Christopher got the job writing the theme for Civilization IV after running into his former roommate, Soren Johnson, at their five-year college reunion. Soren was taking over the Civilization franchise as lead designer; and Christopher, coincidentally, was a longtime Civ fan. A few months later Soren called Christopher with some good news: he had taken some of the music Christopher had recorded with his college a cappella group, Stanford Talisman, and laid it on the opening menu screen. The music fit perfectly, and the development team wanted to hire him to write a new theme for the game.
'Baba Yetu' has become one of the most performed, if not the most performed, piece of video game music ever. It's been performed multiple times in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, and countless amateur concert halls, churches, and school auditoriums. 'Baba Yetu' is also one the most covered video game songs. Some of our favorite covers include Peter Hollens and Malukah's a cappella version, Alex Boye and the BYU Men's Choir, the US Navy Band, and Sandra Bae's acoustic guitar version.
The original version of 'Baba Yetu' for Civilization IV featured Christopher's college a cappella group, Talisman. Years later however, when we went to re-record the song for his debut album Calling All Dawns, he recorded the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir instead. However, one thing did remain constant: lead soloist Ron Ragin, whom the solo was written specifically for.
Christopher wrote two pieces for the game: 'Coronation', which plays underneath the opening movie, and 'Baba Yetu', a rousing setting of the Lord's Prayer in Swahili. Both pieces are a juxtaposition of several genres of music that he had extensive experience with: African gospel vocals, world beat drumming, and orchestra.
'Baba Yetu's appeal extended well beyond the video game market, however. Once Alfred Publishing released the song as a stand-alone choral octavo, it instantly became a runaway seller, and made the unprecedented leap from being a video game theme song to a modern choral standard. To date, it's Alfred's top pop choral seller, and its popularity lead to subsequent releases for other choral and solo configurations. See the SHEET MUSIC page for more information.
Immediately following its release, 'Baba Yetu' became a hit within the video game music world, garnering instant acclaim, being premiered at the Hollywood Bowl, and winning Christopher multiple industry awards, including two GANG Awards. After it was re-released in a new recording on his debut album Calling All Dawns, however, it won the ultimate award: the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, a category usually dominated by jazz arrangers. This made history as the first time a piece of video game music had won a Grammy award--an honor that the Guinness Book of World Records recognized him for in 2016.