Crowd-favorite touring in support of 'Warmer in the Winter'
By Joshua Maloni
Lindsey Stirling's summer performance at Artpark was the best show this writer has seen in 12 years of covering Mainstage Theater events.
From the song selection, to the production, to Stirling's dancing and violin playing (on the stage, hovering above the audience, on one leg, amidst zombies), the show was musically superior and visually stunning.
And yet, all of this can't compare to what Stirling will do when she returns to Western New York on Dec. 15.
Yes, the presentation will be grander, the songs livelier and the performer holly-jollier. But more than that, Stirling's show will raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo, as well as new amenities for the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital.
The YouTube star with literally billions of video views will shed a light on those in need locally. This good cause is part of the good-deed-doing Stirling does while on tour.
In a phone interview, the "America's Got Talent" standout, "Dancing with the Stars" finalist and best-selling author said, "I really do try to give back as an artist. I think it's a big responsibility we have as artists or as people that can give back in a way like that, through sharing talent and bringing people together. I try to do it as much as possible.
"And, for example, when we're on the road, we try to go to hospitals and visit kids ... especially at the holidays. It has such a soft spot in my heart.
"I remember it was probably two years ago that I spent a lot of the holidays in the hospital with my dad, and I just know firsthand how scary that is. I know how dark it can feel, and how dismal and how hard it is when you see everybody else. You know, you just assume the rest of the world is celebrating Christmas, and you're kind of stuck.
"And so, anything I can do to bring joy to people in the hospitals, it's my pleasure to do it. And that's why we make a special effort to not only do it on the road, but also when they asked me to do this benefit, it was a no-brainer; of course we'll do it."
Per the RMH website, "The Buffalo Ronald McDonald House provides a home environment of comfort and support, keeping families of seriously ill or injured children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals together."
The concert series, now in its 12th year, was started in 2007 by local McDonald's franchisee Enrico Francani. RMH said, "Francani was motivated by two goals: to raise money to support the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House, and to create a deeper connection and level of engagement between the Ronald McDonald House charities and the community. For the past 12 years, Francani, the Derico of East Amherst Corp. and their employees, and their local sponsors have made this annual event a huge success. Proceeds to date for all the shows are in excess of $500,000."
Stirling said she normally looks forward to Christmas, but formulating and staging a holiday show this year has amplified her joy.
"It is going to be very, very different from the show you saw this summer. It's a very different kind of energy that goes into a Christmas concert," Stirling said. "It doesn't mean it's any less entertaining. It's not any less difficult. It's just - it's really fun to be able to do something that feels so, so different from that summer tour or the shows that we normally put on.
"It's all full of Christmas music. It's full of dancing. And they'll see everything in that show from ballroom and beautiful waltzing, to pointe ballet, to pop-style music and dancing. I don't think there is a chance for anyone to get bored during the show: It's constantly moving, constantly changing.
"When I do a Christmas show, I like to take people through the different sides of Christmas. You know, you got your happy, jolly, fun Christmas flair; there's a little bit cheesy and goofy - and you have permission to do that - but then, all of a sudden, you have your more sentimental side of Christmas, and like the more kind of reverent side of Christmas that we showcase, as well.
"The show really takes people on a journey. That's something that's always important to me in a show, is to take people through this kind of rollercoaster of different emotions and bring them out the other end - and hopefully leave them inspired."
Francani said, "The decision to approach Ms. Stirling as the next holiday concert performer was an easy one. Lindsey Stirling is an artist who moves hearts and energizes her audiences. The 'Wanderland Tour' captures the spirit of the holiday, with the dazzling staging and song. Lindsey's enthusiasm is infectious and her musical talent and gift in connecting to people through music is an inspiration. Lindsey Stirling and the 'Wanderland Tour' was the perfect fit."
Stirling is touring in support of her new project, "Warmer in the Winter: Deluxe Edition." The 18-song album is a supersized version of 2017's "Warmer in the Winter." It finds the musician putting her own string-spin on holiday classics - everything from "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and "What Child Is This" to "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (feat. Sabrina Carpenter) and the theme song from "Home Alone." Also featured are original songs "Warmer in the Winter" (feat. Trombone Shorty) and "Christmas C'mon" (feat. Becky G). Stirling even sings on a handful of songs.
"That was definitely a little bit of a challenge, to take songs that have been covered and reimagined probably thousands of times. You know, 'Angels We Have Heard On High,' 'Silent Night,' and 'All I Want for Christmas.' It's like, 'Oh my gosh, how can I possibly do this song in a way that it hasn't been done before?!?' " Stirling said. "So, it definitely was a challenge - but it was a fun challenge, and I really enjoyed kind of reimagining things. And I feel like that's also something I am really good at, is reimagining and putting my own spin on things.
"I'm really happy with the balance that came out of it, you know, where it still feels like the holiday classics that people love - I hope! But at the same time, it's kind of fun that I don't think anyone would listen to a lot of these songs and realize that the violin is literally dancing all around the melody. You know, the violin plays all sorts of different melodies, but what you're hearing is 'Angels We Have Heard On High.' And that's always fun for me as an artist to do. Like all these disguises - and no one's going to think that, but that's what they're hearing - and that's what kind of brings a new magic to it.
"And yeah, it was fun to also take songs and to do that in ways that've never been done before. Like, 'I Wonder As I Wander' is an old Celtic hymn. No one's ever done it as an EDM track. That was really fun."
Lindsey Stirling brings "The Wanderland Tour" to Shea's Buffalo Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 15. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Proceeds will benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo. For more information, or for tickets, visit https://www.rmhconcerts.com/.
"Warmer in the Winter: Deluxe Edition" is available via iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon and online at www.lindseystirling.com.
More about the Ronald McDonald House Concert
Francani said, "In keeping with the festive spirit of the evening, patrons will be greeted by Santa Clause as they enter the opulent Shea's Performing Arts Center lobby and entertained by students from Buffalo Suzuki Strings in the lobby prior to the show. The 12th annual Holiday Concert to benefit the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House will be a festive evening to remember!"
Per the Ronald McDonald House: "Each year the funds raised make a difference in the lives of people and their families who are facing the most difficult time in their lives. The holiday concert proceeds represent a large portion of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of WNY annual operating budget, contributing to the daily operation of our Oishei Children's Hospital (OCH) Family Lounge, 'Happy Wheels Cart' and the Buffalo Ronald McDonalds House. These funds have contributed to making sure our house van is reliable and safe, with new tires and regular oil changes; our utility bills are always paid on time; our grass is cut and the snow is removed; our guest families are transported back and forth to the hospital safely, after taking a hot shower and dressing in clean, freshly laundered clothes; and complimentary amenities are always available in our OCH Family Lounge and on our OCH 'Happy Wheels Cart.' These funds have contributed to making sure our guest families' daily needs are met, so they can focus on the most important thing: their sick child."
Derico of East Amherst Corp. owns and operates 35 McDonald's restaurants in Western New York. Additionally, Derico owns and operates two McDonalds test restaurant concepts. The company opened its first McDonald's restaurant in Cheektowaga in May 1987.
The company currently employs more than 1,300 residents across Western New York.
RMHC of WNY is a proud chapter of the national and international network of Ronald McDonald House Charities. A local volunteer board of directors operates RMHC of WNY. RMHC of WNY is responsible for its own fundraising and program priorities and is 100 percent funded by generous donations from the local Western New York Community.
For over 35 years, RMHC of Western New York has served more than 21,000 families from Western New York, surrounding states and outside the U.S. Last year alone, the house served families from 25 counties in New York, 10 different states and five countries.
For more information about RMHC of WNY and how to help, visit www.rmhcwny.org
Lindsey Stirling at Artpark in summer 2018.