Reba McEntire returned to host the 9th Annual CMA Country Christmas which aired last night (Dec. 10) on ABC. A star-studded roster of country music’s biggest artists gathered together at Belmont University in Nashville to ring in the holiday season by singing beloved Christmas classics. The Curb Event Center stage was adorned with Christmas trees and twinkling lights to help create the warm and cozy holiday ambiance. You can stream the event via the On Demand app with ABC or Hulu. Check out our picks below for the seven best moments from the magical, musical night.
7. Dan + Shay “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
New Grammy nominees Dan + Shay did a beautiful rendition of the sentimental Christmas song which reminds all of us how special it is to be with our loved ones at Christmas. For families everywhere who are missing soldiers, family or friends who are miles away during the holiday season, the song holds even more meaning. Dan + Shay delivered the song with their traditional silky harmonies and it was standing ovation lovely.
6. Reba McEntire and The Isaacs “What Child Is This?”
Reba McEntire did a spectacular job hosting the evening and leading performers through a series of fun questions. “What Child Is This?” is one of several songs she performed. Her vocals are always sparkling with country delight. But, teaming up with bluegrass band The Isaacs for this traditional Christmas hymn about Jesus’ birth made the classic song extra special.
5. Brad Paisley “Away in a Manger”
It’s fun to know a superstar like Brad Paisley can even push Christmas shopping until the last minute. It was also bittersweet to hear him give a shout out to the Toys R Us store in Nashville, which closed along with all the other stores due to corporate bankruptcy. As witty as Paisley can be when co-hosting the CMA Awards, he reminded us how he shines while delivering a gorgeous, stripped-back and reverent vocal on another cherished hymn, “Away in a Manger.”
We don’t even need to justify our inclusion of legendary crooner Tony Bennett on our ranking. At 92, his signature vocals still glow like no other. The romantic duet was a fun addition to the cheery holiday set. He just brought all the warm and fuzzy feels.
5. Brett Young “Mary, Did You Know?”
Many songs throughout the night paid beautiful homage to the religious significance of Christmas. Nothing is quite as haunting and soul-stirring as “Mary, Did You Know?” Young did an extraordinary job conveying the message at the core of the song.
4. Lindsey Stirling “Canon of the Bells”
Lindsey Stirling brought a spectacular, awe-inspiring twist to the musical lineup with her exquisite performance of “Canon of the Bells.” Watching her play the violin and dance – being lifted into the air several times by supporting dancers is mind-blowing. She truly is a master of her instrument and delivered two of the most stunning performances of the night.
3. Reba McEntire “Man with the Bag”
McEntire opened the night with a fun, upbeat number about Santa Claus. She was accompanied by adorable children who played dancing elves and it was arguably the cutest performance of the night and a great way to pump everyone up at the start of the show.
2. Lindsey Stirling “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
Lindsey Stirling makes our list again for her breathtaking delivery of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” She added a melodic twist on the classic hymn which honors Christ’s birth. A group of children carried glowing packages and placed them before a cradle, which symbolically held baby Jesus.
Legendary contemporary Christian artists Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant have been doing a Christmas tour on and off together since the ‘90s. They performed what Grant named as her favorite song in their setlist, with Smith’s special take on “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” called “Gloria.” Smith is a master at the piano and he played, while they both sang and were backed by a full choir and symphony orchestra. All elements combined, the performance was a musical masterpiece and easily earns our pick for top performance of the night.