'American Idol' Star to Tour with Michael W. Smith

Former "American Idol" contender Melinda Doolittle will be hitting the road this winter with Michael W. Smith and The Katinas for the "It's A Wonderful Christmas" tour.

Doolittle, who finished as the third place finalist on the sixth season of "American Idol," has worked as a professional back-up singer for Kirk Franklin, Aaron Nevillle, Bebe and CeCe Winans, and Anointed, among others. Although she was eliminated from this year's annual singing competition after making into the Top 3, she had been referred to as one of the greatest singers in the history of the show by the judges as well as "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest.

The "It's A Wonderful Christmas" tour, which kicks off Nov. 29 and wraps up Dec. 22, will feature songs from Smith's third Christmas release and twentieth album, It's A Wonderful Christmas.

Smith recorded the album in London's famous Abbey Road Studios in May with a 67-piece symphony before the music was arranged by David Hamilton. He says the music is "epic, symphonic and cinematic."

Smith originally intended to record a classic Christmas album, but when he got into the studio, he was allegedly struck with a "rush of inspiration" and wrote several pieces of original music.

The album will feature three choirs, one being The Choristers of Reigate St. Mary's, a London based boys choir directed by John Tobin and featuring 16 members in ages ranging from eight to 12 years.

It debuts next month, on Oct. 16.

On the Web: Tour dates, cities and venues for the Christmas tour at michaelwsmith.com.