From the sacred to the secular, there may not be any music which inspires everyone to sing along the way Christmas music does. And the best way to experience Christmas music is live, perhaps none better than the annual C2G Christmas Show hosted once again this year by Mike Conley.
Conley has long been a fixture of the Fort Wayne music community and has performed in solo acoustic settings as well as performing with other musicians, including his cool jazzy group The Beef Manhattans. He learned along the way that Christmas music is a pretty good way to stay in the public ear.
“I recorded a Christmas album in 2009 because the thing is, you release a new album and after three months people have forgotten about it,” Conley said. “But Christmas music comes back. You know every year you’re going to hear Mariah Carey. So I figured if I did a Christmas album, it’s a way to force feed my music every year.”
Conley said that with a laugh, but self-deprecating humor aside, the annual Christmas concert at C2G is an act of Christmas love and generosity for Conley and the many musicians he invites to participate each year. Conley says that the show is just one example of the spirit of Fort Wayne’s talented players not only during the holidays but all year long.
“We have such a close-knit musical community, and we’re all pulling for each other,” he said. “It’s more like a team than a competition. I am so blessed to have so many close friends who I can call on to volunteer to do this.”
Admission to the show is only $6 or $12 for gold circle seating near the stage. Those who attend are also asked to bring a canned good for Community Harvest Food Bank, which last year received 4,000 cans from the evening, something Conley is proud to see happen each year as the Christmas show becomes a signature event for music and giving.
Local bands bring Christmas cheer
The performers who will help bring in music fans and canned goods this year include Will Certain, Conley’s Beef Manhattans, the Sunny Taylor Band, a cappella jazz group Smooth Edge 2, and Pop n Fresh.
“And the bonus is that since I’m host for the evening, you get to enjoy my wit and humor!” Conley added. “People will probably groan when they hear that, but I’m up there laughing anyway.”
Conley said that every year he sees people come to the show who are not quite in the holiday spirit yet, but by the time they leave, they’re ready for the season. And with good reason considering the diverse musical offerings on the C2G stage that evening.
“It’s all Christmas music the whole show,” Conley said. “It starts at 6 p.m. and lasts about three hours, but it feels like you blink, and it’s all over. We set up the stage beforehand so you don’t have to sit through a bunch of set changes and sound checks because that’s all been done. So it’s all music, and since most Christmas songs are about two minutes long, you know you’ll get to hear a lot of different songs though some of them may be repeated.
“The first year we did this, the Freak Brothers were one of the groups performing, and I did some Christmas song and they did the same one. But it was not the same song, not the way that we each did it. So everyone brings their own sound to these great songs.”
There will be food for purchase as well as a good selection of adult beverages, but Conley was quick to add that it’s a very family-friendly event, with kids of all ages welcome and sure to be further inspired to work on that list for Santa.
Part of Fort Wayne tradition
After several years of putting this Christmas show together, Conley enjoys being part of the Fort Wayne holiday celebration.
“There are so many great traditions in this city around the holidays,” Conley said. “There’s the Festival of Trees and the Night of Lights when everything really starts. It’s nice to have become one of those traditions that people look forward to each year.”
Of course, beyond just the sheer pleasure of enjoying some of the most popular songs ever written comes the comfort in knowing that those who have less to look forward to this time of year are being helped as well.
“It’s such a great night,” Conley said. “It’s a lot of fun, a lot of great music, a lot of great people, but it’s also about coming together as a team and giving back to the community. Every year when we do this, there’s just a lot of love in that room.”