I’m a child of the ‘80s, and it wasn’t Christmas until my mom put on her Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD while we decorated the tree and made our annual gingerbread house.
I grew up listening to that album every year, and even today while I’m going about my day and any of the tracks from that album come on, I’m instantly transported to memories of hanging tinsel and sifting powdered sugar over the gingerbread house.
Christmas was Mannheim Steamroller’s first holiday album, released in 1984, and was the seventh best-selling Christmas album in the U.S. as of last year. Oddly enough Christmas was a hard sell at first, but that only fueled founder Chip Davis’s determination to market his music. Nine million sales later, the group is still around and has since produced 16 other holiday albums and compilations.
The name Mannheim Steamroller derives from an 18th-century German musical technique, Mannheim roller, which is a crescendo passage which has a rising melodic line over an ostinato bass line. The result? A very soothing melodic take on some holiday favorites such as Deck the Halls, We Three Kings and my favorite, Silent Night.
Founders Davis and Jackson Berkey started Mannheim Steamroller as an alias for Davis, a record producer and composer. With contemporary interpretations of holiday favorites, the synthesized instruments showcase creative approaches to the traditional tunes.
Mannheim Steamroller has had guest appearances by Johnny Mathis, Olivia Newton-John and jazz legend Paul Winter, and produces a very popular annual Christmas tour, now in it’s 25th year.
So this year when you are baking cookies or wrapping presents, put on Christmas for a little more holiday cheer.
By Renee Patrick