While searching online, trying to dig up some credits, I came across these thoughts from Bruce Cockburn regarding Christmas music which more or less jibe with mine -
Liane Hansen:Do you think we, at this point, in some respects, take Christmas music for granted at this time of year? I mean, we don't really hear what we're listening to?
Bruce Cockburn: Well, I guess it depends on the person, but we're certainly discouraged from hearing what we're listening to because we're inundated with the elevator music version of all these songs. And they become, at best, tiresome, and at worst, [laughs] you don't want to hear another note of that stuff. It becomes the unconscious accompaniment to your stressed-out Christmas shopping and all the rest of it. One of the things I was hoping would happen in the course of doing the record was to try to bring the life back into these songs, and treat them as songs that somebody actually put creative effort into writing, and not just something that was intended to be wallpaper. [singing] It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old. [speaking] The songs with spiritual significance and these Christmas songs in particular, often have a really profound level of writing and really profound things to say, and we miss that. We even miss it in church, where we shouldn't be missing it. A song like It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, I never appreciated how good a song that is and what it actually talked about until I was learning it for the record, because I'd only ever heard one or two verses and never but in a context where I was able to really appreciate what was going on.
[Slightly edited to make it read less like extemporaneous conversation. Taken from an interview on NPR twenty-three years ago, which, nerd that I am, I totally remember hearing.]
And yes, that is Sam Phillips singing harmony, and it's more or less her arrangement, too.