I have had a lot of trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year, and I've figured out why.
It's because I haven't listened to my favorite Christmas CD this year. It could be the middle of September, and if I hear a song from this CD, I'm geared up and ready to go for Christmas.
This album has been one of my favorites ever since it came out. About the same time, my friend Andy and I had to work at KLWN in Lawrence on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It was then, sitting through the strict Christmas Eve playlist of the "solemn 40" Christmas songs we had to play. There was a list consisting of people like Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Guy Lombardo and Kate Smith that we were NOT to stray from on Christmas Eve. We survived that night of holiday molasses, but only because of the hope dancing on the horizon of Christmas day. On Christmas day, we could play contemporary Christmas songs...songs we selected. This was our time to shine. Our time to share music we knew was good that was being kept from the people by the rigid restraints of holiday tradition at the station.
That Christmas morning, as people were at home listening to me play Christmas music, as people prepared their home for family arriving soon, as people enjoyed Christmas breakfast, I received numerous phone calls asking the name of certain artists or songs, not to mention many, many compliments on the music selection.
This was one of those songs. It was pretty upbeat for KLWN standards, especially to be playing it before noon. This is "Gloria" by Michael W. Smith, from his Christmas album.
This entire album is phenomenal! If you have never heard it, you are missing out on a tremendous collection of work. This album is so good, it moved Andy and me to take action.
Before Christmas tours were all the rage, we had an idea. This album needed to be heard live. So, we contacted Michael W. Smith's people and inquired about him coming to Lawrence to perform this CD live on the KU campus at Hoch Auditorium (before the fire). I don't think we realized the enormity of the request we had made. We certainly didn't think (or know) about what needs to happen for a concert to come to town. For this to be done right, we needed more than Smitty, we needed his band and an orchestra. Looking back, it wasn't a realistic request and it was bigger than both of us.
We were told that Smitty spends the holidays with his family and that touring wasn't an option for him during that time of the year. We understood and let the dream die.
So what happens a few years later? Amy Grant (who Michael W. Smith played piano for) starts a Christmas concert in Nashville. Before long, they take the show on the road year after year. And this year, who do you think went on a Christmas tour?
Michael W. Smith.
I'd like to think that Andy and I planted a seed. And that seed's name was "Gloria".