Amid gigantic Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling of the Grand Ole Opry House, Alan Jackson filmed his first-ever holiday special on Thursday (Oct. 10) with his wife Denise and three daughters by his side. The show debuts Nov. 29 on CMT.
“I’m here to bring y’all some classic Christmas music,” Jackson said, after singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Wearing a sharp red jacket, white hat and black pants — without rips in the knees — Jackson filmed the special out of sequence, usually singing a batch of upbeat songs, then a string of ballads.
He also remarked that he was proud of his first Christmas album, 1993’s Honky Tonk Christmas. But his mother, who was in the audience, had politely requested “a pretty Christmas album” of standards. Thus, Jackson recorded Let It Be Christmas, to be released Nov. 5 on Arista Nashville.
Following “The Christmas Song,” his 12-year-old daughter Maggie narrated a portion of the Christmas story from the Bible. Then, Jackson offered “Silent Night” with an enormous, red-and-white poinsettia tree behind him. Three additional Christmas firs, with strings of white lights, decorated the stage. Six huge golden, lighted snowflakes floated over those lucky enough to sit at café tables placed next to the stage.
After a brief set change, the curtain rose with Jackson standing amid a stack of oversized Christmas presents. As the Nashville String Machine kicked off a big band version of “Jingle Bell Rock,” Jackson’s youngest daughters — 9-year-old Ali and 5-year-old Dani — burst out of the gift boxes with a dance routine. Their classmates from dance school joined them and darn near stole the show during “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” After the precious presentation, Jackson declared, “It’ll be tough to top that now.”
The vivacious big band sound crept into “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland” as well. After Jackson finished the song, the director played back the audio performance and asked the audience to sing along. With many fans in the crowd dressed in red sweaters and holiday cardigans, they happily obliged, although almost nobody knew the words to the second verse of “Jingle Bells” — or that a second verse even existed.
With dozens of musicians on stage, many of them on strings, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Away in a Manger” served as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Taking a seat before singing “Silver Bells,” Jackson quipped, “They told me I had to sit down. They can’t keep up with me on the camera, I dance around so much.” When the laughter subsided, Jackson sang “White Christmas,” although growing up in Georgia, it’s probably unlike the ones he used to know.
Speaking of a white Christmas, a flurry of fake snow drifted across Jackson and his family — as well as the young dancers, a choral group from Belmont University, a children’s choir, the house band and the Nashville String Machine — during “Let It Be Christmas.” However, the snow curiously fell in the wrong direction, according to the director, which prompted a retake.
Nonetheless, the old-sounding song, which Jackson wrote, fit nicely into an evening of comforting Christmas music. The CMT special will air throughout the holiday season.