Molnar, Rosen focus on emotions in ‘December Star’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
“December Star,” a track written and performed by James A. Molnar and Luke D. Rosen on “Holiday Wishes 3,” sets a familiar scene — a holiday party lit by a fireplace, complete with laughing friends and family. But the song also asks: What about the loved ones who aren’t there?
“We wanted to make [the song] something that was … universal and [focus on] that feeling at the holidays when you’re around all these people and you’re happy because all of these people are around. I always find the second I walk away from that situation, you can’t help but think about who wasn’t there and that’s what the song is about,” Rosen said.
Rosen played the music for the song while Molnar sang. Rosen is the choral director for St. John’s Jesuit High School & Academy and director of music ministry at Corpus Christi University Parish. Molnar is the design editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. He is also a designer for “Holiday Wishes 3.” The two have been friends for about three years.
Their track paints a picture of the journey home from a holiday gathering. In the bleak winter night, a shining star catches the singer’s eye.
“For me, the star is my mom (Paula Molnar Fels, who died in 2011) and I think a lot of people will be able to relate with having their own star,” Molnar said.
Molnar knew he wanted to contribute a track to “Holiday Wishes 3,” which benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, when production was wrapping up on “Holiday Wishes 2” last year.
“I got the idea and I said to Luke, ‘Hey, why don’t we do a song together for the Make-A-Wish CD? We can do ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ and you can come up with your own arrangement,’” Molnar said.
Rosen recalled responding, “Or we could just try to write something original.”
Both men knew they wanted the song to have a strong emotional core.
“I didn’t want us to be doing some song that neither one of us felt strongly about,” Rosen said. The two discussed holiday imagery before landing on the star metaphor. They also turned to a poem Molnar wrote about his mother.
“I had written a poem shortly after she died and I used that poem as a springboard to some of the lyrics for this song,” Molnar said.
Molnar said the song’s heavy emotional content didn’t hit him until he was recording in the studio.
Rosen said, “[James] was out on [his] own in that separate room kind of reflecting that aloneness that is in the music. The rest of us were all in a room together.”
Molnar wasn’t the only one having a new experience. Recording with an electronic keyboard was new for Rosen.
“I hadn’t done it that way ever. I’d always used a real grand piano,” he said.
Rosen, who has written several songs, put musical references into “December Star” from two Christmas classics: “We Three Kings” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
“I like weaving some things in there. I think those things put you in the right frame of mind. They can subconsciously put you somewhere,” he said.
Both Rosen and Molnar have sang and played music since childhood.
Molnar, a member of The Toledo Swiss Singers, said he usually sings in choirs so performing “December Star” was unique for him.
“I know how to sing in a group, but singing a solo on my own is a very different thing. There’s pressure, but it was a new experience that was enjoyable,” he said.
Feedback on “December Star” has been positive, Molnar and Rosen said.
“My friends that I’ve played it for who have lost a parent or had some kind of a loss like that, they’ve actually really gravitated toward it,” Rosen said.
The fact that the track helps support the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions, is gratifying, they said.
“Make-A-Wish is a perfect organization … that really brings home what humanity should be about. It’s about helping others, especially kids, when they’re most vulnerable,” Molnar said. “Some of them are worse off than others. The bottom line is, some of them just need hope and Make-A-Wish helps provide hope.”
Tags: Corpus Christi University Parish, December Star, Holiday Wishes 3, James A. Molnar, Luke D. Rosen, Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. John's Jesuit High School, St. John’s Jesuit Academy, Toledo Swiss Singers