The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 12, 2013

Shared traditions: Mannheim Steamroller has become Christmas ubiquitous

Mannheim Steamroller has become Christmas ubiquitous

Mannheim Steamroller plays a role in the Christmas traditions of countless families.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the music and multimedia phenomenon created by Chip Davis supports two full Mannheim Steamroller ensembles through a combined 80-city tour. In addition, the No. 1 selling Christmas artist of all time has a presence in the Macy’s Parade and an ice skating special.

Yet, Davis makes sure that every member of the Mannheim Steamroller team has Christmas Day off to enjoy their own holiday traditions.

“We want everyone to have their own family time,” Davis said. “We are out there preaching that. To not offer it ourselves would be wrong.”

Mannheim Steamroller performs in Mankato — the group's only Minnesota stop — today at the Verizon Wireless Center.

For fans and audience members, the concert represents rare access to the full Mannheim Steamroller experience. Though Mannheim Steamroller is the No. 1-selling Christmas artist of all time — doubling the sales of the No. 2 artist, Elvis Presley — it's live concerts are an exercise in immersion, a saturation of seasonal pomp and extravagance.

For Davis, however, Mannheim Steamroller's non-stop holiday tour schedule represents the continuation of a long-held and closely guarded dream.

"I'm doing what I always wanted to do," said Davis, who releases all of his music through American Gramaphone, the independent music label he owns and operates out of his Omaha, Neb., home. "This is pretty much the ideal situation at this point in my life."

At another point in his life, however, Davis was told his musical vision would never sell.

Before Davis and Mannheim Steamroller began making Christmas albums, he was a composer with an idea to meld classical music with jazz and progressive rock sensibilities.

In the early 1970s, he began shopping his debut album, "Fresh Aire," with record labels. The response was lukewarm.

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