Miller: If you believeWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Whitney of the band The Eight Fifteens is quick to point out that his track “If You Believe” was not written as a holiday song. It was, he said, written during a time of marital communication problems as a plea for peace.
But when I heard the song for the first time, while looking for tunes for last summer’s Red Cross benefit CD, I not only wanted to include it in the 2013 holiday collection, I knew it should be the title track.
As we unveil “Holiday Wishes 3: If You Believe” this week at The Town Center at Levis Commons, I am confident in the choice. If any sentiment encapsulates the spirit of Christmas, it’s “If you believe.” Because the season is meaningless unless you believe in something. If you believe in the birth of Jesus. If you believe in Santa Claus. If you believe in family and the precious gift of life. None of it is worth the melted snow off Frosty’s back without belief.
The Eight Fifteens were gracious enough to remaster the track with some subtle holiday bells, but even without them, the song sets a tone for this year’s CD. We are offering a two-CD set with 45 songs by local musicians for $10. Every cent of the sales benefits the local chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation. Not only are you getting more than two-and-a-half hours of timeless holiday music, you are helping a family make things better for their sick child.
Do you believe in that?
Easier but harder
This is the third year for this series, and while producing the CD has become easier, compiling the music is getting more difficult — for all the right reasons. More than 80 local artists submitted tracks for this year’s project. The bad news is that it was impossible to include them all. The good news is that we have a major head start on the 2014 CD.
The music is made by local talent, from familiar names such as Mannheim Steamroller, Sanctus Real, Pat Dailey, Kerry Patrick Clark, Mike “Mad Dog” Adams, Ramona Collins, Nine Lives and Kyle White to new contributors like Ear Candy, Kelly Broadway, Estar Cohen Project, Shawn Highsmith, Brad McNett and TJ Thomas.
There are remarkable spoken-word tracks by the ethereal Suzanne Carroll, K100 mainstay Harvey Steele, WNWO newsman Jim Blue and Jennifer Rockwood, the first lady of Toledo theater. The crown jewel of this year’s spoken-word collection is a 12-minute dramatic version of “A Christmas Carol,” which, despite my clumsy editing efforts, conveys the heart and soul of the Charles Dickens classic. The all-star cast includes WSPD’s Fred LeFebvre as Scrooge (a casting masterstroke that garnered a masterful performance), Jerry Anderson as the ghost of Jacob Marley and Rick Woodell and Mary Beth Zolik of The River as Ghosts of Christmas Present and Past. Toledo Free Press Star contributors and WSPD “Eye on Your Weekend” panelists Jeff McGinnis and Jim Beard provide cameos and I am proud that my sons, Evan, 7, and Sean, 5, play the roles of the boy sent for the turkey and Tiny Tim. The entire production is held together by nuanced narration by actor/director Matthew Gretzinger.
Music producer/genius Mighty Wyte and I spent a five-hour session adding sound effects and music; it amazes me that my amateur idea could become reality in the hands of so many dedicated professionals.
I freely admit that while the project exists to serve the charity, I get some personal satisfaction by matching some
of my favorite songs with some of my favorite artists. I specifically requested three songs this year and the results are far better than I could have imagined. White recorded The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” with vulnerability and raw longing. Collins lent her talents to “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and my guess is there will be a lot of October babies who owe their conception to the sensuality and aching desire her voice embeds in the track. Joel Zmuda brought a new take to one my old favorites, Bobby Darrin’s “A Christmas Auld Lang Syne,” and nailed every syllable of the lyrics’ humility and gratitude.
I would like to tell you the story behind every track, but two in particular merit your attention. Toledo Free Press Design Editor James A. Molnar adds to his resumé as a print, blog, TV and radio personality with an original song, “December Star.” When Molnar told me he was writing and recording a track with his friend Luke D. Rosen, a song about the passing of his mom, Paula Molnar Fels, I was a bit nervous; how would I tell a friend and co-worker if his song wasn’t up to standards?
It was an unnecessary worry.
“December Star” is a beautiful, emotional tribute that will take its place alongside the classics for those fortunate enough to hear it. Thank you, James.
Another remarkable track, which like “If You Believe” was not conceived as a holiday song, is Jeff Stewart’s “Sleepyhead.” The intimate, heartbreaking track encompasses just two people, a long, cold night and snowy roads; it contains a hook that could be a line from a novel: “She writes ‘I am fragile’ with the refrigerator magnets/There’s many more words to choose from but she picks this and its fragments.” Stewart reveals more about the inner workings of his characters in four minutes than many films do in two hours. If Stewart’s new CD maintains the quality of “Sleepyhead” and his Red Cross track, “Little One,” he will deliver a masterpiece.
As always, there were many champions who helped make this project a reality. In addition to literally hundreds of artists, I owe gratitude to Christopher Stoll of Audioflare Recording Studio in Holland, who locked himself away for days to record nearly half of the CD’s tracks; Wyte, who engineers the disc and this year contributes a cinematic, booming re-imagining of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” that will rattle your car windows; attorney Larry Meyer, who researches the publishing rights of each cover song to make sure the proper writers get paid; and Casey Pogan, who has worked tirelessly to give the CD a distribution home at The Town Center of Levis Commons, specifically Blue Pacific Grill, Build It!, C Sterling Jewelers, Flying Joe, Lily’s, Poco Piatti, Salvatore Capelli Hair Spa & Beauty Lounge, Second Sole, Vivian Kate, Yankee Candle and The Town Center Management Office.
If, like me, you are blessed with healthy children, you understand another of my motivations for this project — not ever taking that health for granted, and offering work and contribution as a way of displaying that gratitude and eternal thanks.
There are more people to thank than I have space for, but every one of you should know in your heart that I believe in you and that your efforts will bring hope and belief to many, many local families. Thanks to you, many people will believe, like I believe, in the spirit and love of the season.
I believe. Do you?
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star and news director for 1370 WSPD. Email him at email@example.com.
Tags: A Christmas Auld Lang Syne, A Christmas Carol, Audioflare Recording Studio, Blue Pacific Grill, Bobby Darrin, Brad McNett, Build It, C Sterling Jewelers, Charles Dickens, Christopher Stoll, Estar Cohen Project, Eye on Your Weekend, Flying Joe, Fred LeFebvre, Harvey Steele, Holiday Wishes 3: If You Believe, Jacob Marley, James A. Molnar, Jeff McGinnis, Jeff Stewart, Jennifer Rockwood, Jerry Anderson, Jim Beard, Jim Blue, Joel Zmuda, Josh Whitney, K100, Kelly Broadway, Kerry Patrick Clark, Kyle White, Lily's, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mannheim Steamroller, Mary Beth Zolik, Matthew Gretzinger, Mike 'Mad Dog' Adams, Nine Lives, Pat Dailey, Poco Piatti, Ramona Collins, Red Cross benefit CD, Rick Woodell, Salvatore Capelli Hair Spa & Beauty Lounge, Sanctus Real, Second Sole, Shawn Highsmith, Suzanne Carroll, The Eight Fifteens, The Town Center at Levis Commons, The Town Center Management Office, Tiny Tim, TJ Thomas, Vivian Kate, WNWO, WSPD, WSPD’s Fred LeFebvre as Scrooge, Yankee Candle