From soulful, inspiring singers to hard-hitting, high-energy rockers, Night of Joy offers a variety of entertainment that's sure to lift your spirits. (Photos by Kevin Davis)
Celebrated annually each fall since 1982, Night of Joy brings spirited and soulful entertainment to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Fla. During this contemporary Christian music festival, guests can delight in live performances by music superstars across a variety of genres—including rock, pop and gospel. From soulful, inspiring singers to hard-hitting, high-energy rockers, Night of Joy offers a variety of entertainment that's sure to lift your spirits.
This was my first year at Night of Joy, and it was a real treat to hear Christian music played throughout Disney World for two straight nights. The Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 lineup included: Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin, NEEDTOBREATHE, Red, Francesca Battistelli, Brandon Heath, Royal Tailor and Disciple.
Francesca Battistelli received a surprise onstage Friday night when Word Entertainment President and CEO, Rod Riley, presented her with a Gold album for her debut release, My Paper Heart. This marks the first debut album from a CCM artist in nearly a decade to receive RIAA-certified Gold status (for sales in excess of 500,000 units). Casting Crowns’ release in 2003 was the last debut album to receive RIAA Gold certification.
Just prior to Battistelli’s Night of Joy performance, Riley and Word Entertainment Senior VP of A&R Josh Bailey stepped onstage with the surprise Gold record for the singer.
"I was in total shock," said Battistelli. "I had no idea this was coming. This has been a dream of mine and to have this happen at Disney World in front of my wonderful fans, my family and my record company... It truly couldn’t have been more magical. I feel so incredibly blessed and will remember this night forever!"
The next day, the singer visited the Magic Kingdom once again with her family and record group to take an iconic photograph in front of Cinderella’s castle.
Battistelli’s 2008 debut album features the No. 1 single, "Free To Be Me," and Top 10 hits, "I’m Letting Go," "It’s Your Life" and "Beautiful, Beautiful." The release topped Billboard’s Christian Albums chart in August of 2010 and earned her a Grammy nod for "Best Gospel Performance."
In 2011, she received the Dove Awards for "Artist of the Year," "Female Vocalist of the Year" and "Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year."
On Oct. 16, the singer is set to release her first solo Christmas album, Christmas, which includes classics and newly-penned tunes. She also has songs showcased on two additional holiday albums due out the same day: Word Records' A Very Special Christmas: Bringing Peace on Earth and A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary benefiting the Special Olympics.
My family had the opportunity to catch the end of Francesca Battistelli’s exciting night, hearing stirring performances of her hit songs "Angel By Your Side" and "This Is The Stuff." In traditional Francesca Battistelli style, she tells it just how it is and all the things that drive her crazy. The main message of the song is that despite all the little things that drive us all crazy, we’re to remember we are blessed. Francesca writes and sings about relatable subjects and her lyrics and melodies are completely infectious. The bridge of "This Is The Stuff" also summarizes my prayer as a Christian: "To break me of impatience, Conquer my frustrations, I've got a new appreciation, It's not the end of the world."
The highlight of her set was when just Francesca and her husband Matthew Goodwin sat together on two stools at the front of the stage with Matt playing acoustic guitar. Francesca went on to share that she had written songs from her most recent album while pregnant with her first child, son Eli. (She now also has a baby girl, Audrey.)
Having been married for 18 years with 3 young daughters, the song that moves me to tears is the amazing title track "Hundred More Years." The song is about finding that person that you want to spend the rest of your life with and falling in love. The song is about great moments in life and wanting them to last a hundred more years. I got goosebumps and welled up when Francesca passionately sang the beautiful lyrics a cappella: "they can laugh, they can cry, the future looks so beautiful and bright, they can dance in the moonlight, cause God is smiling down on them tonight, and He wants to stay right here, make it last for a hundred more years."
God wants to bless His children, and the song completely blessed me and the audience. She closed with her mega-hit song "Free To Be Me." Complete confidence in and reliance upon the grace of God is the theme of her great songs and her incredible new album. Don’t miss any chance to catch her in concert. Afterwards, we met up with Francesca to celebrate her incredible achievement.
The artists who performed Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 included MercyMe, Third Day, Kutless, Thousand Foot Krutch, Lecrae, Chris August and Dara Maclean.
The Night of Joy Tomorrowland stage crowd was steadily growing and certainly ready for Dove Award-nominated new artist Dara Maclean as she started her set with "You Got My Attention" from her debut album of the same name.
She continued with an energetic set of songs from her album including "What Love Looks Like," "Nothin’ You Won’t Do," "Gratitude" and her very first hit single, "Suitcases." The song is driven by an infectious beat and a vocal approach alternately intimate and soaring, and is an offer of true release from "your burdens, heavy like gravity." I was immediately hooked right from the opening notes and the song uses the metaphor of carrying suitcases as a perfect depiction of the weight of sin that we don't need to carry with us if we've put our faith in Jesus for our salvation.
Dara gorgeously sang "You can't run when you're holding suitcases, It's a new day, throw away your mistakes and open up your heart / Lay down your guard, you don't have to be afraid."
According to Dara, "I wanted to paint a picture of God's complete restorative love and how through Christ, we have an opportunity to live free," she says. "This song does just that." Amen.
Next she sang "Yours Forever," which is a standout ballad, where Dara personally prays, "Thank You for finding me when You did, You changed my life, Now I believe that Love is all that I'll ever need, I promise my heart and all that I am, I'm Yours forever my Love." Dara is clearly a grateful believer who is unashamed of her salvation and many of her songs are invitations into Dara's prayer life. If you don't know how to word your prayers of thankfulness for what Jesus has done for you, just sing along with her incredible songs of faith. (Check out my Behind the Song Devotional on the song.)
She closed with her hit song "Free," which celebrates the freedom we have in Christ and is a continuation of Dara’s transparent and sincere message of gratitude for what Jesus has done in her life. You Got My Attention topped the chart at No. 1 on the iTunes Christian Albums Chart. A singer of incredible grace, power and control as well as a gifted songwriter, she wrote or co-wrote all 12 of the tracks on the album. Dara displays the strongest vocals I've heard in years, and her Brit-pop sounding vocals are similar to Adele and Natasha Bedingfield wrapped around Motown style soulful music. Don't hesitate to buy her debut album, which is flawless in my opinion and is one of my top 3 albums of 2011.
Night of Joy 2012 was a whirlwind weekend at Magic Kingdom Park. On three stages throughout the park, 16 top Contemporary Christian artists played to huge crowds of Christian music fans. There were lots of great concerts, fun and fellowship. We are already looking toward 2013, confirming dates for Sept. 6-7, 2013.
(Check out all of my Night of Joy 2012 photos here.)
Posted October 02, 2012 | NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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