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“Over My Shoulder”

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"Over My Shoulder"
by Steve H Kehoe
Though we don't live in the Black Forest of Bavaria, we are nonetheless blessed to reside in the East Texas Piney Woods. As the Christmas holiday approaches, we do well to remember the sights and sounds and aromas from Christmases past that we treasured so fervently-whether as children or young adults-or new parents. Christmas-Tide is the time of year when all the senses are heightened: every sight takes on and reflects back to us more color than at any other time of year; sounds are more melodic, and sweet. We crown Queen Nostalgia and her Court, recalling special times in our past, and hope for our Futures. One sound stands out in my memory and that of my family: The incredibly melodious sound of the group known forever as Mannheim Steamroller.
Founded in 1975 by Chip Davis, the group takes its name from an 18th-century German musical technique: an ascending arpeggio popularized by the Mannheim school of musical composition. Utilizing modern synthesizers and keyboards and percussion in a way not done before, Davis immediately created a whole new genre of Yuletide tunes, which I daresay has not been nor probably ever will be duplicated for the way it strikes our ears. Ironically, his compositions were rejected by all the major labels, so Davis adopted an "I'll show you" attitude and created his own record label, which we know as American Gramaphone, a knock-off of Deutsche Grammophon. Their first album was entitled Fresh Aire, which through the years spawned yet another kind of music, and it literally flew off the shelves. In two-year intervals, Davis & Co. released more albums featuring the distinctive Mannheim Steamroller sound, mirroring the baroque classical form and style. Jackson Berkey's virtuosic keyboard work literally bathes each tune in light, accompanied sometimes by such disparate instruments as a toy piano and a Wurlitzer pipe organ.
The group's success springboarded from decade to decade, and several Holiday videos have been released. Go to Netflix and rent one (or more), or you can buy them on line from Amazon or other music purveyors. Mannheim Steamroller's absolutely distinct style has become the sine qua non of Holiday music, and their Fresh Aire series albums have charm to delight all your senses, no matter your age! I give these creative geniuses a TWELVE on a scale of ten, that's how good they are!
Wassail! Steve H Kehoe