White Christmas!

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I hope you had a great Christmas.  We joined family just as the snow started to fall, and spent the holiday snowed in, enjoying a real “White Christmas.”

For a tune that’ll be 75 years old this coming year, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” really has staying power.  Word has it that he wrote it while vacationing in the desert resort of La Quinta, California (which explains why he started it with the seldom-heard verse, “The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palms trees sway. There’s never been such a day, in Beverly Hills, L.A.  But it’s December the twenty-fourth … and I am longing to be up north …”).

Bing Crosby recorded it in 1941 and it was an instant smash, not only as one of Crosby’s singles, but also as a featured song the next year in the Crosby-Fred Astaire film “Holiday Inn.”  In fact, the tune won the Academy Award that year for best movie song, with Berlin becoming both the first and the last Academy Award presenter to open the envelope and read his or her own name.  After that the Academy changed the rules to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.

And when the story of the Vermont inn with no snow was reworked for Crosby and Danny Kaye in 1954, “White Christmas” was not only featured twice, but became the movie’s title, as well.

Lots of folks followed with their own versions, including Frank Sinatra in 1944; Ernest Tubb in 1949; the Drifters in 1954; and perhaps most famously Elvis Presley, in 1957, with a version that was so unique that Berlin himself wrote a letter to the Editor of the New York Times to complain about it!

I hope you and your family sing it each year.  And don’t forget the opening verse, which, interestingly, both the Crash Test Dummies and the Carpenters chose to keep in!

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How Time Flies!

Wow.  It’s been a while since I last posted.  I guess I’ve been busy.

Ellis Island Boys

Over Thanksgiving we traveled to San Diego, where I took in two days of the 35th Annual America’s Finest City Jazz Festival.  Among my favorites were the Ellis Island Boys (shown above in warmer weather at Disney’s California Adventure:  Nate Ketner on reeds; Ralf Reynolds on washboard and vocals; Katie Cavera, www.katiecavera.com, on aluminum bass and vocals; and John Reynolds on resonator guitar and vocals).  Another great show was put on by the Memphis Speed Kings, a rockabilly project of clarinetist/pianist Dave Bennett (www.davebennett.com).  Great music, great fun.

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Then last week the Ukulele Rob Trio + 1 (Tori Sundheim, vocals; Zack Sapunor, bass; John Wilusz, harmonica, guitar and vocals; and yours truly, ukulele and vocals), renamed the “John Wilusz Quartet,” entertained the folks at an office’s holiday party, in Sacramento’s historic Clunie Center (above).  The party took place during the biggest downpour of the recent storms that have come through, but we were snug and safe with the best group possible under the circumstances, as we entertained a governmental flood safety agency!

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Than this past Friday and Saturday nights I performed with the cast of the Green Valley Theatre’s Joyeux Noel Holiday Cabaret.  Hope you were able to make it.  It was a ton of fun working with so much talent.  My own features included working with Green Valley regular Jennifer Morrison, recreating the “late-night sandwiches and milk” scene from “White Christmas,” in which Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clunie sing the wonderful Irving Berlin song, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.”  Of course, we altered the movie’s script.  Just a little.  I led the audience in a sing-along of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”  And four wonderful Hawaiian-dressed singers and dancers (Jennifer, Holly Wilson, Jessalyn San Gregorio and Mariana Seda) helped me out with “Mele Kalikimaka.”  The show had everything from slapstick comedy to a 17-voice choir doing traditional Christmas Carols.  Keep an eye out for the next Cabaret, probably in March.

Coming up:  Don’t miss the Torch Club’s “Hangover Party” on Thursday afternoon January 1st.  It’ll feature and open mic session, and lots of good food.  And the Green Valley Theatre is in rehearsal for the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” (with a cast that will include fellow Mele Kalikimaka performers Mariana Seda and Holly Wilson), opening in mid-February.  Info at www.torchclub.net and www.greenvalleytheatre.com, respectively.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Ukulele New Year to you all!