Dec 8, 2009

Student-written “Immanuel” performed in TRBC production

by Emily DeFosse

One of the most powerful moments during this year’s Living Christmas Tree production is in the last song, “Immanuel,” written by senior Eddie Hoagland.

Hoagland began writing the song in 2008 for Professor Don Marsh’s songwriting class. The assignment was to make an original composition using a passage of scripture.

Hoagland chose Romans eight in order to write something that would remind people that God is with us all the time.

“The word Immanuel, (which) is really the essence of the song … means God with us,” Hoagland said. “Not just that he came to Earth, but he is with you now.”

The song writing process was long and laborious. Eddie found himself rewriting sections that he liked but did not fit exactly the way he wanted.

“It was challenging because the process of writing a song is not just you sit down and do it,” Hoagland said. “The struggle is to endure.”

Hoagland found out in June that his song was going to be used for the Living Christmas Tree and gives all the glory to God for the impact the song is having in the production.

“The fact that the song is powerful is not because I wrote a good lyric,” Hoagland said. “I think that song is powerful because it relates to the lives of God’s people. So it’s not my craftiness that made that moment happen.”

Production Director Lorie Marsh knew she wanted to use Hogland’s song in the Living Christmas Tree from the moment she heard the song at a Center for Worship concert rehearsal.

“We knew we wanted to use the song Immanuel, but we didn’t know how to work that in to what the story was,” Marsh said. “So we had to keep going back and adapting the story toward that song.”

After the song was chosen for the production Michael W. Smith’s arranger and orchestrator, David Hamilton helped arrange the piece and it was recorded by the Nashville String Machine, according to Marsh.

During the rehearsal Marsh and scriptwriter Denise Thomas heard the song and Marsh thought of the Youtube video “Cardboard Testimonies.”

“I looked at (Denise) and I said, ‘cardboard testimonies,’ and she knew what I was talking about,” Marsh said. “We knew that it was God’s idea, and He just laid it on our heart that that’s what we should do for that song.”

The lyrics of the song, and the circumstances, which prompted Hoagland to write much of it, fit perfectly with the theme of the production, which focuses on how God’s children are never alone.
“In January I went though a pretty rough patch,” Hoagland said. “I just felt very alone because of certain things that had happened … There were nights where I felt really alone.”

God reminded Hoagland that Immanuel is not just a word that means God with us at Christmastime, but that he is always with us.

“If people can realize that God is just as much present today and can be just as much present in your life today, I think things change,” Hoagland said.

Contact Emily DeFosse at

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