Say no to Christmas creep
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Christmas creep is real.
This year, I saw my first Christmas display the day after Halloween. I walked into a store in downtown Bellingham expecting to see marked-down candy and costumes and instead walked smack into Kris Kringle, his associates and some of their accoutrements. I’m unabashedly, annoyingly infected with the spirit of the season every year, but even so, I was like, “Go home, Santa. It’s November 1. No one wants to see your bowl full of jelly just yet.”
Which probably explains why I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking Thanksgiving was just around the corner, and that the musical landscape, along with the physical one, would be beginning to look a lot like Christmas any minute now.
That surprise early snowfall did not help clear up my calendar confusion.
Imagine my surprise when I realized we still have some musical miles to go before we sleep off our turkey dinners and wake up to haul out the holly.
The Mount Baker Theatre is always a hotbed of holiday action, but before the Nutcrackers get cracking, Charlie Brown trims his sad tree, and Christmas Town can be saved, some unseasonal, nontraditional musical fare must first be served.
“Nontraditional” is certainly a good word to describe pianist, composer and vocalist Michael Kaeshammer. He was born in Germany, lives in Canada and plays rollicking boogie-woogie music inspired by New Orleans. He’s been described as “technically brilliant,” a “charismatic virtuoso” and a “great piano man,” but he refers to himself as “just a piano player.” He’s not being self-effacing—after 20 years, a couple of Juno Awards and countless tours, he has no need to downplay his skills—but instead says that he finds labels to be limiting. Generally, when an artist says that it’s because they don’t want the audience to pigeonhole them. For Kaeshammer, it’s more of an internal guide, a reminder not to limit himself, and to follow his curiosity and creativity and go where the music takes him.
Kaeshammer’s freewheeling spirit extends to his live performances as well. With years of classical training before boogie-woogie stole his soul, his technical ability is top notch. And with two decades spent as a professional musician and a penchant for dabbling in whatever form, genre or musical influence that strikes his wide-ranging fancy, his repertoire is vast. When combined with his preference for playing sans set list, his concerts exhibit the same sense of freedom he brings to all his musical endeavors. Plus, at one point in his life, he was performing in Reno as an amateur magician (my hand to Wikipedia, I swear this is true), so he could very well pull a rabbit from his hat at any moment.
Also falling into the vein of nontraditional music is the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra’s newish Harmony from Discord series, which showcases “works created in the face of oppression, emphasizing the power of music to transcend even the darkest of human experience.” The venerable arts organization does not shy away from exploring weighty topics with their series, and their Sun., Nov. 19 concert features the talents of cello player Amid Peled, who will assist the symphony in interpreting a piece by composer Sharon Farber that was inspired by the story of Holocaust survivor Curt Lowens, who saved the lives of some 150 Jewish children during World War II. That will be followed by “Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55,” which is far more well known by its much shorter name, Beethoven’s “Heroic.”
After that, comes Thanksgiving (finally) and the first of the Nutcrackers hits the stage the day after, ushering in a program of seasonal delights that doesn’t let up until it’s nearly the New Year. But there’s plenty of music on the schedule before then to help stave off the Christmas creep.
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