Kenny Rogers, Sara Evans + More Prep Holiday Concerts
Whether country fans like their Christmas music with harmonies, on the pop side or done the cowboy way, they can surely find the perfect Christmas concert this year! It seems everyone is out to spread a little Christmas cheer, from Kenny Rogers and John Berry to Point of Grace, Michael Martin Murphey, Vince Gill and Amy Grant, many artists are traveling the country to present their own favorite Christmas tunes in concert.
Kenny Rogers' 2010 Christmas & Hits tour launched Friday, November 26, in Bossier City, La., and continues to cites including Anderson, S.C., Atlantic City, N.J., Detroit, Mich., and Reading, Pa. He also released a new album of holiday music -- recorded on his tour last year -- which includes 'Let It Snow!' 'Silent Night' and 'Mary, Did You Know."
"I've always loved this time of year," Kenny says on his website. "I think it's because if you look around people in general truly seem different. They actually smile more, they're more gracious, they genuinely are happier. I think the older you get the more you relish those special seasonal moments with your family and friends."
Sara Evans, whose 2009 Christmas tour was a major success, continues her festive ways this year as her Sara Evans Celebrates the Season tour visits more than a dozen cities in the Northeast and Midwest including Bangor, Maine, Lowell, Mass., and Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Vince Gill and Amy Grant kick off their 11-city Christmas With Amy & Vince tour December 8 in Sarasota, Fla. The tour ends December 21 and 22 with two shows at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Other cities include Clearwater, Fla., Greensboro, N.C., and Atlanta. Each show runs two hours and includes Christmas standards and newer holiday tunes.
John Berry will host his 12th consecutive Christmas tour this year. It began November 16 in Lake City, Fla. and ends December 23 in Florence, Ala. John will travel throughout the Southeast and Midwest including stops in Benton Harbor, Mich., Dubuque, Iowa, Red Wing, Minn., and Macon, Ga. The first half of his show includes his hits, while the second half is devoted entirely to Christmas music, including 'The Little Drummer Boy,' 'O Holy Night,' 'My Heart Is Bethlehem' and 'Let it Snow!'
Point of Grace embark on their Home for the Holidays tour on December 2 in Eden Prairie, Minn., wrapping in Greenwood, S.C. on December 19. Chris August opens the tour, which features classics such as 'Joy to the World' and newer tunes including 'Labor of Love' and 'Candy Cane Lane.' The trek visits a dozen cities, among them Benton, Ark., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Asheville, N.C.
Keni Thomas will take his holiday music to the troops once again, when he headlines the SMA USO Tour. He's tagged Emily West and Buddy Jewell to join him. They leave December 13 and return December 24. He will, of course, be singing his new Christmas song, 'The Bugler,' which he wrote about troops on both sides putting their weapons down, at least for the holiday.
"For the past six years, I have been blessed to spend my Christmas doing what I love," Keni tells The Boot. "I get to go on the Sergeant Major of the Army's USO tour to perform for our service personnel stationed in the Middle East. If the spirit of Christmas is about giving, and music is my gift, then I can think of no place I would rather be than in a combat zone. Because somewhere in the midst of all that destructive reality and mind-numbing routine, the music we make finds a way to make a difference."
Keni takes 60 people along on the tour, including a 12-piece band, cheerleaders, comedians, country stars and beauty queens. "Over a two-week span, I will shake 5,000 hands, say thank you to twice as many and sleep about four hours! We do big shows on big stages at big bases throughout Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. But the moments that mean the most to me, the ones that make my Christmas so enormously special, are the ones I get to spend in front of the smallest of audiences."
"During the daytime," Keni continues, "we will all get on helicopters and branch out to the Forward Operating Bases located way out in the desert of Iraq or high up in the Afghan mountains. Some of these places have only a platoon of soldiers or marines and are little more than one cement bunker and some plywood huts. It's the kind of outpost where if the troops want to sit and hear you sing, they have to grab an ammo can. Uniforms are dirty. Weapons are slung and loaded. Even though the numbers are few, not everyone who wants to hear a song or meet a cheerleader gets that opportunity. Someone has to pull security and keep watch so that their buddies are safe to enjoy the moment."
Keni remembers one serviceman in particular from last year. "The same guy who had helped me carry my guitar in and had apologized for the lack of a stage walked me out to the bird. He kept thanking me over and over for coming. 'You may not think it's a big deal, but you should know how much it means to us. You are the first people that have come to visit us in eight months.' As the bird lifted off and pulled away, I looked back at that young soldier still standing and waving goodbye. Others began flooding out of the bunker and chased out into the open to wave as well. My eyes stayed fixed on the one guy long enough to see him stand at attention and shoot us a salute. It was the best Christmas gift I've ever received."
Michael Martin Murphey heads down the dusty trail for his Cowboy Christmas Ball with stops in Benton, Kan., Odessa, Texas, Oklahoma City, Okla., and Anson, Texas, where the first Cowboy Christmas Ball was held. He will do more than 15 stops before the tour ends in Albuquerque, N.M. on December 18. Michael honors the traditions of the original ball in Anson, which included a family-friendly atmosphere with alcohol-free beverages and no smoking allowed. Occasionally, he's even been known to leave the stage to take a turn or two around the room with one of the ladies in attendance, most often his wife or one of his daughters.
There are also options for folks who are traveling to Nashville for the Christmas season. Opryland Hotel's A Country Christmas includes Louise Mandrell's special dinner and show, 'The Gift,' which runs through December 25. The Oak Ridge Boys present their Christmas show at the hotel on December 21. The hotel itself is decorated for the season and the bigger-than-life Nativity scene is also on display.
The Fontanel Mansion and Farm, former home of Barbara Mandrell, is holding a Fontanel's Christmas in Dixie celebration featuring Randy Owen of Alabama. Intimate lunch and dinner celebrations will be held December 5-8. Each room of the 27,000-square-foot mansion will be decorated and filled with food, non-alcoholic drinks, live music and more. This is the first time the general public has been invited to visit the mansion for the holidays. Randy will present an intimate holiday performance at each of the evening gatherings, performing tunes from 'Alabama Christmas Vol I & II,' including 'Christmas In Dixie,' 'Angels Among Us' and other holiday favorites.