December 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase


The December 2023 showcase took place on December 18th at O’Toole’s. There was quite a spirited crowd in attendance and most folks were very attentive to our performance. This showcase is always special as it features numerous VOCAL members who are playing mostly holiday and/or seasonal-themed songs. VOCAL threw out a challenge years ago for the members to write such songs for this annual event. Door prizes are also offered at this event so there were many happy winners of VOCAL-related merchandise, gift cards, etc. and even signed books from a local author, Maggie King! (thanks, Maggie!).

Long-time member Russell Lawson opened the show with three of his finely-crafted tunes. Ice Falling is a sobering story depicting the signs of global warming. Dear Santa is a fairly new song of Russell’s describing how the times have changed now that the kids have grown and everyone wants iPhones, x-boxes, etc. under the tree. We are still amazed at the magic way you do the things you do! Christmastime is Here is Russell’s first holiday challenge song from 2004 where he reveals all the vivid and memorable details of the Christmas season (hurried shoppers, mistletoe, candlelight, etc.)

Matt Manion then took the stage and opened with The Crossroads, a tribute to the Saturday night showcase from the 70’s that was held in the basement of St. James’s Episcopal church. He recounted the excitement and eagerness of getting your slot on the stage. Blue Ridge Mountain Hideaway was co-written with his friend Richard which conveys a sense of peace and comfort hanging out on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge witnessing breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Quarter to Midnight is one of Matt’s signature tunes recounting his experience on Christmas Eve heading to Midnight Mass and the human interactions he is involved with along the way.

Long-time member Glen King then opened his set accompanied by piano. Christmas Came Early tells the story of the best Christmas gift ever for a loving couple when their baby was delivered in July. It was 95 degrees in Abilene, the paper said July but he had snowflakes in his eyes. Song on the Radio was written for the ukulele but sounded just fine on the keys (“you’re like a song on the radio, an angel in the choir, saying words I wish I had”). Glen left us with another holiday song I’d Like to Spend New Years Eve With You. Now that all the holiday rush is over, there’s still one present I’d like. I’d like to spend time with you and make your New Years dreams come true!

John Ellis then treated us to two of his signature holiday/seasonal tunes with his stellar guitar playing. Winter Solstice is an intriguing instrumental that allows the listener to conjure up their own images of the season. Me and My Baby on a Cold Winter Day offers the perfect warmup recipe for romantic, cozy indoor time with your lover!

Glenda Creamer graced the stage with three of her holiday-related tunes. We’re Getting Ready for Christmas describes the planning, shopping and all around hustle and bustle that accompanies the holiday. The Story is a very beautiful biblical tale about the birth of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. The Cookie Exchange describes that munching temptation this time of year and balancing it with your dietary needs.

Carol Torricelli (aka “Torch”) pinch-hit for another member and brought three lovely tunes to the crowd. We Are Virginia describes the many splendors of The Commonwealth and could be the official state tourism song. The Ode to Thanksgiving gives a bit of pity to this oft-overlooked holiday as it’s sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas. When candy corn goes straight to candy canes you know you’re missing something in between. The Roads In Between Us is the story of her life in New Jersey and Manhattan when many of her friends moved far away. Even though miles apart she could sing to the sunset and bring them back close.

Jim Puckett brought a couple of his seasonal tunes to the stage with Snowey Mountain Bride, a Civil War-era number about a man leaving the battlefield on Christmas Eve for the western slopes of the mountain where the lady to be his bride is waiting. The Morning After New Years Eve is a new tune asking for a chance at redemption in the new year, as it’s never too late to make amends.

The Bluegrass/Folk duo of Gene and Gayla Mills ended the evening with a handful of their homespun tales. Let Fallen Snow Be All We Hear is rich in cozy images of being stuck in a cabin in the woods with heavy snow and no distractions from the modern world. Riley’s Horn Pipe is an original instrumental fiddle tune that was well-accepted by the crowd. I Want a Car with a Carburetor harkens back to the good old days when things were a little simpler (no pagers/cell phones, etc.) and coffee was brewed in a percolator! They ended the evening with a very beautiful medley of Christmas songs (What Child is This and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen).

Great job, guys, and Happy Holidays to all!

Showcase Photos

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Photo Credits: Matthew Costello and Norman Roscher