For many, Christmas isn’t complete without giving Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday music a listen. And now, fans can enjoy the experience in person as the group performs in Scranton next week.
Presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the local stop of the band’s annual holiday tour, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, hits Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Created by Grammy-winner Chip Davis, the show celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and delivers an exciting, joyous experience with a lot of favorite songs, said Roxanne Layton, tour spokeswoman and longtime band member.
“Well it’s become such a tradition in so many homes, but it’s really rewarding for us to do this every year and be a part of that tradition,” Layton said while on the road in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Davis founded Mannheim Steamroller in the ’70s, offering what the band describes as an 18th-century instrumental rock sound. The group released its first Christmas album in 1984 and has continuously toured with its holiday music since then. Since then, Mannheim Steamroller has won a Grammy award for best new age album and sold more than 40 million albums, including 29 million Christmas ones. It has performed at prestigious events including the White House Christmas tree lighting and on shows such as “Today” and “Good Morning America.”
The first half of the upcoming concert will feature favorites from all albums, including the band’s new CD, “Exotic Spaces,” with a lot of video and lights, Layton said. In the second half, the audience will hear Mannheim Steamroller’s first Christmas album, released in 1984, played in its entirety.
“We’re playing some new tunes we didn’t play last year or the year before,” Layton said. “We always kind of mix it up.”
Layton called Davis a gifted composer and arranger, and fans can expect to hear such tunes as “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Nights” performed with “a mixture of ancient instruments,” said Layton, who, like her peers in the group, plays multiple instruments. She has turns on not only the recorder but also crumhorns, tympani, electronic drums and other percussion.
“It’s moving,” she said of the music. “It’s ancient instruments (like) recorders and harpsichords with … rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s just it’s timeless and unique.”
It makes for a varied program, Layton explained, with “Deck the Halls” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” tending to draw big reactions from the crowd.
“So many people like different parts of it,” she said. “Some people love the electronic stuff, some people love the Renaissance stuff. We have some slow, beautiful pieces like ‘Silent Night,’ which is just gorgeous, and ‘O Holy Night.’”
Layton often meets fans in autograph lines while out on tour and has seen multiple generations coming to shows. They tell her all kinds of stories, from sad tales to joyous ones about listening to Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas music while trimming their trees.
“For me, it’s just a joy,” she said. “I love it.”
The show keeps her on the road during the holidays, but Layton’s family joins her to celebrate, and the company always gathers for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
“At first it was (tough), but now it’s such a big part of my life,” she said. “It’s all I’ve known for 24 years.”
For those who’ve never attended a Mannheim Steamroller concert, Layton noted, “there’s nothing like seeing a band or hearing a band live.”
“A lot of people say it’s like taking a vitamin, coming to our show, (with) the sound quality,” she added. “And also I just think it’s joyous, it’s celebratory, its nostalgic, it’s traditional, it’s progressive, it’s all of it. We seem to cover the gamut of keeping many people happy.”
If you go
- What: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, presented by Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania
- When: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
- Details: Tickets start at $42. For more information or tickets, visit the box office or broadwayinscranton.com or call 570-344-1111.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest