Songs for the Season

Unique Musical Programs

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Santa Songs Program

For detailed information on this year’s schedule see below “Santa Songs 2014.”

“Santa Songs: A Christmas Cabaret” — playing three Thursdays in December in Northtown, Oak Park, and Skokie, IL: a concert of holiday music celebrating Santa traditions from Father Christmas to Old St. Nick and Kris Kringle, staring Daniel T. Johnson with music director Mark Burnell at the piano and Matthew Ellenwood, stage director.

Daniel Johnson
is a frequent interpreter of holiday material having appeared many times as Santa professionally and for charity. His acting has been featured in “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th St.” Daniel is a veteran musical theatre performer of material from Gilbert and Sullivan to Cole Porter. This will be is fourth year presenting “Santa Songs: A Christmas Cabaret”.

Mark Burnell is an accomplished pianist/vocalist/arranger and one of Chicago’s most sought after musicians, working with a wide array of talent.

Matthew Ellenwood is a vocal director active in the Chicago Cabaret Community and serves as Artistic Director of Terra Mysterium Performance Troupe.

Paul L. Johnson (composer) is a NYC based composer/musical director. Among his most notable achievements are: conductor for the world premiere of WHERE ELEPHANTS WEEP in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia; recipient of two OOBR awards for composing and musically directing COWBOYS! and TANGO MASCULINO at Wings Theatre in NYC. He has also musically directed over 180 productions for regional, community and Off-Off Broadway theater. Paul has composed many songs for church, for cabaret and for the musical theater.

2014 edition of Santa Songs will benefit West Suburban PADS and the greater Chicago Food Depository.

There will be one 10 minute intermission

This Evening’s Program

Mummer’s Bells (lyric trad., music Paul L. Johnson)

Ballad of St. Nicholas (lyric Mike Sherer, music traditional)

Night Before Christmas Jig (lyric C. Moore, music Paul L. Johnson)

Toyland (Herbert and MacDonough, 1903)

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel and McDonald, 1922)

Medley: A Christmas Carol (Tom Lehrer) Silver and Gold (Johnny Marks, 1992)
Oh, Christmas Tree (Traditional)

Pine Cones and Holly Berries (Meredith Willson, 1963)

That’s What I’d Like For Christmas (Bricusse and Ornadel, 1963)


Dear Ole Santy Claus (lyrics – Dan Johnson and David Stephens, music trad.)

My Grown-up Christmas Wish (Linda Thompson-Jenner and David Foster, 1990)

Expect Things to Happen and Up on the Rooftop (Meredith Willson, 1963) &
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (Gillespie and Coots, 1932)

Here’s Love (Meredith Willson, 1963)

Yes, Virginia (There’s a Santa Claus) (Whatley and Schermerhorn, 2010)

Here Comes Santa Claus (Autry and Haldeman, 1947)

Be A Santa (lyric, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music, J. Styne, 1961)

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Yes, Virginia there will be Pinecones and Holly Berries

For details about this season’s performances see below “Santa Songs: 2014.”

At the core of Santa Songs are two contemporary stories concerning the Santa tradition, one about a man who believed himself to be Santa and another about a little girl longing for the truth about Santa Claus.

When I was first researching the pagan origins of Santa I consulted an excellent resource, “The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas” by John Matthews. I was delighted to read that these two stories where highlighted as furthering the Santa tradition in the modern world because they are favorites of mine and also because both had been made into musicals!

In 1963 Meredith Willson (of “The Music Man” fame) created “Here’s Love!” which was a moderate success on Broadway and is still produced, mostly under the title “Miracle on 34th St., the Musical.” When I was a teen aged musician in Michigan our school band besotted with all things River City decided to make a pilgrimage to Detroit where “Here’s Love” was having tryouts. So I saw the original pre-Broadway tour of this wonderful show. It was not without problems as a production but did result in an Original Cast Recording that I made it a fetish to play almost every Thanksgiving season for decades. Nobody could make the Christmas season march into Harold Square with more joy than Willson. I’ll be telling the story of the movie and I’m doing three songs from Willson’s musical. “Pine Cones and Holly Berries” extolls traditional activities Kris Kringle holds dear leading up to the holiday. “Expect Things to Happen” is Kris’ advice about releasing the powers of imagination and “Here’s Love!” is the title song which gets to the heart of what the season is about: bringing people together in love.

The other story is how the editor of the New York Sun affirms the existence of Santa in “Yes, Virginia: There is a Santa Claus,” which was musicalized by Whatley and Schermerhorn as part of Macy’s “Believe” campaign in 2010. The title song from the animated movie of the same name, was performed by Ann Hampton Callaway in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast that season. When I heard her sing the lyric “It’s true, if you believe,” I knew that I had to do the song because it moved me so and really gets to the essence of the story. And the song did go on to win an Emmy award that year.

The writers of the Yes, Virginia feature were literally trying to “top” Miracle on 34th Street” and succeeded in furthering the connection between Macy’s Parade and the Santa tradition. My show climaxes with three songs about Christmas Parades bringing in the festive season. Please come along and enjoy!

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