‘Christmas Magic’ features 14 Colorado musicians

Published: December 10, 2013, 10:30 am

by jennifer mulson jen.mulson@gazette.com -

“Christmas Magic! A Holiday Concert”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, 10 S. Parkside Drive

Tickets: $20-$25, $10 students with ID, $5 ages 12 and younger; 476-2200, stargazers theatre.com

A pair of brothers. One champion hammer dulcimer player. An “American Idol” contestant. A uilleann pipes player.

Fourteen Colorado musicians are making “Christmas Magic! A Holiday Concert,” which features traditional, Celtic and contemporary holiday music, at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center on Thursday.

Three years ago, electric violinist Dave Villano and his brother, percussionist Ed Villano, were inspired to search out some of the region’s best talent to put on a holiday show. The first two productions were held in the Denver area, and this year they’re also coming to Colorado Springs.

The show was “born out of a joy for Christmas music as a kid,” Dave Villano said, “and still trying to hold onto feelings as an adult, and keeping in sight the true meaning of Christmas. It’s like an escape from the holiday madness. People can come to the concert and experience the peace and love and joy and magic.”

Someday, they say, they’d like to be mentioned in the same breath as popular holiday bands Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller.

“We don’t want to be a clone of those two bands, but we’d like to add a third alternative to that genre of big Christmas concerts,” said Ed Villano.

Dave Beegle, Dave Villano’s former guitar teacher, was the first person they cast a line to. With the accolade of “Best Independent Guitarist of the Year” from Guitar Player magazine, Beegle had quite a reputation in the Denver music community.

“It’s said if you need to find a musician, just hang out in Dave’s basement,” said Dave Villano. It worked. The brothers now have a constantly evolving roster of musicians.

This year’s lineup includes keyboardist Taylor Mesple, who has played with James Taylor, and drummer Christian Teele, who’s also played with Taylor, Moby and Donna Summer. Singer Devan Jones, from Season 11 of “American Idol,” and Tina Gugeler, a champion hammer dulcimer player, are also on the bill.

Dave Villano created the musical arrangements for much of the Christmas music the group will play. Jones will do a jazzy version of the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas,” they’ll do a new arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the audience will be musically transported to Ireland for a Celtic jam session, Dave Villano said.

“I try to not go too far off the beaten path so people don’t recognize what song it is,” he said, “but so they can really appreciate the heart of the song, in a brand-new fresh way.”