116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The vibe feels like 2019 at Mannheim Steamroller shows, and that pleases Roxanne Layton. Mannheim Steamroller’s percussionist and recorder player is excited about relative normalcy as the group’s tour commences.
“We're getting going again and it’s a different feel than it was last year with COVID,” Layton said while calling from Cape Cod. “The protocols were so strict last year that it wasn't as much fun as it could have been.
“But it feels very different this year. People are ready to hear live music again and immerse themselves in the experience. We’re all excited about that. It just feels so much better now than it did in 2021. It’s time to go out and enjoy live entertainment.”
Mannheim Steamroller, which will perform two concerts Saturday at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, signifies that the holiday season has arrived for fans of their baroque Christmas music. The soothing New Age holiday tunes have been crowd-pleasers since the act’s “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas“ recording was released in 1984.
What: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Where: Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Rd., Iowa City
When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022; evening tickets scarce
Tickets: $60 to $85 adults, $48 to $85 college students and youths; Hancher Box Office, 1-(800) HANCHER or (319) 335-1160 or hancher.uiowa.edu/2022-23/Mannheim_Steamroller
Extra: Audience members invited to bring non-perishable foods or personal care items to be donated to the Food Pantry at Iowa.
Artist’s website: mannheimsteamroller.com/
“Fans love our Christmas music and I get it,” Layton said. “We enjoy playing those Christmas songs. We’ll play those songs this year, but we’re also going to change things up from last year. We’re adding some different songs and (founder) Chip (Davis) is adding more from the Fresh Aire series.”
The Fresh Aire material, an amalgam of classical piano music, progressive rock and medieval songs, was what Mannheim Steamroller was known for when the group earned notice in 1975. Fans embraced the first five albums, which were all Fresh Aire releases.
However, everything changed with “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas.” More than 40 million copies of that breakthrough album have been sold.
That’s more than Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi or Billy Joel over the same period. The niche marketing approach works — more than 80 percent of Mannheim Steamroller's record sales are Christmas albums.
But Mannheim’s fan base is incredibly wide, ranging from children to college students to octogenarians.
“It really is amazing how diverse our audience is,” Layton said. “I love that about Mannheim. I love looking out at the sea of faces. I love the diversity.”
Expect to experience the Mannheim holiday debut album, “Christmas 1984” in its entirety, with such classics as “Deck the Halls,” “We Three Kings” and “Good King Wenceslas.”
“That album has been remastered and reprinted on vinyl,” Layton said.
Mannheim Steamroller, which took its name from a 19th century German musical technique, has a hard-core base of followers who will purchase any of its sonic output.
However, the majority of fans are into the group’s Christmas fare.
“There is much to Mannheim Steamroller,” Layton said. “I love it all, but I’m enjoying the Christmas material,” Layton said. “There’s nothing like this music.”
It’s more than music, since Mannheim Steamroller has become a cottage industry, with an array of Mannheim Steamroller products, including food items, apparel and a bath and body line. Fans can’t get enough of Mannheim Steamroller hot chocolate.
“We’re always busy at this time of year, but over the last couple of years, it’s just been crazy,” Chip Davis said. “Our most popular food product is Cinnamon Hot Chocolate. We sell tons of it during the holidays.”
Davis played drums in the group until 2007, when he left his post due to the latent effects of a car crash he experienced during the ’70s and the rigors of constant performance.
“I couldn’t play forever,” Davis said. “The pain was just too much for me to endure.”
But Layton has picked up the slack.
“I’ve been with Mannheim Steamroller for 27 years,” she said. “I can't think of anything I would rather do than this.”