Music Video: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Creative Collaborations To Capture A Capella Sound For A New Generation

When asked about the innovative and ground-breaking approach of producing this Christmas classic, Francis James Ralls said, “I enjoy collaboration—especially when the collaboration involves unusual pairings. With this project I reached out to two artists, each with a different sound, story, and audience, bringing them together to create something unexpected and entirely new. Each artist’s respective audience will now have opportunity to not only appreciate what the other does, but to also appreciate what we’ve accomplished together. This kind of unique creative collaboration is what I’m all about. I’m very grateful to have had this amazing opportunity to work with Aubrey Logan, and Take 6’s Khristian Dentley and Alvin Chea—three people for whom I have great admiration and respect.”

Aubrey Logan has the uncanny ability to take a song you’ve heard a thousand times and spin it on its heels to create an interpretation that’s new and fresh—and sure to make you a believer in her brand of interpreting music. She’s an award-winning artist with vocals that range from deep and electric to delicate and vulnerable. She breaks traditional genre barriers by combining jazz vocals with R&B, neo-soul, pop and a touch of rock—and she’s also a trombone soloist. Logan is a featured artist for Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. She won the Audience’s Choice Award and the Jury’s First Place Award at the 2009 Shure-Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and is an American Idol alumni, winning a golden ticket in 2009. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2010, on a full scholarship. She is a singer, instrumentalist and composer who dazzles audiences wherever she’s seen and heard around the globe.



Take 6, enough said. The name Take 6 conjures up the best in vocal jazz harmony—and just hearing their name says it all. Khristian Dentley and Alvin Chea’s Take 6 has won 10 Grammy awards and is one of the most respected a cappella groups. They represent jazz with contemporary R&B style, often with spiritual and inspirational lyrics. Earlier this year, Take 6 released Believe, an album that charted in six categories on Billboard within its first two weeks of release.

Francis James Ralls is the visionary and architect who put all of this together. He’s a composer, arranger and producer with credits that include Disney, SeaWorld Busch Gardens, EMI, ABC, Take 6, Viking Cruises, Word recording artist Blanca, and “The Voice” contestant Niki Dawson. This time he features Logan with Dentley and Chea. He has produced two world music albums for songwriter Bill Wren that have each charted at #1 and received steady airplay on SiriusXM. Francis James Ralls, better known as Frank Ralls, is experienced in many styles of music and plays multiple instruments.


The arranging and recording process involved Ralls recording his written arrangement with a lot of little extra puzzle pieces—playing with the pieces to see if they fit. He said, “I ended up dissecting individual parts, cutting them up and moving them around to audition different textures and variation ideas. This in a way mirrors certain aspects of sound design and loop production. I also asked Alvin to create a sample library for me with various vocal articulations, dynamics and bass drops. This allows me even more flexibility for changes.”

All of this resembled some traditional compositional techniques he learned in college. He says, “It’s a combination of traditional writing and recording with newer writing and editing approaches afforded us—thanks to modern technology. From the perspective of writing and producing, this new aspect is one of the things that has always excited me—the juxtaposition of traditional and modern, the tried and true with the cutting edge. In this arrangement there is jazz, funk, sprinkled with pop sensibility—broken by a brief departure in subtle ways to something that resembles period organ church music from the late medieval era.”

francis-james-ralls-6Frank Ralls wrote this a cappella arrangement, sang on the track, produced Aubrey, Khristian and Alvin, and wrote and co-produced the music video with FifGen Films (Pentatonix). The single was mixed by Ed Boyer (Pitch Perfect 1 & 2, The Sing-Off, Pentatonix). A graduate of Lawrence University, Ralls now resides with his wife Tara and their five children in Southern California.

We talked with Aubrey Logan, Khristian Dentley and Alvin Chea about their collaboration with Frank Ralls on this incredibly fresh version of the Christmas classic, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”—and Frank’s brilliant approach to create a new sound.

Tell us how working with Frank Ralls evolved?
Aubrey: I met Frank through Tim Davis, a vocal contractor. I was new to LA about four years ago, and certain people took me under their wing—and Tim was one of those guys. He gave me some studio work, which was great. He is friends with Frank—both work with vocal arrangements and composing. I love vocal arrangements and singing really hard to read stuff. I don’t do it all the time because my artist stuff is solo work—and it’s not always written. But I do love a good barn burner when it’s time. (Laughs) Tim referred me to Frank to do some work. I think it was some Broadway stuff. At the end of the session he said, “Hey, can you sing on my composition?” I looked at the sheet, and it was 7/8 time switching to 12/8—switching to all these time signatures. I said, “Yes, let’s do it!” It was for a song called “The Other Side”—and then after that, Frank called me recently to work on a song that some of the guys from Take 6 were on, and I said, “Yes, where do I sign!” (Laughs)

Khristian: Working with Frank actually started with a friend of mine, Matt Perkins, who is a music director at a large church in Central Florida. At the time, Frank was also living in that area—in Tampa, and I was in Orlando. I was telling Matt about this vision I had for taking my music and blowing it out to max capacity—big band, orchestra, with a rhythm section—biggest, baddest musical wall of sound you could ever imagine. He immediately said, “You need to meet Frank!” (Laughs) When I heard Frank’s music, I was blown away with his creativity. He is one of the most creative minds, musically, that I’ve met—who isn’t weird. (Laughs) To listen to the way he orchestrates world music stuff and sounds that I’ve never heard before—incorporating that into popular music, and doing covers of songs—you would think it was an original piece. He reimagines it and sends it back. He could take the ABC’s and make you feel like he wrote it. I say this to him all the time—he is legitimately one of the most creative people I know, and I only hope the world sees a portion of what I’ve musically experienced with him. Relationship is everything, and it’s really important to connect with people who have a generosity of spirit and who are just genuinely good people—like Frank.

Alvin: I had not met Khristian’s friend Frank, but the call came in saying “I’m trying to do this project—would you mind doing one note of every note you’ve ever sung!” (Laughs) I’m like … “Ah, who are you again?” (Laughs) And it kind of started there. We worked on it and worked on it, and he was telling me what he had in mind. And I said, “If you think you can do this with just that—we’ll see.” But sure enough, he pulled it all together, and later we ended up meeting each other a couple of times. And since then we’ve become real good friends. It’s an idea born from his heart and out of the resources of friendship.

francis-james-ralls-2How did you bring new ideas to the interpretations of this Christmas classic?
Aubrey: Frank is the arranger, and we were together in the session—and he had a lot of open spaces for me to riff and run, and creatively interpret.

Khristian: Frank said “I have this idea.” And I’m a guy who feels that if you have a good friendship and rapport with someone, I live by the mantra that everything I have is for everyone else. If I have time to jump in the car and go down the road, and offer my gift to you—I will totally do it. When I got there, he asked me to just make sounds. (makes sounds). I didn’t really understand what he was doing because I couldn’t put it all together. He had the blueprint, and I couldn’t see it. A couple of weeks after I was done, he played the track, and I was blown away—dumbfounded. I was hearing some of the phrases I had done and how he put that together—he’s like the Steven Spielberg of world music. He takes different sounds and ideas and compiles it together into one storyboard. It makes you sit back and say, “I’m sorry I ever doubted you, bro.” (Laughs) Amazing, simply amazing!

Alvin: I knew what he was trying to do, but the vision was in his head. He would say, “I need this phrase—I need that … and give it to me in three different keys.” (Laughs) It was like I was in my own little laboratory, and I would just make sure my pitches were right, and that I recorded it to the best of my ability and in a timely way. I would hear a little bit of it and he’s say, “Here’s what I have so far.” And I’d say, “I like it, I like it, I like it!” And then when Aubrey added the final piece, I was like, “Whoa, man, this is absolutely amazing.” I truly give him the credit for having the vision and staying on it. All of us worked separately, so when we actually heard what Frank did with it—we were truly amazed.

How was this song compiled—were you ever in the same room together?
Alvin: It was truly modern technology unfolding in front of us. And even more amazing because it’s a cappella—where you’d think we’d all need to be together in a room. But we were never in the studio together. Even in the video—we were doing different things in separate places. He would literally describe what he was looking for musically—and in musical terms I would try to give him what he was looking for. And we had that relationship going even before we met each other. He came up later to set-up my room to do some things, but we were never in the same room for this amazing project.

francis-james-ralls-4-alvin-cheaKhristian: There were sounds and phrases at first, but then he had me sing the lead part. (sings the phrases) I sang that first verse and he just went to work. Each time I heard a mix, it literally kept getting better and better. We were in Naperville, IL when the Cubs just won—and he sent a mix and I was shaking my head saying, “He did it again.” Working with him was great, and I have my Take 6 brothers—Alvin, whose voice is unmistakable—he is the best bass singer on the planet. Having his touch on the record really filled a space that only his voice can occupy. Mark Kibble did some of the arranging on it as well. And then, to hear Aubrey’s voice—I was not aware—I was not hip to who she was, but he kept talking about her. And when I heard her—this girl go pound for pound, like a heavy champion of the world on this song—it blew me away.

Tell us about working with Frank.
Aubrey: Frank’s a genius to work with—he’s inspiring. He’s a killer composer. What I like about working with Frank is what he put on paper, really comes to light in your mind. It’s very tough stuff but when you read it, you can see exactly where he’s going—and it feels like you are following a thought. It’s really meaningful.

Khristian: All this speaks to Frank’s vision for pulling all of these components together without us ever being in the same room together. You gotta have your pulse on the end goal—and know what components are needed—to take everything you have and make it everything it needs to be. He’s a master at it—the ultimate architect. When you’re building a building, there are so many different components—but somebody has to have the vision—so that when everybody walks into this building, they are amazed and they have to have it right now. Frank is that guy.

Alvin: He’s a solid salt of the earth kind of guy, and I’m pulling for him. He’s ambitious. He loves his family and the Lord, and he’s just an amazing musician and human being. As a producer, he’s approaching this like the new frontier—as Donald Fagen would say. The key word is “survival in the new frontier.”

Was Frank’s producing innovative?
Alvin: Frank is the person seeing the new horizon—the new frontier—and he’s going after it. It just so happens he’s a great guy so you don’t mind helping him do what he’s trying to do. I believe he’s truly a gifted producer. I’ve seen him in many different genres—working with strings, with contemporary Christian music, or the a cappella Ben Bram kind of thing. Anything he puts his hands to, he’s knocking out of the park. He’s a producer with a bullet behind his name—he’s heading up.

Were you surprised at any stage?
Alvin: He kept telling me “I’m going to do this recording, and then I’m going to do this video, and then ….” And I said, “Frank, this is where the record company comes in and does their thing.” And he said, “Uh, I’m the record company for this project.” (Laughs) I’m glad he’s not waiting around for anybody to catch the vision.

Do you have a special mic you like to use?
Khristian: What’s really awesome is that Take 6 is endorsed by Shure, and they have a PG42USB that Vinnie [Alvin] turned me on to. He would swear by this mic when he’s recording different television shows or voiceovers for commercials. He said, “I’ve got my Neumann, and this Shure PG42USB. Our Shure rep, Ryan Smith in Nashville, sent me one. When I used it for the first time, I immediately called him and bought another one. I said, “I gotta have two of these just in case something ever happens.” I’m disappointed that they don’t make it anymore. Good thing I bought two of them. (Laughs) While I am on the road right now, I had to record 14 songs for a record, and the Shure PG42 is the mic I used for it.

Alvin: My DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] is a Pro Tools 10 setup. I have a great MXL Revelation mic that I absolutely love. I had been using the Sony C-800G. But I love that Revelation mic. I have a custom-made black box that I run everything through. So I have a really clean, tight, efficient chain. But it all goes into Pro Tools. It went in dry, and I sent it out to Frank, and he did his magic. Actually, who introduced me to the mic was [film score composer] Ross Vannelli. He had one, and every time I sang into it, my voice would carry the room. I felt like it was in my chest. The architecture of the whole thing is perfect for my voice. I’ve turned other people on to that MXL Revelation mic. I’m a huge fan of the mic. That’s all I use!

Aubrey: I should know this but I’m so not a gear person. I know Frank used a Manley for this. And for my album we used tube mics because it’s a pop album with a jazz context—and we’re trying to create a vintage sound.

In all your years of music, did you get a chance to work with a musical hero?
Aubrey: I’ve been on stage since I was about six years old, so for 22 years I’ve been a professional musician/performer in some context. I’ve had many special moments. I once did get to sing for Burt Bacharach. When I was in college, he came to get an honorary doctorate at Berklee College of Music. I sang a song that he wrote—for him—so that was not pressure. (Laughs) At the end of the night, I did meet him, and he seemed to really enjoy the show. And what was really special, I sang a song of his that not a lot of singers wanted to sing. I was thinking, “Oh, we’re doing a tribute to Burt Bacharach, and he’s going to be there—and I’m going to sing something familiar like ‘Walk on By.’ But I ended up singing ‘Promises Promises’ because I was the jazziest girl in the program—and they figured I’d be the one to do the song with the time changes. And he was real appreciative that I did that very song.

Khristian: That pinch yourself moment happens all the time. Stevie Wonder is one of my biggest influences not just vocally but from a writing and social perspective. I’ve always loved him because it was always more than just about the music. He’s one of the greatest vocalists of all time. And I love knowing that I am able to call him my brother, and work with him on several occasions—especially in 2008, at the DNC in Denver CO, when Barack Obama accepted the nomination for presidency—we sang with Stevie in front of 80,000 people. The moment you always dream about as a kid—that noise that we make of the “crowd screaming” (makes noise)—that actually happened, and it was simply amazing. I had to pinch myself and thank God that he took this “little dude from South Carolina”—that’s how I always see myself.

Alvin: Any time we’ve worked with Stevie Wonder or Quincy Jones, it’s been a dream come true. I’d love to work with the neo-Soul singer Jill Scott. Or Donald Fagen. I would love for Take 6 to do a Brazilian project. I love those changes and that mood. With our vocal harmonies, I really think we could do it justice.

Fagen’s The Nightfly is a favorite for so many people.
Alvin: Man, his The Nightfly is in my Top 3 albums of all time! I’m a huge fan. A few years ago, I saw the Dukes of September with Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs—and when Fagen did a sort of obscure Steely Dan song, I thought my head was going to explode. I kept thinking, ‘He’s doing it—right there—he’s singing the actual song!’ (Laughs) And my wife was just looking at me. Can’t explain it—it’s the magic of music!

Tell us about being a Berklee college graduate.
Aubrey: I’m actually a trombone performance major. So, I do that at my shows. I sing, and then pick up my horn for most of the songs—I’ll play sections. I use it in my writing a lot. If you go to my YouTube channel, you should find a good bit of trombone in the middle of most of my songs. I used to do session work, but with my busy touring schedule—I just don’t do it so much anymore.

Best advice someone has given you.
Aubrey: Nobody is as good at being you, as you. So do the kind of music that you love most, and don’t waste your time trying to fit a certain mold.

Khristian: Alvin taught me something I’ll never forget. People often might not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. It’s so important not to be a diva because you never know who you’re talking to—maybe the future president of a record company—or the publisher of a magazine. You never know. I want to be that guy that people remember as someone who reached out and shook their hand.

Alvin: I have a great quote on my Facebook page from Johnny Depp, “The same people who doubted you will one day brag to others about when they first met you.” It’s true. Everybody wants to be associated with the hero.


Best advice you’d like to give.
Aubrey: Don’t waste your time being afraid of failure. Just work hard at what you want to achieve regardless of what the result may or may not be. Basically, don’t be afraid of failure or you’ll never get anything done.

Khristian: It’s really important to me, and I’ll tell this to anyone—especially upcoming artists and anyone who wants to be relevant in the music industry—to always see yourself small in your own eyes—never think of yourself highly or more than you are. I always see myself as this little dude from South Carolina who got this incredible opportunity to be on the biggest platforms with these amazing guys. From people in the industry who are now my friends—Gerald Albright, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Jeff Lorber. It’s amazing to be able to get on the phone and call Liza Minnelli. (Laughs) It’s incredible, and I don’t take a moment for granted. It’s so important to never allow it to go to your head, but always use your platform to be an influence and to serve others generations. That’s my mantra—it’s the way I live my life.

Alvin: Truly believe in what you do, and stay true to who you are—your true character—because that’s what people will remember.

What’s next?
Aubrey: I am a cast member in the group Postmodern Jukebox. They have guest artists tour with them—it’s a revolving cast. I’m on tour with them, but I’m actuality creating an album, so I’m home to put some finishing touches on that project. And then, I’m back on the road. I will be finishing out the United States tour with them at the end of November. I’ll be doing a couple of dates in London in December, and then back to London in February to continue some of those dates. Then back with Postmodern Jukebox for a European tour. And in May, I will be a guest artist on the Dave Koz smooth jazz cruise in the Adriatic Sea. I met Dave through Ariana Savalas (Telly Savalas’ daughter). I met her in Postmodern Jukebox where she was also an artist. She’s a cabaret-style singer that’s really great—a lot different from my music. She connected me with Dave.

Khristian: We’re touring with our new album, Believe, but I would love for us to do a record with a full orchestra. It would be an amazing experience lining our harmonies of what we do with that classic sound. It would be epic.

Alvin: I’m working on a Disney show The Lion Guard. I’m the regular underscore person. I finished up Glee for about a year or so. I also did underscore for them. I’m doing voiceover with my friends Edie and Mike Boddicker for a Prayer project they have—new prayers every day. And I just auditioned for a new voice of (stops himself) … on a network—I’m not going to jinx it. So there’s something happening every day. I did a Family Guy episode yesterday, and a major motion picture the day before. I’m very blessed. Every day I’m working on something, and I’m really excited about the future.


For motion pictures, do you do voiceovers?
Alvin: I do orchestral voice stuff. There might be four, eight, 20 or 80 of us —singing a certain scene in a particular movie or a TV show. Unless you’re listening for it, you might not even realize there are voices in the pastiche sound. But it adds to the drama, it adds to the suspense—to the magic of the moment. I’ve done everything from Star Trek to Star Wars, and about 100 different movies and soundtracks—and dozens and dozens of records aside from the work with Take 6.

Tell us about the new album.
Khristian: We released Believe and received some Grammy nominations, and I’m hoping something good happens.

Aubrey: My album comes out on January 20 to my fans who have pre-ordered it. For new fans, there’s still time to pre-order at Nine of the songs are mine, three are co-writes, and three are covers—“U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer that we swing and do in a jazz style, “Habanera” from the opera Carmen in jazz style, and “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas & the Papas. There will be a wider release later, but in the meantime, soon, I’m releasing the single “Pistol” in the United Kingdom—on BBC Radio. [Aubrey’s much-anticipated album promises some favorite covers and a lot of original material direct from her heart. Pre-order your copy and get an inside look at the album-making process at]

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