So, yes, people love holiday music and it's for that reason that Aaron Meyer, one of the Northwest's most skilled violinists, has become a master of the season, even if he isn't exactly wild about "Jingle Bells."
"People are crazy about [holiday music], and there's definitely a market for it. But you can do it in a cool way with cool arrangements," says Meyer, "Most of the year, I'm not playing Christmas tunes. I think that's how I can tolerate it."
Meyer goes beyond "tolerating" holiday. In fact, Meyer just may be Oregon's biggest holiday music name. He is booked every weekend this month and is performing with the Portland Singing Christmas Tree choral event. But the highlight of the season is his own holiday showcase, which draws in some 2,500 Portlanders over two days. Now, he's bringing his show to Bend for the first time.
Billing himself as a "concert rock violinist," Meyer adds musical mastery to the holiday tune format. This means he does not play "Jingle Bells." He laughs when the name of the song is even brought up. What he does do is play plenty of original music that's refreshingly devoid of typical Christmas corniness but full of big, soaring uplifting numbers. Then, of course, he tosses in some standards here and there. His take on "Carol of the Bells" is proof that holiday music need not make you want to strangle yourself with a six-foot length of tinsel.
Playing alone, Meyer, says, there's really nothing "rock" about the sound of his violin. But when complemented by a full drum kit and electric guitar, the sound sure as hell isn't classical.
"I really don't play a ton of rock music myself. I bill myself as a concert rock violinist," he says. "I wanted a term that would sort of shake that term of a classical violinist, because that's not what I'm doing."
Meyer has, however, flirted with the rock and roll world, recording and playing a few shows with former alterna-rock heavyweights Everclear, as well as other acts. He's also self-described "psychotic Deadhead," saying that the band influenced the more improvisational portions of his music. But closer to the more classical side, Meyer also recorded on Pink Martini's debut record and has been a guest musician on several other records and performances. He's also spent a good deal of time teaching his craft to children, which he'll do in Bend at the Cascade Community School of Music.
Although his holiday shows have been successful, to say the least, over the past few years, Meyer has no intention of becoming pigeonholed as a novelty Christmas act, like, say Charlie Brown's rag-tag band. To the contrary, Meyer has a seemingly odd global appeal. He plays annual shows in Fiji and performed for a tsunami relief fundraiser in Thailand. After living in southeast Asia for six months in his younger years, Meyer cultivated an appreciation for the region and its culture, as well as its music, that has helped his career balloon.
While his albums of original material speak for themselves, the name Aaron Meyer is still nevertheless associated with holiday tunes. But not "Jingle Bells," of course.
Aaron Meyer Holiday Concert
7pm Friday, December 11. Old Stone Church. $25. Tickets at www.bendticket.com