Grady Nichols’ annual Christmas show, which will feature pianist Donald Ryan and vocalists Kelly Ford and Andy Chrisman, will take place Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center’s Chapman Auditorium.
“I feel like I’m hosting Tulsa’s largest Christmas party along with some of my closest friends, and all of Tulsa is invited,” Nichols said. “I always look forward to planning a new show every year, with new songs and some surprises. But as we plan the show, we also focus on more than the music. As performers, we really want to celebrate the spirit and meaning of Christmas, and we build that into the show. I think that’s what makes the show fun for us and for the audience.”
Proceeds from the show, presented by Jackie Cooper Imports, benefit the ALS Patient Services Outreach. In roundtable style, Nichols, Ford, Chrisman and Ryan provided reactions to a series of Christmas-related topics.
Favorite Christmas song
Ford and Chrisman cited “O Holy Night,” although Chrisman, as an ’80s kid, also claimed “Last Christmas.” Ryan, who grew up in Trinidad & Tobago, was torn between “Joy To the World” and “The Christmas Song.” Nichols re-titled a classic, inserting his preferred instrument in “The Little Drummer (Saxophone) Boy.”
Favorite Christmas movie
Ford’s choice was “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Chrisman and his family watch “Christmas Vacation” every year and annoy each other by blurting out lines just before they arrive in the movie. Nichols started watching the Claymation films of Rankin/Bass as a child and shares them with his three kids.
Warmest childhood memory
For Ford, it was getting a BB gun for Christmas when he was 10. Nichols recalled spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the two sides of the family and borrowing his grandfather’s pocket knife to open presents. Ryan’s memories are musical as he recalls playing Christmas cantatas with the church choir as a pre-teen. For Chrisman, it was falling asleep in the backseat as the family drove all night to his grandmother’s house and waking up to aunts, uncles and cousins.
How does your family celebrate Christmas?
Chrisman and Ford include food in the festivities. Chrisman and his wife Jackie plan Christmas around their two grandsons, but they also celebrate with “lots of casseroles, ham and pie.” Ford said “lots of food and fun around our big fireplace.” Ryan places church above all and mentioned feasting, gift-giving, charitable volunteer work and music-making. Nichols’ family spends the holidays like he did as a child — Christmas Eve with his parents and Christmas Day with his wife’s parents.
Special little family traditions at Christmas?
Ford starts with famous home-made cinnamon rolls made by his wife, Vickie. Nichols listens to Christmas music and enjoys decorating the house as a family. Ryan and his wife, Sharon, still observe the 12 days of advent, just as they did when their children were still at home.
Ever spent Christmas in a special or unusual setting?
Ford: “My first Christmas in the Navy I spent washing dishes on a repair barge in San Diego. It was warm and sunny and didn’t feel like Christmas one bit!” Ryan: “My first Christmas in the U.S. was at an uncle’s house in the Bronx. There was an oil strike and no oil for heat. Being from Trinidad & Tobago, I never knew I could be so cold — or homesick!” Chrisman has a different take on Christmas in New York: “Several years ago we took our two (then) teenage kids to New York City and had an incredible time spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the city. It’s something I would highly recommend at least once.” Nichols didn’t recall a unique location but expressed his thankfulness for the blessing of being with his family every Christmas.
Thoughts on being part of the annual Christmas show:
Nichols: “When I did my Christmas record, I didn’t realize all the opportunities it would bring me to be able to share Christmas with so many people. Being able to do this concert with my band, Andy, and Kelly and now this year, Don Ryan, is so very special. It’s very humbling to hear from so many people that coming to our show is now part of their Christmas tradition.”
Ford: “It’s very rewarding for me to make music, and celebrate the birth of the savior, with Grady and Andy, two very talented and godly men.”
Chrisman: “We only get to sing these amazing songs once a year and to ... do it in Tulsa with these incredible musicians is an unforgettable experience.”
Ryan: “It’s quite an honor. This is my first time and I’m looking forward to (it).”
Thoughts on proceeds going to ALS Patient Services Outreach:
Ford: “My dad’s oldest brother, my uncle Dudley, died of ALS many years ago. I watched him waste away. I wish he and his family had been blessed by ALS Patient Services Outreach.”
Ryan: “My heart goes out to anyone (and their families) afflicted with this disease. We’re in your corner. ... May this be the year of a breakthrough in treatment and/or cure.”
Chrisman: “ALS is such a devastating disease and it takes its toll not only on the patient, but the families as well. I’m honored to be a part of an organization that supports family members and ALS sufferers.”
Nichols: “APSO does such great work for so many people whose lives are impacted with ALS. To have helped over 100 families in the Tulsa area is truly remarkable. And to not charge for their services makes doing a concert like this, as a way to raise funds for APSO, all the more of a Christmas gift from the community to APSO to those families who need help the most.”