It's becoming a Christmas tradition for local concert promoter Paul Braun to present the Chicago-based musical group Classical Blast every holiday season at Chicago Street Theatre (154 W. Chicago St.) in Valparaiso.
"I've been a huge fan of theirs for years, and have worked with them on and off for several years," said Braun. "They've released three CDs, and are garnering critical acclaim everywhere they play."
The group is back once again on Sunday to deliver a special 7:30 p.m. show called "A Classical Blast Christmas" that incorporates a mix of original music and innovative new arrangements of classic rock tunes mashed up with holiday standards and played with cello, acoustic guitar, violin, bass and drums. Among the songs so uniquely covered in its seasonal repertoire are from such artists as Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Paul Simon, Metallica and Pink Floyd.
Hundreds of Christmas albums are released each year and compete for a place on your playlist for the all too short holiday music season of 6-8 weeks. Most seek to put a new spin on beloved standards and most tend to fail in succeeding. Not true of "Dark Side of the Yule," the new release by Chicago’s Classical Blast.
It's a mix of new, traditional and surprising -- best described as "Christmas meets Classic Rock" -- a wholly inventive and unique melding of Christmas carols and rock music in ways never before heard nor imagined. For instance -- "Silent Night" mashed with Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds Of Silence," or "Carol of the Bells" mashed with Metallica's "Enter Sandman."
In addition to their own creative members, the group's first seasonal record features some special guests -- rocker Cathy Richardson, bluesman Wayne Baker Brooks, and industrial punker Chris Connelly -- among others.
This columnist would describe a "Classical Blast Christmas" as being similar in premise to what Trans-Siberian Orchestra does, only notched down a bit on the technical side, so as to make the show work in much smaller, more intimate venues. There may be no lasers nor pyrotechnics used, but this high energy live show features amazing musical performances by a collective of extremely accomplished musicians -- guitarist/vocalist Javier Lopez, cellist Petar Kecenovici, violinist Jimmy Chaos, bassist Bill Syniar and drummer Dave Kelly. And while the guests from the album rarely join them live, there are special guests sitting in at the various live shows. Experience the group online at classicalblast.com.
"Getting to bring a special show like this to our stage is a real treat," Braun said. "This is not your typical Christmas concert, and our audiences here at Chicago Street have responded enthusiastically to it, agreeing that this group of talented players definitely present something special." Reserved tickets: $20. More: chicagostreet.org or 219-464-1636.
• Condolences to Elvis tribute artist Shawn Klush (shawnklush.com) on the loss of his mother last week. Shawn's fans learned the popular entertainer's mom passed away last Saturday morning, the day he was to have performed at the Star Plaza Theatre. Kudos to Justin Shandor who flew in from Vegas to cover for his friend and fellow tribute artist as the show's closing act. Justin did an excellent job, but Shawn was in the thoughts of his many Northwest Indiana fans. For many area Elvis fans, it was their first introduction to Shandor (justinshandor.com).
• Congratulations on Region celebrity Charlie Smith -- former '60s actress, Miss Indiana 1964, and the widow of Mike Smith of The Dave Clark Five -- for having successfully collected "over 3,000 items" on her November coat drive for Native Americans. Several area businesses participated as did the local high schools of Hobart, Hebron and Chesterton. Smith is currently in the Southwest delivering the items.
• Teen singer Jakob Delich -- who channels the sound and spirit of classic crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra -- will perform tonight at the annual Santa Paws event hosted by The Service Doctor (5150 E. Lincoln Highway/U.S. 30) in Merrillville. Held inside the business' showroom from 5:30-8:30 p.m., the event benefits the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana, and features complimentary food and cocktails, and DJ music. Lots of auction items also offered. The event is sponsored by The Service Doctor, U Cook, Wise Guys Marketing Solutions and Digital Purpose Digital Marketing Agency. More:219-942-0883 or servicedoctor.net/event/humane-society-northwest-indiana-fundraiser
• The Original Stoney Ridge Band performs a 7:30 p.m. show at The Crossroads Bar (4817 South U.S. 421) in Westville on Friday. More: 219- 785-4030.
• Along with showcasing many pieces of art created by regional talents, Paul Henry's Art Gallery (416 Sibley) in Hammond has become quite the popular place to catch acoustic music. The intimate gallery hosts Acoustic JAM nights every Thursday throughout December. A special Christmas JAM on the Dec. 21 and a New Years JAM on Dec. 28 are also scheduled. Another upcoming event that one may want to reserve a seat for is the third annual performance by The Calumet Ridge Jazz Ensemble's "Big Band Christmas Show," on Christmas Eve's Eve, (12/23) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. More: 219-678-5015.
• Members of the Chicago rock band The Kind and other regional groups prominent during the late '70s/early '80s heyday of Chicago's Power-Pop Scene, guest live Friday from noon to 2 p.m. on 89.1FM-Lakeshore Public Radio's "Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges" program. A variety of both old and new songs from bands of that era will be spotlighted during the program.
On Tuesday (12/12) the iconic Northwest Indiana vocal group The Spaniels Forever will guest live on the same Lakeshore program at 7 p.m. to sing holiday songs and traditional Christmas carols live on the radio for all to enjoy. Lakeshore programs stream live online at: lakeshorepublicmedia.org.