Friday, November 21, 2008

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Concert

Number Two Daughter bought tickets for her and me to go out this past Wednesday (Nov. 19) to see Mannheim Steamroller in concert.

They have provided some of my absolute favorite Christmas Music for twenty years now, and they were coming to do a concert in Melbourne, Florida.

The concert was nothing short of amazing.

14 people, many of whom played various instruments throughout the night. Super, super talented people.

I've always thought that great music gets taken to an altogether new level when heard live, and Mannheim Steamroller was no exception.

They played all of my favorites, especially their version of Silent Night, called Stille Nacht on their first Christmas album from the 1980s.

The concert program didn't list Silent Night as one to be played, but I hoped that they would play some extra songs at the end, and they did. Silent Night was one of the two extra songs they played.

Not only that, but we've had a cold front here all week and it's been chilly by Florida standards and was about 50F and windy as we walked from the car to the concert hall.

So it even felt really Christmassy. Perfect for attending a Christmas concert.

In the late 1980s we were living in the Dallas, Texas area.

I was working two jobs and was coming home one evening from one job and my old Ford pickup truck was having problems.

The heater didn't work, it was brutally cold and windy with a stinging sleet trying to stick to the windshield of the truck. The defroster wasn't hot because it's part of the heater system, and poor "Old Blue" was losing the fight to allow me to see well enough to drive home. At least the wipers were working and eventually allowed me to get home.

Heck, at the time, the alternator was even going out on it, and the battery kept getting tired from not getting enough nourishment from the alternator.

I was really worried about getting home in a working vehicle.

Old Blue only had the stock Philco AM radio with one speaker mounted in the dash, and I was listening to Christmas music on an AM Christian station in Dallas.

So I'm tired, cold, stressed, worried, and then this gentle song comes on the radio.

It starts out quietly so I turned it up.

And I hear this version of Silent Night for the first time ever.

When it ended I was crying like a baby. (I'm one of those guys who isn't afraid to cry, especially when I'm alone.)

I was absolutely in love with the song, and I tried to describe it to everyone I knew, but they all looked at me like I was crazy. Before the internet, it was much more difficult to find out about such things as who sang what and other trivia the world wide web is so good for.

It was a year later when I heard the song again, and the announcer on the radio thankfully mentioned that it was Mannheim Steamroller who had done the song. I thought I misheard him; that was such a goofy name for a musical group.

Anyway, Mannheim Steamroller's Stille Nacht is still my all-time favorite Christmas song by anyone.

In a thoughtful mood, I can still cry when hearing it.

At the time of that first hearing, our daughters were babies, both mine and Lovely Wife's parents, all siblings, and most grandparents even, were still alive. At the time, it's beauty just touched something deep within my heart like some pieces of music can. I was young, with a young family and a head and heart filled with dreams.

Now, after that song being heard so many times over the years, it brings back good memories of lost loved ones, my Dad, my Big Brother, all of my Grandparents, my In-Laws, etc.

Hearing it is still a joy, but bittersweet. It's beauty is now mixed with sadness too, at the thought of people I miss terribly.

But this concert the other night was simply mesmerizing as only a great group of musician's can do.

Mannheim Steamroller playing Stille Nacht as an encore was just icing on the cake to an already beautiful concert.

And now I have new memories of a great night spent with Number Two Daughter to add to the list of great memories this song brings to mind at each hearing.

The whole evening with my daughter, and all of my associated memories made this evening a wonderful gift.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

It has just flat-out been a busy past few months.

Work has been intense, and I just come home and eat, then sleep.

It's not really a problem, but days like today get me a bit upset.

(I just deleted a whole story about what happened at work today.)

In the end, if someone were to read it, I might get in trouble.

We're in a mode at work where everyone is supposed to be so grateful to have a good job in these tough economic times that we're expected to be willing to be trod upon.

I was trod upon some today, and was basically forced to find someone willing to be trod upon with me.

I can't be any more detailed than that.

I love my company and I especially love the people there, but sometimes, some days, I'm required to not only go above and beyond, myself, which is no problem, but also required/expected to find some others who will go above and beyond with me.

That's really hard for me to do.

Richard Pryor used to joke about how his dad would yell at him and tell him to "go get a stick for me to beat you with."

My work day was kinda like that today.