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Various Artists

Jazz Review wants to thank Ann Hampton Callaway, Cyrus Chestnut, Brenda Earle and Sherrie Maricle for taking time to share with us their Christmas memories and plans.

Where did you spend Christmas growing up and what special memories do you have of that time?

Ann Hampton Callaway:

No one does Christmas like Chicago, with great white lights everywhere and snow swirling in the wind. It’s like you live in a holiday snow globe.

I loved when my mom took my sister Liz and I to see Santa at Carson Pirie Scott’s. He must have been charmed by us because we daughters of a struggling journalist would be lavished with amazing presents on Christmas morning. One of my favorite presents was a guitar when I was ten. It helped me start writing songs.

Cyrus Chestnut:

I spent Christmas growing up in Baltimore, MD. As I think back, that was such a happy time. There was a unique spirit of happiness that warms my heart even now.

Brenda Earle:

I spent the holidays every year with my family in Sarnia, Ontario Canada. When I was little my mother would do arts and crafts with us, making ornaments. We still hang up the ornaments that she made on our tree every year. After she passed away, my dad took over the tradition of cooking a gigantic turkey and making the best pies you could ever imagine.

Now that we are "grown up" and my brother and I live abroad (my bro in Denmark, me in the US) we still try to fly in every Christmas to hang with my dad. My dad takes me out on these long walks along the Sarnia Bay - even in the freezing cold! I take him to church on Christmas Eve. It's very low key, but I look forward to evenings of drinking dairy-free hot chocolate in front of the fireplace!

Sherrie Maricle:

My father’s mother had a farm and one of my favorite things was on the big mantle in her dining room where she always had a Christmas village set up. She also had a big singing Santa Claus head that went above the village. I have that in my house now and I hang that up every year without fail. You pull a string and it sings some carols but it is literally a Santa head. Somehow that connects me to all the fun times on the farm at Christmas.

What special traditions do you carry on today?

Ann Hampton Callaway:

The Callaways are very traditional. Every Christmas Eve one of us, usually our mom, reads "The Night Before Christmas", the copy we had as kids and then we leave a Christmas cookie and eggnog out for Santa. If I am with my nephew, I sing to him my original Christmas song that Barabara Streisand recorded. The "Christmas Lullaby" calms him down before he goes to bed. And it’s not Christmas until someone plays the opening bars of Robert Shaw’s Christmas album- no matter where anyone is it is played as loud as we can get it and we cry and know the day has finally come.

Cyrus Chestnut:

Before we open any presents, the family would always pray and give thanks to God. This is something I carry forward with my own family.

Brenda Earle:

I look forward to being my dad's "date" for church at the Christmas Eve family service every year. As a teenager, I sang "O Holy Night" every Christmas, a tradition I brought back last Christmas. Only this year, I re-harmonized it and sang/played it in a more modern jazz kind of way.

Do you have some seasonal songs that you really enjoy playing, singing or brings back fond memories?

Ann Hampton Callaway:

The Callaways’ favorite Christmas song is "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". It makes us remember how precious it is that we have each other. We always do selections from Handel’s Messiah and The Hallelujah Chorus is a must. I usually butcher Rejoice Greatly since my opera training has long worn off with all the scatting and blues. And we have a truly goofy version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that features my nephew Nicholas in his mockingly hammy style.

I usually perform holiday shows in December and people always request my original songs "Manhattan In December" and "God Bless My Family" from my solo holiday CD "This Christmas". I also love to sing Baby It’s Cold Outside with whatever flirtatious man is around.

Cyrus Chestnut:

All of the songs to me are special, however, the Vince Guaraldi interpretation of O Christmas Tree rings a special note with me since his music was my introduction to jazz. I enjoy playing them all.

Sherrie Maricle:

O Holy Night has a lot of meaning to me, because I sang it at church every Christmas when I was growing up. I always get a kick out of the calypso version of "Mary’s Boy Child". I remember singing it as a young child and really digging the rhythm!

White Christmas (holds special memories for me) because my mother’s mother loved Bing Crosby so much and she was always playing it.

Generally, I tend to dislike Christmas songs, because I spent three Christmases on a cruise ship as a piano bar entertainer. Nothing like 5 holiday singalongs every day for two weeks to take the joy out of the holiday songs!

I have developed a real love of Hanukkah songs, believe it or not. The song "8 Little Candles" is a lot of fun to sing!

How will you spend Christmas this year?

Ann Hampton Callaway:

As usual, we will all gather at my sister’s house by the

roaring fire, with the big furry cat. We will eat, drink

champagne, have lots of singing around the piano and way

too many presents even though each year we say we will be

more modest.

Cyrus Chestnut:

I look forward to spending Christmas this year in a new house with plenty friends and family.

Brenda Earle:

Back at my dad's house in Sarnia. My bro is bringing his girlfriend over from Denmark, which should be interesting. I assume that my dad and I will do a lot of walking again, no matter how unbearably cold it is out!

Sherrie Maricle:

I am going to Brazil to study Samba. I decided that my Christmas present to myself is I am going to Rio. I am going to learn how to be a better Samba drummer.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various Artists
  • Subtitle: No One Does Christmas Like Chicago... Unless You are From Sarnia, Baltimore or New York!
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