One of the joys of collecting music is finding that unexpected treasure – not a monetary one, but an aural one. My Christmas Song of the Day for December 29 is one I wanted to feature a couple years ago, but it wasn’t on YouTube then. Fortunately, it is now.
I spent 18 years living in Wisconsin. In most of those years, I traveled to Minnesota for the Christmas holiday so I could spend time with a sister and her family who lives there and, later, with my mom after she moved from Pennsylvania. One year, at least 10 years ago by now, I was on my way home after my visit, and by then, radio stations with Christmas music on them were few (as I’ve said many times, I bemoan the fact that radio can’t wait to shut off the holiday cheer as soon as possible after 12:01 am December 26). I caught a mostly automated, somewhat low-power station based in western Wisconsin that was audible in certain parts of the Twin Cities metro area; I believe the station was WEVR-FM from River Falls, and it was playing a wonderful, country-sounding Christmas song about loving to watch the lights. I couldn’t stop humming that line! Once I got home, a lot of Internet searching finally yielded the title and artist – and I discovered, too, that I already had the CD in my collection. I love when that happens.
I am pretty sure that I’ve never again heard the song on the radio. But in the years since, I’ve included it on more than one Christmas CD mix, and I’ve played it on my own radio show at Sweet Briar College during the holidays, even though it’s five and a half minutes long. I want to share it with you today.
Kerri Sherwood (born 1959) is a pianist and singer who was born in New York and relocated to southeastern Wisconsin. She’s been a teacher, music minister, conductor and composer who has released both instrumental and vocal albums of many genres of music. She’s done three Christmas CDs, the first of which, The Lights: A Christmas Album, was released in 1996. (It’s also been released as simply A Christmas Album in a special edition sponsored by a Milwaukee-area bank and a radio station.)
Most of the CD consists of very nice piano instrumentals of famous carols. But she saved the best for last – “The Lights,” the title song of her disc. This was the song played on that Christmas long ago on that radio station in River Falls, Wisconsin that had me transfixed as I drove east on I-94 toward Eau Claire. She sings and plays piano, and is accompanied by fiddle, mandolin and percussion to give it a vaguely country-Americana feel. Sherwood sings about several generations of mothers on Christmas Day, and it leads her to think about Mary on that first Christmas. And she sums it up by thinking of her own child and how, some day, Sherwood will reminisce with her about the lights.
“The Lights” is probably rarely heard outside Wisconsin. Give yourself the five and a half minutes to listen to Kerri Sherwood sing about the joy of motherhood at Christmas.