Grammy Award-winning composer and musician Chip Davis created Christmas music artist Mannheim Steamroller. | File photo
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis
♦ 8 p.m. Dec. 5
♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
♦ Tickets, $54-$69
♦ (815) 726-6600
Updated: November 29, 2012 11:38AM
Chip Davis, the founder and creator of the musical phenomenon Mannheim Steamroller, believes the popularity of the group’s Christmas music is due in part to familiarity.
“At Christmastime especially, people want to listen to something that is familiar in their lives,” Davis said. “And for more than 27 years, millions of people have grown up listening to our music. It’s comforting to hear something from your childhood — kind of like comfort food. Also, Christmastime is family time, and our music and concerts are all family friendly.”
“Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis” will be performed on Dec. 5 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
Davis also thinks that Mannheim Steamroller has had success at Christmastime because it only comes once a year.
“The average life of some artists may be 5 to 10 years of sales,” said Davis in a 2010 interview. “When a regular artist gets a hit, it is played year ‘round and it gets saturated. Maybe 10 years later you hear it as an ‘oldie’. But with Christmas songs, it is a six-week sales period. Then the next year you start on week seven.”
Mannheim Steamroller began in 1974 when Davis recorded an album called “Fresh Aire,” which he dubbed “18th Century Classical Rock.” Mannheim Steamroller’s signature sound is a mix of classical and modern-day rock, as well as a blend of acoustic and electronic music. Although Davis was literally a one-man-band at that point, he released that first album under the name Mannheim Steamroller. The name is based on a musical term meaning “crescendo.”
By 1984 Mannheim Steamroller was a multi-platinum recording group because of the “Fresh Aire” series. In that year, Davis decided to record 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. To date, Mannheim Steamroller has been certified with 19 gold records, eight platinum and four multi-platinum albums.
Although Davis no longer performs on the drums with the group (neck surgery several years ago resulted in limited use of his right arm), he still directs and co-produces two Christmas tour ensembles of Mannheim Steamroller that crisscross the country.
Two tours of six-member ensembles perform 90 dates over a six-week period from Nov. 15 to Dec. 30. This year marks the 27th anniversary of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas tours.
The shows 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 with Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday music.
“I love creating music,” Davis said. “I enjoy the fun of composition. I make records for the joy of creating sounds that can make you tap your feet or feel happy or sad. My goal is to make people feel something.”