116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Andy Williams and Bob Hope Christmas specials from the 1970s had an indelible impact on pianist Jim McDonough. While growing up in Monticello, he was transfixed as he experienced the traditional holiday songs.
“That was a golden era of holiday entertainment,” McDonough said by phone from his Cedar Rapids office. “I never forgot how I felt when I watched that holiday magic. It was inspiring.”
McDonough, now 48, is doing his best to recreate what he experienced as a child by embarking on a seven-city Christmas tour between Nov. 25 and Dec. 11. The International Steinway Artist will be flanked by a 15-piece orchestra and an array of singers and dancers.
What: Christmas with Jim McDonough: 20th Anniversary Tour
DeWitt: 7 p.m. Nov. 25, Central DeWitt Performing Arts Center, 519 E. 11th St., DeWitt; $42, pianofavorites.com/shows
Ottumwa: 2:30 p.m. Nov. 26, Bridge View Center, 102 Church St.; $58, pianofavorites.com/shows
Coralville: 2:30 p.m. Nov. 27, Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., Coralville; $58, coralvillearts.org/27/Events
Des Moines: 2:30 p.m. Dec. 3, Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave.; $58 to $68, hoytsherman.org/calendar/events/#all
Cedar Falls: 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4, Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, 8201 Dakota St., Cedar Falls; $59.75, gbpac.com/upcoming-events
Cedar Rapids: 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10, Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids; $58 to $68. creventslive.com/events/2022/jim-mcdonoughs-2022-holiday-tour
Dubuque: 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11, Five Flags Theater, 405 Main St.; $58 to $68, fiveflagscenter.com/location/five-flags-theater
McDonough is staging an ornate production for his 20th anniversary tour, but it will be centered on the music. Such classics as “Silent Night,” “What Child Is This,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Joy to the World” will be delivered.
“I focused on the arrangements, which are spectacular,” he said. “It’s about the songs, but you’ll experience a show, as well. The show is big — but it also will be intimate. It’s me playing piano in my living room and I invite an audience to witness it. This show is nostalgic. It brings people back to a certain time.”
Christmas is an unusual time, since music fans of all ages listen to the same style of tunes.
“It’s so true — and when else will a grandfather and grandson enjoy the same material,” McDonough said. “That only happens during Christmas, which is such a special time of year.”
McDonough started playing piano when he was 7 and graduated with an education and piano performance degree from Wartburg College in Waverly.
“It was all about music for me when I was a student," he said.
However, the pragmatic musician secured a steady and lucrative job out of college as an air traffic controller.
“That occupation lives up to its reputation,” he said. “It really is one of the most stressful jobs anyone can have. I tried it since I was trying to find my path.”
He decided to focus on music in 2002, and never looked back.
“It all worked out for me, because Iowans identify the talents of young people and foster and nurture it. Cedar Rapids was one of the first cities to embrace me. I’ve lived in Chicago and around Phoenix, but there's no place like Cedar Rapids. There was once a belief that living in Iowa would be a liability for a musician. I’ve proved that to be incorrect.”
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McDonough is indebted to his Iowa educators from elementary school through college.
“I received such great instruction — not just in music but in every subject,” he said. “It all happened for me in Iowa. I had a college professor who nailed it. He said there are two types of music. There is music served on a paper plate and there is music served on good china.
“If you were to go in my car right now, you would hear music that is served on a paper plate. There's nothing wrong with that. There's a place for that type of music, which is enjoyable. However, the music served on good china will be with us for generations. That’s the type of music I’m playing on this tour.
“I’m playing music that stands the test of time, and I enjoy it because I love beautiful melodies. I also like looking out at an audience that is filled with people from a number of generations. The audience will be experiencing what I love, which is beautiful melodies. It doesn't get any better than that.”