Monday, November 30, 2009

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Since breaking my abstaining-from-Christmas philosophy since Thanksgiving, Kathy & I have been indulging in K103 FM's all-Christmas-music-all-the-time annual programming while in the car, and although I have since heard Wham!'s Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart) about five times, tonight on my drive home I experienced my first-listening-of-the-season of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve Sarajevo. As soon as I heard those first notes while driving across the Ross Island Bridge I thought OHMANOHMANOHMAN and turned up the volume to an acceptably inappropriately loud level and my chest heaved with on-the-verge-of-sobs emotion the entire time, like it does every single time I hear this song. I recently came to the conclusion that The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin was the most dramatic song ever recorded (it happened like this: I listened to it one night and said to myself, "This is the most dramatic song ever recorded!") but after a re-listen to this song I think they might be tied. I mean, this song is REALLY DRAMATIC. Like, it is ridiculous. But I love every second of it. Even the title - Christmas Eve Sarajevo, visions of snow falling on war-torn lands, oh God! - is emotionally wrought. Before looking it up on YouTube, I had also forgotten how amazing and somewhat confusing the video is. Is it about world peace? Is it about cute kittens? Is it about how cold it must be playing the piano and rocking out on the axe in the snow? Who knows!

Although Trans-Siberian Orchestra have come out with a few albums, I hold this first one, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, that came out in 1996 dear to my heart for reasons other than just Christmas Eve Sarajevo. My mom is a big fan and has played this album every Christmas since 1996 and so I've come to know it pretty well. She has also seen them in concert every year since then, and I was able to go to one of them with her in Scranton back in high school. (I remember it being very, very loud.) Anyway, the reason I like this album is because it tells a story. At the concert, they had a narrator on the side of the stage who would narrate the story between pieces, making it half concert, half theater. Let me tell you. I love this stuff. I feel like the best music, or at least the music that is most important to our culture, has always been music that tells stories. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are two dudes who are good at this. As in, the purpose of a song is not just to say, Oh, love is so hard, or, Oh, I am so sad and lonely! (although it can obviously serve this purpose too), but instead the role of a rock star is actually the role of a storyteller, following in the line of storytelling traditions throughout different cultures throughout centuries, who spins tales that say something about who we are. Which is why I think things like -

Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom, riding around with the car top down and the radio on / Nobody looked any finer or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner / We never knew we could want more than that out of life / Surely Brenda and Eddie would always know how to survive

- are so great. And which is why I like things like Christmas Eve and Other Stories, even though the story it tells is overtly religious, involving an angel coming down from heaven to find the best thing about the human race for God, and helps a bartender help a young girl, who is estranged from her family and alone in the big scary city, get back to her family on Christmas, teaching us that helping others is even better than the prettiest Christmas songs, etc. etc., something touchingly cheesy like that. I'm not normally an overtly religious person, but I like the whole experience of it.

In this touchingly cheesy tradition, the other highlights on this album include A Star to Follow, which includes a children's chorus singing "Christmas, we are your children, lead and we'll follow" (children's choirs singing touching lyrics = killer!) and This Christmas Day, which starts out quiet and with the question, "So tell me Christmas, are we wise?" and leads up to a layering of a burly-gravelly-sounding man's voice yelling "She's coming home this Christmas daaaaaaaay!", a joyous background choir chanting "Merry Christmas, merry merry Christmas nooooooow!", and of course lots of awesome electric guitar. Oh man it is gut wrenching, in a cheesy and awesome way.

As an ending note, my other favorite memory involving this band includes rocking out to them with Steve and Kathy on Thanksgiving two years ago at the beach house at Gleneden Beach. No one can rock those air guitars like you, Steve. Thank you for being awesome.


  1. LOL as soon as i saw this post i was wondering if you would mention me and steve rocking out. loved it.

  2. so good. i also have been listening to the all-Christmas music station non-stop. and now i go to put up our nativity set and other decorations (aside from the tree). yippee!