“CMA Country Christmas” Brings Legends Like Martina McBride Together with Newcomers Like Kelsea Ballerini

CMA/Image Group LA

Sure, Martina McBride may have a collection of four CMA Female Vocalist trophies dating back to 1999, while newcomer Kelsea Ballerini was just nominated this year for the very first time. But that’s part of the beauty of the annual CMA Country Christmas show– it gives breakout artists like Kelsea the chance to sing alongside legends like Martina.

Even though Martina released her now-classic White Christmas album back in 1998, the version of the song she’ll perform tonight isn’t the one from her project. Instead it’s from her collaborator’s The Spirit of Christmas collection.

“I’ve always loved… ‘What Child Is This.’ It’s been one of my favorite Christmas hymns. So I got the call to sing with Michael W. Smith on his Christmas record last year and do this song, and it’s such a beautiful arrangement of the song. It’s very cinematic and it’s very reverent,” she explains.

Kelsea, on the other hand, chose a secular melody originally made famous by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis.

“I’m going to sing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’ I love Christmas music — I mean we start playing it in November. Growing up that was always one of my favorites to sing and then last year I got to record it. Just one of my favorites. It’s such a classic one that everyone knows and loves. So yeah, I’m stoked to sing it tonight!” she says excitedly.

Jennifer Nettles hosts the show for the sixth year in a row tonight, with guests a capella group Pentatonix, Darius Rucker, LeAnn Rimes, Jewel, Brian Setzer, Lady Antebellum’s Charles KelleyDan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, violinist Lindsey Stirling, and David Nail. The two-hour special starts at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.