Blenders share a few of their favorite sings
Fargo - For 25 years, the Blenders have been harmonizing on hits, though they’re perhaps best known for their take on Christmas tunes.
The vocal group returns to its hometown this week for its annual holiday concert at the Fargo Theatre.
While they’ve all moved away, performing the seasonal standards reminds them of their formative years in this winter wonderland.
Darren Rust warmly recalls caroling on cold nights when he sings “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” while “Mary’s Boy Child” reminds his brother, Allan Rust, of listening to his parents’ holiday records. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sends Ryan Lance and Tim Kasper back to performing in Kathy and Eddie Gasper’s holiday dance shows.
“It is the perfect, up-tempo holiday jazzy jam,” says Lance.
(Kasper would go on to marry Kathy and Eddie Gasper’s daughter, Melanie, and his brother-in-law, Matt Gasper, now produces the holiday shows.)
After a quarter century together, they still have a lot to sing about. The vocal group just released “25,” a six-song EP with two new takes on Christmas tunes, “Wake Up, Wake Up” and a mash-up of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and the Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
“It was really amazing to pull that one out last year for the first time and totally surprise the audience,” Kasper says. “It’s very tough to surprise our audience after all this time. They loved it.”
With hundreds and hundreds of holiday tunes to choose from, we asked the members for a few of their favorite sings as well as what seasonal chestnuts are really just lumps of coal.
I really love “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It’s no wonder they were some of the first songs The Blenders chose to record. They have the best chord changes and harmonies, and I enjoyed doing new arrangements and making them our own.
– Darren Rust
Johnny Mathis’ version of “The Christmas Song” is a no-brainer. His voice is like butter.
– Ryan Lance
Whenever I hear “Mary’s Boy Child” I’m transported back to early boyhood, sitting cross-legged with my head resting on our giant oak stereo console. The accompanying orchestra’s rich bass resonating as Harry Belafonte’s tender voice lilts over the top. That song makes you feel like you’re there, peacefully looking on among the angels and wise men.
– Allan Rust
“The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole is pure gold from start to finish. In my opinion, he had one of the greatest, if not the greatest voice of all time. He’s just a total master with phrasing and tone.
– Tim Kasper
A more upbeat favorite is Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” It’s a soulful, feel-good tune, and The Blenders’ version is a favorite for opening up the show.
– Allan Rust
I love the haunting melody of “Do You Hear What I Hear.” I will say that I really dig our new version of that song which is a mashup with The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.”
- Ryan Lance
I listen to the lyrics for “The North Pole” over and over and never fail to laugh. I guess because we wrote it (and perform the parody as The Folkers), and I think I’m hilarious. It warms my heart when people scold me because their kids are walking around singing it at the holidays.
- Tim Kasper
One of my least favorite holiday tunes is “Santa Baby.” Sure, it’s all tongue and check, but whenever I hear it, I picture Eartha Kitt lying on a tiger rug wearing little more than a turban and couple of jingle bells. Not only is it an ode to gold-digging gluttony, it’s just plain creepy mixing sex appeal with Santa.
Years ago we used to terrorize our audience before the show with a dancing mechanical Santa who danced to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” So every time that opening guitar riff comes in I cringe a little.
“The Christmas Shoes” is the corn-syrupiest, sappiest, tug-at-your-heartstrings piece-of-tripe that I’ve ever heard. Whenever I hear it playing on my car radio, I have to rip the stereo out of my car and replace it the next day.
- Ryan Lance
If there was one song I dislike and would never want to record, it’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
I don’t want be a hater, but that song is just stupid. It was stupid the first time I heard it, and it remains stupid today. I produce Home Free, the winners of the Sing-Off on NBC. We did a Christmas album this year, and guess which song they chose? I just about bit a hole in my tongue. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.
- Darren Rust
If You Go
WHAT: The Blenders
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: The Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway
TICKETS: Tickets are $39 plus fees, available at Tickets 300. http://tickets300.com; (701) 866-300-8300.