Mannheim Steamroller lands its first Las Vegas residency at The Palazzo
By Susan Stapleton
For the past 27 years, Mannheim Steamroller, the group known for its New Age renditions of classical Christmas music, has toured the world.This year alone, the two touring groups of Mannheim Steamroller plan to visit 94 cities to get everyone in the holiday spirit. The group even plans to perform for the third time in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and a live Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular in Orlando. But this year marks a first for the group: an extended residency in Las Vegas.
“If you’d asked me 20 years ago if we’d be doing all this, I’d have never thought we would,” says Chip Davis, the composer and musician behind the blend of classical compositions and rock rhythms that make up Mannheim Steamroller. The six-week mini residency at The Palazzo kicks off Nov. 20 with a show quite different from that at other touring stops. Here, Mannheim Steamroller plans to create an intense multimedia experience that incorporates still images and film.
“This show in Vegas is unlike any of the other shows. We have dancers. We’re projecting on three layers that create a 3-D image,” Davis says, without the 3-D glasses. In front of the 12-piece band, a scrim that includes acrylic glass violins lit up in neon colors will show images of the ocean or outer space. Acrobats, dancers and trapeze artists flying above give Mannheim Steamroller a new way to showcase their music. Davis calls the show something you “can’t see anywhere else.” The group also plans to release a new CD, Winter in Venice, coinciding with The Venetian and The Palazzo’s winter festival, occurring during Mannheim Steamroller’s extended stay. Also on hand is the orchestra’s top-selling nonmusic product, cinnamon hot chocolate.
What started as Davis tinkering with an unusual album of classical music turned into Mannheim Steamroller, named for an 18th-century German music technique that involves a crescendo over a bass line, back in 1975 when the first album was self-distributed. Davis released four albums, under the name Fresh Aire, for each of the seasons. The real success came in 1984 when he released Mannheim Steamroller Christmas with its contemporary stylings of yuletide favorites. Now the group has released 45 albums, which have sold more than 40 million copies. Since that first Christmas album in 1984, Mannheim Steamroller has traveled more than 27 million miles across eight different time zones for its annual Christmas tour.
When a car accident left Davis with a crushed disk, and he realized that he could replace himself in the band, he started a second version of Mannheim Steamroller with musicians he knew in Omaha, where the group is based. “We’ve grown a crazy amount in size in a short amount of time,” Davis says.