Mannheim Steamroller rolling back into town Nov. 23 for Kennewick performance

Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldNovember 21, 2013 

Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller

Chip Davis is a serious musician who likes to dabble in silliness from time to time.

Though most think of the Mannheim Steamroller founder as a neoclassical electronic musician who knows how to enhance the sound of Christmas, Davis also loves Halloween, hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon and running with his wolves on his 150-acre ranch in Omaha, Neb.

"I think I might like Halloween better than Christmas," Davis joked in a phone interview with the Herald. "I have released two Halloween albums that were really fun to record."

But it's his Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums that rocked Davis to fame. One of his Mannheim touring groups makes a stop in the Tri-Cities on Nov. 23 at the Windermere Theatre at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

"I won't be with this tour in your town because starting on Thanksgiving Day, we'll be performing at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida," he said.

Davis and another group of his Mannheim musicians have been performing a theater production called Grinchmas at the resort for about six years.

"We began doing concerts every weekend during the month of December, one of Universal's holiday highlights," he said. "They are free and always jam packed."

Occasionally, he'll perform with his musicians in Orlando, but when his arm starts aching, he has one of his musicians to take over and he runs the show from the sidelines. He injured his neck and right arm several years ago in a car wreck, which is why he doesn't travel with the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas show any longer, he said.

Davis released his first Mannheim Christmas album in 1984, which was turned down by all the major music distributors, so he started his own label, American Gramophone.

The platinum-selling album proved to music industry distributors that Christmas albums were indeed profitable, he said. Since then, Mannheim Steamroller concerts have become a Christmas tradition across the country. It also means Davis hasn't been home for the holidays in a while.

"I haven't been home for the holidays in a long, long time, but I'll see my kids (he has three grown children) in Florida while I'm there, and that's always a good thing."

When Davis isn't touring somewhere in the world, he likes to be home on his Omaha ranch spending time with five horses, a menagerie of cats and dogs and two wolves named Seti and Ramses after the Egyptian pharaohs.

"I've raised the boys since they were pups," he said.

When he's traveling, he has a trainer who tends to the animals, but when he's home, he likes to run with his wolves on his 150-acre property.

"To be truthful, it's Ramses and Seti who do the running, and I tag along in my golf cart," he said. "I carry a bag of carrots and hot dogs, and the three of us go visit the horses."

And no, the horses don't freak out when the wolves come calling, he added. "They all grew up together, and everybody gets along."

Though Davis loves performing his music, his home time is treasured and inspiration for composing his music, he said.

"Sometimes I write in my sleep," Davis said. "It's like that for probably most musicians."

He grew up in Ohio in a musical family. His dad was a high school music teacher who once played with the Glenn Miller Band during World War II. His mom played in an all-female orchestra, and both of his grandmothers were classical musicians.

He earned a music degree from the University of Michigan and is considered a "prolific classical musician" by many in the music world.

Though Davis, 66, grew up during the sexual revolution of the 1960s, rock music was foreign to him.

"Hard to believe, I know," he said. "But I truly knew nothing of rock 'n' roll growing up."

Besides being a composer, he is also multi-instrumental, and his musical creativity stretches into the final frontier -- space.

"It's always been my dream to go into space," Davis said. "I haven't been there yet, but my music has."

In a partnership with The Space Foundation, his album Music of the Spheres features one of the most accurate audio recordings of a space shuttle launch and landing ever made, according to the website ambiencetherapy.com.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the Nov. 23 Mannheim Steamroller Christmas show in Kennewick cost from $39 to $65 and are available at ticketmaster.com or the Toyota Center box office. Tickets purchased at the box office avoid service charges.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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