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Mannheim Steamroller

This music ensemble, which has a neoclassical new-age sound that incorporates classical, electronic and rock music, was formed in 1974 by the percussionist, composer and record producer Chip Davis.

Chip Davis initially used the name Mannheim Steamroller as an alias, with the name being from the 18th century German technique known as Mannheim roller which originated at the Mannheim School of Music.

Chip Davis and Jackson Berkey first performed on and produced a classical music album which incorporated synthesisers and electric bass. The first album credited to Mannheim Steamroller included several other musicians was named Fresh Aire, with the tracks based on spring.  As no major label would take it on Chip Davis started his own record label American Gramophone and released the album in 1975.  The next album, Fresh Aire II, based on fall came out in 1977 and two years later in 1979  the release of Fresh Aire III, based on summer.  The last of the albums exploring the seasons was Fresh Aire IV based on winter in 1981.

Moving on, Fresh Aire V was released in 1983 and featured performances by the London Symphony Orchestra and The Cambridge Singers.  The inspiration of the album was the book The Dream by Johannes Kepler.

In 1984 it released its first Christmas album entitled Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, which features eleven carols with their own modern interpretation.  The album reached No.50 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The next album Fresh Aire VI was released in 1986 and inspired by Greek Mythology followed by their second Christmas album A Fresh Aire Christmas which had six million copies shipped in the US and as of 2014, was listed as one of the best selling holiday albums in the US.

The 1990’s Fresh Aire 7 concentrated on the number 7 and won the Grammy Award for New Age album in 1991.  In 1995 Christmas in the Aire was released and this one became the fifth best selling album in the US having soldmore than 3.5 million copies. Two years later in 1997 Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Live came out, with an accompanying DVD on the performance and the following year they worked with Olivia Newton John on the mainly spoken recording The Christmas Angel: A Family Story. In 1999 the next album was a collection of Disney music called Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse.

The last of the Fresh Aire albums, being Fresh Aire 8, was released in 2000 and bases itself on the subject of infinity.  The following year Christmas Extraordinaire came out, as did its album Halloween, and in 2004 a compilation of Christmas releases appeared as Christmas Celebration, with one new song.  In 2007 Christmas Song was released with the guest singers Olivia Newton John and Johnny Mathis, but Jackson Berkey was not in the line-up this time.  Chip Davis had to have surgery in 2008 so during his recovery he hired extra musicians, which he nicknamed the red and green touring companies as he had put them into two line-ups.

When the 2010s came about the ensemble performed “Deck the Halls” at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in both 2011 and 2013.  In 2019 the new album Exotic Spaces was released.

Into the 2020s and Mannheim Steamroller continue to give live performances.

Mannheim Steamroller recordings
Carol of the Birds
(Traditional Catlonian)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

Coventry Carol  (Traditional English/Robert Croo/Thomas Mawdyke)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

Deck the Halls (Welsh Traditional)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (Traditional/Emile Blemont/Marc-Antoine Charpentier/Louis-Denis Seguin)(English Translation: Edward Cuthbert Nunn)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional/Anonymous)
American Gramaphone Records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

Good King Wenceslas (John Mason Neale)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

I Saw Three Ships (Traditional/Anonymous)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

Wassail (Anonymous Middle Ages English/Ralph Vaughan Williams)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)

We Three Kings (Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr.)
American Gramaphone records AG 1984 (CD: Christmas)