Peter Mayer’s “Stars and Promises” Christmas tour 2019 will present “Echoes of the Seasons” at Messiah Lutheran Church on Dec. 15 as part of the band’s 20th anniversary Christmas tour. The Peter Mayer Group includes a violin, woodwinds, pipes, keyboard, guitar, bass and percussion and is being sponsored by multiple local organizations so that all ticket sales benefit the Caring Kitchen.
Online tickets at $25 each for the 7:30 p.m. show are available at https://bit.ly/2CzB1xa. The church sanctuary can accommodate 235 music lovers.
“This is the 20th anniversary of this tour that I started with my brother back in 2000,” Mayer said. “We both basically really love Christmas music, did an album’s worth of songs and then loaded a few musicians in a van and started tooling around the Midwest. Year by year it kept growing, so I guess that was the birth of playing big cities or a little bit bigger halls, but we haven’t forgotten why we started, and some of our favorite shows are in those intimate places or smaller towns, so we’re happy to be coming to Urbana.”
Mayer said the Peter Mayer Group has performed in the Columbus area and that band members have friends in central Ohio they are eager to see. He said the band has performed in churches, theaters, concert halls and even a few bars.
“I came from a family where my father was actually a Lutheran minister and my mother and he were missionaries that went to India in the 1940s until 1966,” he said. “I was born over there and lived until I was 8, so I have a long tradition in the church and in the music of the church, and that was really one of the starts of my love for Christmas music is how we used to celebrate with carols and hymns and that kind of thing, and that grew on into writing my own carols and augmenting that catalogue of songs.”
Mayer began touring with Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band in 1988 as lead guitarist, a position that he holds to this day. He also regularly tours with his own bands, including The Peter Mayer Group, The Peter Mayer trio and Peter Mayer’s Songs of Faith.
Mayer’s resume includes 14 albums of his own, including four Christmas albums. His first album was called “Stars and Promises,” followed by a live album, then “Echoes of the Seasons” and, most recently, “A Junkman’s Christmas.”
“You listen to the music that comes out every Christmas and there’s a whole bunch of the same songs over and over, and many I love, but I also wanted to write my own as well,” Mayer said. “We’re thankful that after 20 years a lot of the songs that we play of our own have become kind of traditional carols for the people that like to come out.
“It’s Christmas music, but it’s got a huge variety,” he added. “We’ve got a seven-piece band and just fantastic musicians. Violin, viola, there’s woodwinds, English horn, oboe, Irish flute, a bagpipe, there’s a keyboard player that’s incredible, upright and electric bass, percussion. My son plays guitar as he sings and I do as well, so we kind of span a bunch of different styles as we go from some classical to rock, folk, Celtic, and Christmas music allows you to do that, you can kind of play bigger overtures and then do kind of a folk song as well and it’s all in the Christmas theme.”
Mayer tours with his son, Brendan, who he says has a fabulous voice and his own career, but the father-son duo enjoy singing together and entertaining.
“It’s a fun show,” Peter Mayer said. “We do a couple interesting things. We’ll break it down on one song called ‘A Junkman’s Christmas.’ We play junk toys or pieces of junk instruments and stuff. It’s actually really interesting and kind of funny. It’s a bunch of cool people to have them onstage with me.”
Mayer said the tour is an opportunity for him to sing some of his favorite Christmas songs and to try different arrangements of songs.
“I do a version of ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ that is just beautiful to me,” he said. “That’s one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever heard. There’s one that has become one of my favorites that we do that was not initially one of mine and it’s ‘O Holy Night.’ Sometimes you hear it so overblown and done melodramatically that it just kind of wore on me, but we did an arrangement that I really liked. One kind of non-sacred tune … I really love, it’s kind of a guilty pleasure, is ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’ I think that’s one of the most beautiful melodies and songs, and we do that one as well. So we do kind of a mix of all of them. Some of the tried and true songs, like ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ sometimes we’ll even do ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’ by John Lennon or that kind of thing.”
“O Holy Night” is on Mayer’s most recent album, but many of the songs he performs go back to the first album. His Christmas tour will visit 12 cities during what he calls his favorite time of the year, but Mayer said it is always his goal to get back to Nashville by Christmas.
“It’s a lot of work, it takes a lot of energy to get this many people together and determine the logistics,” he said. “I have really, really good people I work with, but even just getting the music together is some heavy lifting. It’s so rewarding when you get up there, it’s a time of year when people want to get out and experience the joys of the season, see family and friends, and give of themselves to others. It is really rewarding going out and being backup to their activities.
“One of the rules I set up was I was not ever going to be gone for Christmas,” he added. “No gig was worth leaving the home for Christmas Eve and Christmas. We always manage to get back a day or two before Christmas, which is not a whole lot of time to scurry around and do some shopping, but we manage.“
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304