Mannheim Steamroller keeps holiday tradtion alive
BY RANDALL G. MIELKE For Sun-Times Media December 11, 2013 6:20PM
Mannheim Steamroller members Jonathan Swoboda (from left), Johnny Adams and Karly Jurgensen pose with founder Chip Davis at New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2012. The iconic music ensemble will perform on Dec. 14 in Aurora. | GETTY IMAGES
‘Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis’
♦ 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 14
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $59-$69
♦ (630) 896-6666;
Updated: December 11, 2013 6:20PM
Like mistletoe and holly, Christmas and Mannheim Steamroller just naturally go together.
“Many families attending our Christmas shows have made it one of their traditions,” said Chip Davis, the founder and creator of the iconic musical group. “At many shows you see moms and dads who were the kids attending the shows years ago. We see many generations together at the shows.”
The latest holiday incarnation of “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis,” will be presented Dec. 14 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
The ensemble began in 1974 when Davis recorded an album called “Fresh Aire,” which he dubbed “18th Century Classical Rock.” The sound was a mix of classical and modern-day rock, as well as a blend of acoustic and electronic music. By 1984 Mannheim Steamroller was a multi-platinum recording group because of the “Fresh Aire” series. In that same year, Davis recorded an album of Christmas music combining the group’s signature mix of Renaissance instruments with rock ‘n’ roll beats. The resulting album, “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” was a hit, selling more than five million copies.
Although Davis no longer performs with the group, he still directs and co-produces two Christmas tour ensembles of Mannheim Steamroller that crisscross the country; two tours of six-member ensembles perform 80 dates over a six-week period frommid-November to late December. This year marks the 29th anniversary of the concert tours which feature the distinctive Christmas music of Mannheim Steamroller along with a multi-media display that includes a light show, giant-screen images and videos which are synchronized withthe music.
For Davis, everything is as fresh as it was years ago.
“With the multiple bands, they put a new spin on it for me,” he said. “The music gets me jazzed. It makes me want to write new material.”
Davis thinks Mannheim Steamroller’s popularity at Christmastime is due in part to familiarity.
“I think it’s comforting to hear music from your childhood — kind of like comfort food,” he said. “And, Christmastime is family time, and our music and concerts are all family-friendly.”
Davis also thinks that Mannheim Steamroller has had success at Christmastime because it only comes once a year.
“We are also doing so well for so long because it’s not day after day,” said Davis. “[The music] is seasonal, so in many ways it is still fresh.”