Fans were treated to two hours of those vast electronic landscapes enhanced by plentiful visual displays. In some cases, the visuals were lighting displays, with effects beamed on walls and the ceiling of the Cofrin Family Hall. Images projected on a screen behind and above the band also were part of the show, with some of those being flowing impressionistic art and/or geometric patterns and some being animated village/pastoral/wintery scenes and movie-like scenes from a medieval madrigal dinner. In a way, the audience was spoon fed a suggestion of what it was to think while listening to the Mannheim Steamroller music. You could get into a philosophical argument about that – and hurt your head – but I liked the imagery because I’ve found other Mannheim Steamroller concerts static. On paper, the program looks ordinary (to be continued after this):
“Hark the Herald”
“Little Drummer Boy”
“Nutcracker Suite” selection
“Joy to the World”
Selection encompassing a life
“O Holy Night”
Selection describing a reverie
“Good King Wenceslas”
A dance selection
“We Saw Three Kings”
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
“Walking in a Winter Wonderland”
“Carol of the Bells”
“Silent Night” (Encore)
“Deck the Halls” (Encore)
… but each piece is explored in a blend of instruments that are standard, traditional or selection-specific and those that are electric/electronic gadgetry. The selections take familiar melodies and present them in new ways.
The brand Mannheim Steamroller has grown to the degree that it has branches – two Christmas touring lineups. The group that played at the Weidner is called the Green Band. Its traveling lineup consists of bassist Ron Cooley, violinist Becky Kia, recorder player Roxanne Layton, drummer Logan Penington, keyboardist Christy Crowl, keyboardist John Blasucci. In each city, nine orchestral musicians augment the performance, and that was the case at the Weidner. Creator Chip Davis appears on screen to tell about the touring groups and his separate gig (because he no longer tours).
The program is such that there is little wiggle room for spontaneity. Individual band members goof around a little bit among themselves, but mostly what happens has to happen in a given sequence. What happens is quite likeable and very good (4 stars out of 5).
The ticket prices were a bit lofty ($100 for prime seats), but that showed in the visuals. One sequence is especially intriguing. It shows a boy receiving a drum as a gift. The short film may be an anti-war statement because at the end it’s left open whether the boy, grown to be a soldier, did not come back.
Sunday afternoon’s show earned a standing ovation.
The Weidner’s main hall is a great place for such a concert. A live Mannheim Steamroller concert living, 3-D surround sound for sure – a wonderful shared experience.
THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within the
THE PEOPLE: The name Cofrin relates in great degree to A.E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Co., and his son, Dr. David A. Cofrin, who was instrumental in building the
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