannonâ€™s big 60s hit, â€œWhat the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.â€ Phelps tied the message of the pop song to loving Christ and loving others.
He says the message reaches people who are searching and he says itâ€™s not uncommon for an attendee to share how the concert has affected him. â€œWe are always humbled and honored when that happens that our music can reach someone on such a personal level,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s always just amazing. We hope that we are honorable vessels to deliver the message of hope that is in the songs.â€
Phelps says the Christmas season presents an opportunity to share the message of Christ through song. â€œDefinitely. Itâ€™s a great time to come together and celebrate renewal,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s the end of the year and itâ€™s starting over again and thatâ€™s what Jesus represents too on many levels. I think itâ€™s a great time of the year for everybody, no matter where they are. They may have not stepped in a church all year long, but they love to come together to listen to Christmas music and to celebrate.â€
Phelps became a household name in Christian music during his 15 years as a member of the Gaither Vocal Band. Heâ€™s coming up on two years of touring strictly as a soloist and says 2018 has been a blessing.
â€œTo this point, itâ€™s been very, very busy, but we’re good,â€ he laughed.
Phelps says his decision to leave the Gaither Vocal Band has presented an opportunity to expand his creativity. â€œFor Bill, it was a job. I would do what he asked me to do. If he wanted me to sing a certain line, I would do that,â€ Phelps explains, â€œand that was wonderful! I enjoyed it and stayed there for a long time. He is a great mentor to me.
â€œBut out here, we get to express ourselves a little more as a soloist.â€
Phelps closed his concert with what might be his signature song, â€œOh, Holy Nightâ€ and a rousing version of â€œFeliz Navidad.â€
But even though the It Must Be Christmas Tour continues through Dec. 21, Phelps says 2019 promises to be another big year. â€œWe have a new video coming out just before Easter. Itâ€™s called The Hymnal Project,â€ he says. â€œWe have been working on that and we will be
touring nationally and internationally. We will be recording, too.â€
And come December, 2019, David Phelps will be traveling the country to celebrate Christâ€™s birth once again.
By John Herndon
John Herndon writes regularly for SGNScoops Magazine, and has his own blog here as well.