How do you fend off the quarantine blues? Ben Cook-Feltz does it by recording a Christmas CD (Merry BCFing Christmas) over the summer with dozens of Minnesota musicians. Of course.
It’s such a strange approach to taking control of life in coronavirus time; it’s genius. Ben shines a reverent and irreverent light on holiday classics with one original piece called Mannheim, a tribute parody of all things Mannheim Steamroller. The songs I have heard are fun and joyous. Some poke fun at the ludicrous songs we have been singing for generations and some are simply sweet renditions. (Two songs will be released on Bandcamp soon – think this weekend – and likely announced on Facebook.)
Just as compelling as the music is the story behind it. Ben started the project and invited friends to join the lineup. Ben has played music with nearly everyone and their brother, so the list of guest appearances reads like a Saturday night gig list in the Cities used to read. And that’s the point. Ben looped in friends who are artists, friends in the same boat as he’s riding to play with him to bring them joy and work. Who doesn’t want to play Christmas music in the summer 2020?
Now what he needs is help completing the production of the CD and paying the artists – so he has turned to kickstarter, where is asking people to pre-order albums and donate to help get it done. (Closes Nov 11!) He’s come up with some unusual and compelling rewards for patrons who pledge at various levels including a BCF Christmas ornament, homemade holiday cookies, a personalized video of Ben singing a holiday songs of your choice, Christmas caroling at your house and home visit from guitar player Cole Mickelson to wash your cat.) I’ll remind folks that a pledge to support such a host of local musicians is an investment in keeping that music alive. If we want to see live music when the world opens, we need to make sure those musicians are getting fed!
It’s a surreal year, which as Ben points out meant singing Christmas tunes in July seemed par for the course. It’s also in a strange way a reminder that this too shall pass. We can’t predict too much but chances are we’ll be celebrating Christmas one way or another this year and the next and the next … and in a surreal year, that’s comforting.