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Christmas Memories
 
Every year we take time to talk to some special friends within the music industry, to ask them what special memories they have from previous Christmases. This year the questions that we also asked them to consider were, if they have a favorite holiday song, how they will spend this Christmas this year, and to share any special traditions that they have. 
 
We would like to take this opportunity to thank urban/R&B recording artist Nikkole, her brother Wallace Hall from SE Entertainment/Wham Associates, platinum record selling country singer/songwriter Suzy Bogguss, smooth jazz saxophonist Andrew Neu, Under the Lake's bass guitarist Nathan Brown, The Bellamy Brothers' ("Let Your Love Flow" fame), the second generation Jesse and Noah Bellamy, who are tearing up the country music charts, and saxophone virtuoso Darren Rahn. We would also like to thank the publicist, management and labels who worked hard to help us pull this together this year. 
 
The only editing that has been done has been simply to meet space requirements. For those who replied by email we left intact their exclamation marks and any letters they capitalized to add emphasis. Sit back with a cup of hot chocolate, eggnog or a glass of wine and enjoy, as these wonderful people give you a glimpse into this special time of the their lives. 
 
Part I
 
At this time of the year, what special memories do you have?
 
Suzy Bogguss:  I think the anticipation. Back in the old days, we weren't used to buying our Christmas presents in July, just because we knew we were going to get a good deal. We weren't thinking about it until December 1st. We had an Advent calendar to count down the days. It was three weeks of excitement, daydreaming and the Sears Wish Book. I grew up in a very small town so your presents usually came out of the catalogue. Even when I was a kid, once the day of Christmas was over, it was a big letdown. It is the leading up to it that is all the joy and beauty. When I was a little kid, we had a little cracker box house, and we had one heating unit for the entire home. It was a big thing in the wall that was maybe three or four feet tall, and twenty-four inches wide. That is where we hung out. It was our fireplace. The Christmas tree would have twinkle lights on it, with all different colors, and I would just sit, squinting, trying to make all the colors go together. I believed in Santa until I was ten years old.  
 
Andrew Neu:  I always remember heading into the attic with my older brother and sister in early December, to get the boxes with the lights and the Christmas decorations. Something about the musty smells and the cold in the attic, helped to build the anticipation of the upcoming holidays.  
 
Nathan Brown:  It's probably from when I was a kid and still believed in Santa Claus. My grandmother in attempting to get my sister and me to go to bed told us that if we were awake when Santa came, that he wouldn't leave us any presents, and he would put pepper in our eyes. (He laughs) Of course, we were so excited that we could hardly sleep, but we would squeeze our eyes shut with all of our might, until we finally fell asleep. On Christmas morning, in addition to all of the presents, we would find the table setup as though Santa and Grandma had shared cookies and coffee together. It was a magical time. 
 
Darren Rahn:  I remember a specific time when I was young, I think about six or seven years old, while back on the farm in Abbotsford, Canada, when my brother, sister and I were so excited to see what was going to be under the Christmas tree. We had been trying to figure out what we were getting for weeks. That particular Christmas was so exciting for some reason. We went to church for the annual Christmas Eve service, and when we got back, after what seemed to be a million hours, we read the Christmas story, sang some Christmas carols, then opened the gifts! My twin brother and I got walkie-talkies. We were SO excited! Living on the farm, those walkie-talkies were a lot of fun. We enjoyed every Christmas, but for some reason that one sticks out in my mind. There was a particular excitement in the air that year… 
 
The Bellamy Brothers:  When we were really young, our uncle would come over on Christmas Eve, and he would fire a few rounds from his shotgun, yell ho, ho, ho a few times, before throwing oranges on our tin roof to simulate reindeer hoofs. Needless to say, it was a few years before we realized Santa didn't carry a shotgun. 
 
Country artists Jesse and Noah Bellamy also remember Christmas shenanigans. 
 
Noah:  Our grandfather Homer dressing up as Santa Claus.

Jesse:   Our dad used to set off firecrackers, and tell us it was Santa's old sleigh backfiring. 
 
Nikkole (urban artist/R&B):  My favorite Christmas memories are waking up to the smell of delicious holiday treats being baked and prepared, as well as the anticipation of seeing what Santa brought for me. 
 
Wallace Hall (SE Entertainment/Wham Associates):   My favorite memory of Christmas is my baby sister Nikkole (see answer above), waking up before Santa came. She began to cry, because she thought that Santa wasn't going to stop at our house that year. Our mom consoled her, telling her that she woke up too early, to go back to sleep, and Santa would be coming soon. We both hurried back to our beds and quickly went to sleep so that Santa would come.   
 
 
Part II
 
Are there any special holiday traditions that you carry on today?
 
Nikkole:   We all get together for Christmas Eve and have a mini feast of h'ors d'oeuvres and seafood. On Christmas day, we all celebrate together at another family member's house with dinner, followed by the unwrapping of the gifts by the Christmas tree. We then gather around the fireplace for coffee and dessert. 
 
Darren Rahn:   There have been traditions over the years, old and new. I have a very large extended family in British Columbia (Canada), and every year the whole Rahn family gets together to celebrate. (There is) lots of food, lots of fun, and I particularly remember that we would always sing the doxology as our mealtime prayer. I come from a very musical family, so everyone, around thirty-forty people back then, would sing in harmony, and in tune! They were very special times. Now that I live further away, I don't get to be there very often. I miss it so much, but the tradition still continues every year. The Rahn family gets together and is still going strong. In fact, now there are so may of us kids that have our own families, we have to rent a space for the Christmas get together, because we will not all fit in a house (he smiles). 
 
Andrew Neu:  You can't get any more traditional than gathering the family together around the Christmas tree, to watch the little ones tear into their presents
 
The Bellamy Brothers:   We all gather at our mom's house to eat Christmas Eve dinner, and open our presents. We do our stockings on Christmas morning, and then we eat our Christmas dinner in the afternoon. 
 
Noah and Jesse Bellamy: 

Jesse:  The last few years in Nashville, I've started a new tradition, I go look at George Jones' Christmas lights!

Noah:  We all get together on Christmas Eve to eat brisket tacos and tamales, while opening our presents.
 
Wallace Hall:   We all get together for Christmas Eve and have a mini feast of h'ors d'oeuvres and seafood. On Christmas day, we celebrate together at another family member's house, with dinner followed by the unwrapping of the gifts, by the Christmas tree. Then we gather around the fireplace for coffee and dessert.  
 
Part III
 
Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
 
Nikkole:  "A Christmas Song," by Donnie Hathaway.

Suzy Bogguss:   Gosh, I love Christmas albums, and could make up about ten different Christmas albums with the ones that I love.  This is a difficult question. There are so many, and I love them for different reasons. There is a song that Doug (her husband Doug Crider) and I wrote called "Two Step Around The Christmas Tree," that has brought a lot of joy to our lives, as well as a lot of other people's lives, because every year someone new records it. I think the song that resounds with me, is the one that I recorded with Chet Atkins which is, "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." It always makes me melancholy in a way, because even though it was about a different war, it always seems to me like, if we could just get people to be more tolerant, and (you can hear her voice fill with emotion), we wouldn't have so much pain and stuff. That song touches me because it makes us stop and think. 

Andrew Neu:  We grew up watching White Christmas. Years later, I had the opportunity to play with Rosie Clooney, when she performed her Christmas show, and I performed Irving Berlin's great songs with her, which was like living the movie. "Count My Blessings" is one of those great tunes. Diana Krall recorded a very intimate version of "Count Your Blessings" on her Christmas album. 

Nathan Brown:  I love Christmas music so I have several (favorites). Since I have to choose one, it is "Christmas Everyday" by Fred Hammond. 

Darren Rahn:   I love "Silent Night" because it is so peaceful, and for me personally, it encompasses the true meaning of Christmas. 

Wallace Hall:  Hmmmm…my favorite Christmas songs (because I can't name just one), are "O' Holy Night," (Mariah Carey's version), "Santa Baby," (Eartha Kitt), and "Merry Christmas Baby" (recorded by) Natalie Cole and also by Faith Evans. 

The Bellamy Brothers:  We like all the old traditional ones because we used to go caroling with our neighbors and sing all of them. Elvis' "Blue Christmas" is also a good one. 
Noah and Jesse Bellamy: 

Jesse:  My favorite Christmas song is "If We Make It Through December" by Merle Haggard.

Noah:  I go back and forth between "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)" by Mel Torme. I also love "Christmastime Is Here." 
  

Part IV
 
How will you spend Christmas this year?
 
Andrew Neu:   I expect Christmas is going to start very early in the morning this year, with my two year old daughter!  We'll start at home, then celebrate with my wife's family at lunch, and finish up with my family for dinner. 

Suzy Bogguss:  This year I will be at the Broadmoor Hotel, in Colorado Springs, where I performed two weeks of Christmas shows last year. It is a beautiful European style hotel, set in the mountains, by a big lake. Over the holidays, a lot of people retreat there with their families. We do a big dinner show, and have seven hundred people per night. It is pretty cool. We have a room with a fireplace in it, so our Christmas morning is really, really special. We have just one child, and my mother is there. That's what we are going to do this year. 

Nathan Brown:  I will just be relaxing with family and friends, listening to Christmas music and drinking eggnog. 

Darren Rahn:  This year I will celebrate Christmas in Colorado with my wife's wonderful family, and we will be bundled up warm and cozy. We will eat VERY good food as my mother-in-law is one of the world's greatest cooks! We will also spend a lot of quality time together. My son is two and one half years old, and this year he is SO into it. He is old enough to know everything that's going on, and he is super stoked about it already. We pulled the decorations out this past weekend (in November) and he was running around with glee!  He can't wait for Christmas. His excitement is definitely contagious, and I'm really looking forward to it. All in all, it will be a very nice, simple Christmas, my favorite kind! 

The Bellamy Brothers:  We always spend Christmas in Darby Florida, at our mom's house. It's the old homeplace and all the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids gather there to eat and visit. If the weather is nice, we eat desert by the pool. 

Nikkole:    I will be spending Christmas in Japan, with family, this year, since I have a few concert dates booked. 
 

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer and the publisher of Riveting Riffs, www.rivetingriffs.com . His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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