One of the goals of Richmond Shakes is to make the classics the most accessible…
Tom Sharpe loves the connection he has with the audience when he’s drumming for Grammy award winning Mannheim Steamroller during the group’s Christmas tour.
“This music has such a rich history to it. None of us takes that for granted. It’s not just playing Christmas songs, it’s becoming people’s Christmas tradition,” says Sharpe, an internationally recognized, award-winning composer, performer, and recording artist. “I remember the first time I heard this music when I was a kid, and I want to give that feeling to our audience.”
A lifelong musician, Sharpe’s parents were also musicians. He started playing piano at age five and then drums at ten. “I knew from an early age that music was more than just a hobby,” says Sharpe, an alumnus of the Interlochen Arts Academy and DePaul University in Chicago.
“To pursue a career in music you have to be passionate about doing it. I knew my life’s work would somehow be in music.”
This is his fifteenth year touring with Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, which is coming to Altria Theater on November 30.
“It’s amazing to be in this group. Every year when we start to ramp for it and I’m practicing the pieces, it’s almost like listening to the music for the first time,” says Sharpe, noting the tour lasts from November through December.
Everyone performing in the show is a professional musician year round. “I do my own show that I have written music for,” he says. “I take that show to different performing arts centers and outdoors concerts.”
Sharpe also holds master classes and clinics at schools, from elementary to university level. “One of the reasons I was called to be a musician is to inspire the youth,” he says.
As a touring musician with Mannheim Steamroller, Sharpe never gets tired of the pieces he plays because he knows “the audience is different every night,” he says.
The group put out its first Christmas album with its creator, Chip Davis, in 1984, however its origins date back to the mid-seventies when Davis put out his Fresh Air series of albums.
“He had a decade long run of very successful music [before the Christmas album],” Sharpe says. “We do put in a few of those pieces in our Christmas show. They fit very nicely in there even though they are not Christmas.”
The two-hour show has a great flow to it, he adds. “Chip does a great job of keeping those pieces that he knows everyone is coming to hear. Those classics will never disappear from the show.”
The show combines those classics with new compositions for a fresh take on the holidays. “We are going to bring you all the hits you are coming to hear and see for sure, and there will be some surprises along the way,” he says.
The show is the longest running Christmas show in history, he adds. “There is a sense of tradition. We want the audience to love our concert and not just feel that they are ready for Christmas but also that they have experienced something special.”
Mannheim Steamroller is appearing at Altria Theater on Wednesday, November 30, at 7:30 p.m. For showtimes and tickets, go here.
Check out RFM on Instagram for an opportunity to win four tickets to Mannheim Steamroller in concert at Altria Theater.