Valentine’s Day Musings

I love Valentine’s Day. I love all holidays, but having one more reason to tell someone “I Love You” sounds good to me. I love the heart-shaped boxes. And even though I can’t eat chocolate (woe is me), I love gazing at the different chocolate pieces and wondering what’s inside them, how they taste. I love the idea behind all those sweetheart candies, too. I pick out my favorites like “Sweet Love,” “My Love,” “Hug Me” and “Only You.” Nowadays, the candies say things like “Text Me” or “Tweet Me.” Love’s gone digital, for sure.

Sweethearts nowadays.

Sweethearts nowadays.

But perhaps what I love most of all are the love songs. They remind me that love itself is so multi-dimensional. Happy love songs, sad love songs, songs of longing, songs of leaving. Before Milkshake, Mikel and I fronted a band for adults called Love Riot* and we wrote nothing but love songs. It was amazing to me how we never seemed to run out of ideas. Maybe it wasn’t so unlimited as the topics we’ve discovered writing songs for kids, but emotionally, there was probably more to our love songs. The songs reflected what I or my friends were going through, and perhaps being in love is more of an adult thing. I wrote “I Love You” as a lullaby for my daughter, but that’s certainly different from romantic love. Now, she’s a beautiful 14 year-old and I see hints of romantic pining. I don’t look forward to her first breakup, which could be a painful thing. But maybe she’ll write a song about it, and listen to other songs that will help her through.

rose petals at the ready.

rose petals at the ready.

So how will Milkshake – the band that celebrates most holidays with a big show somewhere – celebrate Valentine’s Day when the majority of our songs deal with imagination and play and doing the right thing? Well, we did record “I Love You” and “Enemies” for our Great Day CD, which skews a bit older, listener-wise. And we added a Milkshake version of the classic “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips” on our latest Got a Minute CD. But that’s about it in the love song department. We’ll do all three for sure, tossing rose petals at our little friends. Moo will pass out chocolate kisses and candy hearts, and we’ll all be giving out unlimited hugs after the show. People can donate their unloved instruments to Music4More, who will find them loving homes at schools and communities. There’ll be face-painted hearts and cherubs for anyone who wants them, and our friends at Macaroni Kids will make paper valentines with the concert-goers. So while there might not be a lot of love songs, there will certainly be a lot of love. The concert benefits Arts On Stage, a non-profit that lovingly creates art performances for schools. Sounds like a great way to start my Valentine’s Day. After saying “I Love You” to my husband, daughter, cat, dog and life first, of course.

 

* Love Riot will be back up and playing out soon. Very exciting to come full-circle with the music-making.

This post was originally written for KIDS CAN GROOVE, a wonderful site following kids music. Check them out at www.kidscangroove.com

The Annual Festival Of Trees – Our 7th!

Every year since 2007, Milkshake has been getting up super early the day after Thanksgiving and heading to Cow Palace at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Maryland. We do this to perform at the Festival of Trees, a yearly benefit event that raises money for the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The Institute is dedicated to helping children with brain, spinal and muscular disorders. I bring along bags of “snow” (little squares of white confetti), candy canes, sleigh bells, garland to decorate Tom’s drums and Brian’s keyboard, and santa hats for the guys and me. We do three shows chock full of Christmas music, which is always great fun to play in between our original tunes. My personal favorite is Milkshake’s “Christmas In Baltimore,” since I think it’s the perfect Christmas song to play at a winter show in our hometown.

Snowy The Little White Dog

Snowy The Little White Dog

This year, Cord reminded us that “Snowy” could be considered a Christmas song since Snowy does after all “ride on Santa’s sleigh.” So we brought Snowy The Little White Dog along to the show and gathered around a microphone in acoustic a’cappella fashion.

And to start the shows this year, we handed out the lyrics to “Christmas Time Is Here” from Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and encouraged the crowd to sing along with us. I hoped everyone would sing and even though that didn’t happen as loudly as I’d envisioned, it was a fun experiment. Some people are shy and only sing in the shower.

Our friend John Waire came to the early show for donors which happens before the doors actually open to the public at 10 AM. It’s the calm before the storm until we bring Santa to the Fest at the end of this first show and things get crazy. This year, Santa jumped out of a cake marking 25 years of the Festival of Trees. By the 11 AM show, things are hopping and so many friends come to play with us. The joy meter peaks.

Santa Jumps out of a cake!

Santa Jumps out of a cake!

John is a great photographer and took some wonderful shots as part of his Year In The Light project. I’ve posted some favorites here, along with pics from our buddy and VIP to the band, Bill Auth. Bill has captured six of the seven years at the Fest, missing last year’s due to illness. We were so glad to have him back sharing the mayhem with us this year.

Every year, Michelle Mueller, Director Of Special Events at Kennedy Krieger, is there keeping things together with a smile, walkie talkie in hand. She tells me that when they unroll the green indoor carpets each year to set up for another Fest, they always find bits of that “snow” and traces of “sunshine” squares of yellow confetti that missed last year’s clean-up. We think about maybe scaling back and just using a bubble-machine or something. Then we both agree that the snow and the sunshine – it’s all part of the joy and happy memories made at the Festival of Trees. And for Milkshake, it wouldn’t feel right waking up late on Black Friday and going shopping! How boring that would be compared to the Festival of Trees.

Santa x 4

I always love this time of year. Just when it starts to get cold, holiday shows keep me warm. They’re so much fun. Halloween’s okay, and we get to tell ghost stories and sing our favorite spooky song “Scared.” But there’s nothing quite like welcoming Santa to the area malls and events. Mall Santas work hard and long for a very short period of time. The best ones know the names of all the reindeer and have real beards you can tug on, although they don’t much like it when you do.

Selfie with Santa

Columbia Santa Selfie

Towson Santa Selfie

Towson Santa Selfie

Mikel and I have been playing the holiday shows at three or four malls for years now, and they turn on a switch inside us, signaling the holidays are here. And even though it seems like yesterday, another year has passed, and I check the supply of white confetti we use as snow, buy candy canes in bulk for the kids in the audience and take out the box of santa hats, sleigh bells, antlers and garland. We once again practice songs we only play at this time of year, filling the set with “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph” and of course our own “Christmas In Baltimore”.

Our comrade for these shows is Miss Julie, a wonderful kids’ entertainer we’ve known for many years. Miss Julie does the Family Fun Days at the area malls, singing with the kids and celebrating birthdays throughout the year. She’s amazing and was an early inspiration for Mikel and me. Julie knows most of the regulars who come to her shows. She can tell us which kid eats too much candy, which kid sings at the top of her lungs, which little boy just lost his dad. In my book, she gets a hero award for being a friend, mother and grandmom to these kids. She’s someone they can depend on, one morning a week.

Selfie with Miss Julie

Selfie with Miss Julie

For the Christmas shows, Julie MCs and then helps find Santa and bring him down the escalator and through the awe-struck crowd. She asks him questions she knows he can answer – Julie always finds out beforehand “if they’re a talking Santa” or just want to smile and wave. We’ve met Santas who do magic tricks, Santas who talk about reindeer and what they eat, Santas who talk too much, Santas who kinda just mumble. Yesterday’s Santa had a cane. Evidently the reindeer were going too fast, and he fell off his sleigh. The kids were sympathetic and seemed a bit concerned as he waved goodbye and headed to his house in another wing of the mall.

Milkshake prides itself on how much fun we have and how we really try to get the kids to be part of the whole experience. But around this time, it’s all just amped up: more confetti (as snow), more kids singing and jingling their jinglebell bracelets or clapping their hands, more candy canes, more smiles in general.

Christmas show supplies.

Christmas show supplies.

Tomorrow the band will get together to practice some new holiday songs and a couple classic Milkshake songs we haven’t played in a while. Festival of Trees is in a couple weeks, and I think it’s the biggest holiday party we do. We play three absolutely joyously exhausting shows. This will be our seventh year doing the event. And of course we’ll be welcoming another Santa. I can’t wait.

"I have my tutu, my antlers and these...these are my jingle bells!"

“I have my tutu, my antlers and these…these are my jingle bells!”