Mannheim Steamroller Brings the Christmas Spirit Back to the John Paul Jones Arena

Mannheim Steamroller at JPJ Arena on 12/12/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Charlottesville, VA – It’s hard to believe it has been 37 years since Chip DavisMannheim Steamroller released their first Christmas album (1984, Christmas). Their unique (at the time) style, dubbed “18th century classic rock” laid the groundwork for others  to combine the muisic of the past with the sounds of today. I had the opportunity to catch Mannheim Steamroller at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA on December 12, 2021 and was quite impressed with the show.

The first thing I noticed was the stoic professionalism of the orchestra members. While member animation was minimal, the most animated were Anna Lackaff (harpsicord, I had never seen or heard one played, AWESOME!) and David Plank (piano). When not playing the violin, conductor Mark Agnor ensured the orchestra was able to keep up.

Anna Lackaff of Mannheim Steamroller at the JPJ Arena on 12/12/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

There was a little fun when drummer and narrator Tom Sharpe informed us that it was Mark’s birthday. I think he (and the orchestra) were surprised when the audience broke into a (very) off key rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Despite the tonal disparity, Mark and the rest of the orchestra seemed to enjoy the serenade. Instrumental diversity was demonstrated by bass and other stringed instrument musician, Christopher Forte as well as the long time percussionist (timpani, bongos, and others) and recorder musician, Joey Gulizia. Rounding out the orchestra were several local musicians.

The performance was about 45 minutes of music and lights followed by a short intermission then a second set, which included performance of their first album. The set concluded with “Stille Nacht”, their version of “Silent Night” from their first album. Following a standing O, they came out and performed “Fum Fum Fum” as their encore.

Mark Agnor of Mannheim Steamroller at the JPJ Arena on 12/12/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

With all the high energy performances I have covered recently it was refreshing to be able to sit back and calmly enjoy some great and nostalgic Christmas music performed by the band that made the style possible. 

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