Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kansas City's Christmas Treasure: The Snow Globes

Here in Kansas City, we have a true local music Christmas treat. The Snow Globes are Kansas City’s annual Christmas Music treasure. Dormant for much of the year, they emerge every November and shower Kansas City with heart-warming Christmas music for two months before retreating to their off-season abode, whereabouts unknown.

Actually, their whereabouts are not so unknown. The Snow Globes are Lindsey Jones, Barclay Martin, and Rick Willoughby, and when they are not the Snow Globes they stay booked and busy with other musical collectives and interests. Bass player Willoughby, for instance, totes his bass to back another KC-local music phenomenon, Victor and Penny, as part of their band The Loose Change Orchestra. Barclay Martin fronts the Barclay Martin Ensemble (featuring Rick Willoughby). Lindsey Jones performs with the Barclay Martin Ensemble, and has been part of the amazing Kansas City art/music/dance/acrobatic/visual splendor collective Quixotic, which also lists Rick Willoughby as part of their music composition team. These three are some of the best musicians/artists that Kansas City has to offer, and we’re blessed to have them embrace Christmas music every year.

Their story and history were well-chronicled in an excellent article in the Kansas City Star, written by Tim Finn in 2015. The story is available here – there’s no use in me repeating what Tim wrote, and he did it much better than I, so please check out his article. Instead I want to focus on The Snow Globes’ amazing Christmas music output. They have released four CDs in the past five years, beginning with 2011’s “Can You Hear the Singing?” followed by “Winter Benediction” (2012), “To All Living Things” (2013), and “Milk and Cookies” (2015 - EP). Five years, four CDs, 33 songs.

The greatest thing about The Snow Globes' music is that it is unmistakably Christmassy. There are great blues Christmas songs, but they sound like the blues. Great jazz Christmas songs sounds jazzy, with familiar melodies and solo breaks. Rock and roll Christmas tunes are hard drivin’ and can be amazing residents in the Christmas music canon, but would you immediately think “Christmas” when you first hear them? Unless they start with sleigh bells, maybe not. When you put a Snow Globes album on, there is no doubt that it’s the sound of the holiday. Guitar, bells, banjo, bass, a little percussion, and outstanding vocals by Lindsey and Barclay, either solo or in duet – they have the seasonal sound down to a T.

And, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to their recording of “All I Want For Christmas is You” and it’s AWESOME! They can arrange a song like there’s no tomorrow. Barclay singing lead, Lindsey harmonizing and backing, banjo as the main instrument, maybe some light brush-snare, a slightly slower tempo than we're used to hearing, and they've given the Mariah Carey song a great jolt of life and Christmas spirit, and made it an entirely new experience for the listener.  The new, fresh arrangements of Christmas standards paired with their original compositions, all performed with a brightness and energy befitting the season make The Snow Globes one of my favorites.

The 2016 season is bringing another Snow Globes album. “Snowed In”, to be released in early December. Eleven more songs including standards as well as original compositions (as have all of their other albums). “Snowed In” features mainstays like “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland” as well as the seriously under-rated “Cool Yule”. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.  Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long. The Snow Globes are having a CD release concert on December 1, and are following that with several performances in the Kansas City area through the month of December. Their performance schedule is on their website.

What’s the greatest thing about The Snow Globes? Well, how about this:  they donate a large portion of their CD sales to The Wash Project, directed through Medical Missions Foundations. The Wash Project is focused on a simple premise for the people of Mali: washing hands with soap saves lives. More information and the opportunity to donate can be found here: Wash Project link.

Awesome Christmas music, year after year, by caring, loving people who are doing good in the world. Is there anything more in the spirit of Christmas than that?

The Snow Globes website

The Snow Globes on Facebook

Martin Barclay Ensemble on Facebook

Medical Missions Foundation: The Wash Project

Quixotic website

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