I have exactly one complaint concerning Christmas music: there’s not enough of it!
And there’s certainly not enough variety!
Thank you, Mannheim Steamroller, for providing some of that much-desired variety!
Last year, as I was aiding my family in a little home renovation project, we had the radio going. Of course, it played Christmas music. One playlist, roughly an hour long. Over and over and over. And it did not help when one song they played, over and over again, is the single Christmas-themed song which I hate with the burning intensity of a thousand desert suns: “Santa Baby.” I mean, it sounds like a… hmmm, how to put this delicately… like a prostitute trying to ply her trade with Santa, and for a really high price. (there is exactly one version of that song I have ever heard which did not sound like this, and it is a magnificent testament to Taylor Swift’s truly awesome level of skill)
After listening to that play list for several hours on end, I came away with a deep appreciation for variety.
I’d taken a great deal of my Christmas music for granted, but right after this incident, Mannheim Steamroller was practically a godsend. (granted, so was most everything else, but theirs was the music I listened to when I was in need of something else)
So, golden question: how do you take something as well-established as Christmas, and add some variety to it?
Answer: try everything!
This is, basically, Mannheim Steamroller’s approach to their Christmas-themed music. And music in general. They try anything and everything they like. Their style, as described on wikipedia, “combines classical music and rock.” The Christmas flavor of this, at least, includes a great deal of techno, as does their album covering several Disney songs, and their Halloween music, and… you get the idea. 😉 They can play something upbeat and fast, or slow and soothing, whatever they like, they do. Be it an original work or a cover of a classic Christmas carol, they add their own flavor to the season.
Not to say it’s all thrilling. (they do not walk on water, after all) There are some works which just don’t tickle my fancy, but that’s no great matter compared to how much of their music I love. In truth, my only complaint about them is how, when I attended a concert, I was bored. For having decades of experience behind them, they don’t have much mastery of the ancient art of Concert Fu.
They do have a pretty good mastery of Music Fu. I have quite a bit of their music as part of my personal Christmas playlist (which lasts much longer than one hour, ye lazy radio heads). Somehow, they can move between, and sometimes combine, elements of old and modern music so fluently as if to appear effortless. They draw on the influence of what is well established, but give it new life, new texture, bridging great volume (the name “Mannheim Steamroller” apparently comes from a term which translates as “to crescendo, or get louder”) and a soft reverence for the spirit of the season, and the birth it celebrates.
This, I like!
A few personal favorites:
(these are not all official, fyi, so careful with the volume)
Deck the Halls
Auld Lang Syne (I admit, I am a big softie, the first time I heard this version of the song, right after watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I got a bit teary-eyed… oh, shut up!) 😉
Good King Wenseslas
Do You Hear What I Hear?
We Three Kings
Angels We Have Heard on High