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The Holiday Tour! 1/14/2018
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December opened with a marathon shopping day with my sister, Wendy. We spent five hours searching for gifts to match our Christmas lists! There have been similar holiday raids in the past with our French sister, in the wake of her Thanksgiving visits. We would stretch the day even later, hitting every department in the store; we had to pack a lot in as she was only here for a short stay!

This year, Wendy and I topped off our shop-a-thon at the wonderful Indian BBQ restaurant, Choolaah, across the street from our shopping mecca. The following day, after my yoga class, and just for good measure, we joined forces again to "finish"(you will understand my irony a bit later) our shopping.

The following morning I was behind the wheel of my car at 10:00 am and set off for Toledo. The occasion was a matinee performance of “A Joyful Christmas Tour”, with Jim Brickman, of course, and singer John Trones.

During the two-hour drive, I listened to old friend Dave Koz’s radio show on 107.3 The Wave and chatted with my husband and my sister, Wendy. It was a beautiful 50-degree day and the miles flew by.

After a quick sound check at the theatre, Jim, John and I shared a delightful lunch with a couple of guests: Janice and her mom, who have come to see us in concert and joined us on Brickman cruises many times in the past. Janice surprised me with a beautifully-designed, handmade bracelet!

Shortly thereafter, it was show time. The 1,200 member audience was lovely throughout and rose to its feet at the end of the show. John and I came out afterwards, to sign CD’s and greet old friends, like Wendy and George, who have been coming to see us for over 20 years! We also met enthusiastuc new recruits, which is always a pleasure.

At six, I was back in my car and at home again by 8:00. A long, but fun day!

I spent the next couple of days wrapping my gifts, (I usually have all my wrapping to do when I arrive home on Christmas Eve and it keeps me up until the wee hours of the morning!), mailing presents to out-of-town family members, and cooking vats of soup and chili to feed my guys… and hold them over for at least a few days while I’m away. I also dropped off a tour schedule (and a container of my chili) for my 92-year-old mom, so she could follow us as we made our way around the country for the two and one-half weeks to come.
AAH… I had NEVER been this organized before leaving on tour, ever…and it felt pretty great!!

Tuesday evening, my hubby dropped me at the bus and we hugged and kissed goodbye. I would see him 10 days later, upon my return to Cleveland for our show on the 16th.

I slept well on the bus that night and awoke in Troy, NY, where we have performed many times before. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is a beautiful venue, located above the former bank of the same name. It’s an old building with a maze of winding stairs and underground hallways beneath the stage: I definitely got my exercise!

When Jim walked out on stage, it was clear that we were in for a great night. The audience was bubbling with excitement from the start. This particular evening would just feature Jim and me, like old times…and we had a blast! The audience continued to be amazing and jumped to its feet at the end of our last song of the night, which always feels SO good.

Longtime fans and friends, Jim, Janet and Patty, greeted us after the show, and posed for photos with us. Many retired servicemen and their families, as well as active service families, lined up to especially express their gratitude for Jim’s new song, “Christmas Where You Are”, (our finale every night), a song dedicated to those very people. It was lovely to experience their appreciation firsthand!

At midnight, I was snug in my bus bunk as we set out for York, PA, for a show at The Pullo Center. After arriving at around 7:00 am, I was dropped off at my hotel where I slept for a couple of hours, worked on my computer, worked out at the nearby fitness club and was ready for pick-up by Kristy, from the venue, at 4 pm. After sound check, we enjoyed a scrumptious catered crab cake dinner with guests, Cindy and Rad. Then it was curtain time!

The crowd may not have been as vocal as the Troy audience the night before, but was very appreciative and gave us a standing ovation, too. After the show, we visited with friends who had travelled from Maryland, like Ken and April, and others from Vermont and Massachusetts. All too soon, we were packed up and on our way to our next destination.

It was a nine-hour drive to Fort Wayne, where we pulled into the parking lot of Sunny 103.9, so that Jim and I could disembark. While I was still in my bunk, Hannah had texted me to go in to say hello to old friend and ex-Program Director of Magic Radio, Barb Richards, who now runs the CW TV station in Fort Wayne. She was planning to surprise us on the air, during Amber Stone’s morning show! Grateful for the tip, I rolled out, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, put on a little lipstick and but wore my sunglasses the entire time we were in the studio.

Jim and I had great fun as guests. During the hour slot, we sang “The Gift” and promoted the show to take place at The Rhinehart Music Center that evening. After re-connecting with Barb Richards and posing for photos with Amber and folks from the station, the bus took me to my hotel, where I was able to grab a couple of hours of sleep before going to the theatre. I ubered over at 4:15, and we sound-checked half an hour later.

Before the show, I saw Barb again--she was going to introduce the show-- and our old friend, Paul, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. The concert consisted of Jim and me and we had a ball together, as usual. The audience seemed to enjoy us, too, as demonstrated by their standing ovation at the end of the show! Afterwards, we saw Barb once more, her husband, Jim, and Paul, and bid them goodbye until next time. Within the hour, we were on our way to The Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL.

I was looking forward to seeing my Chicago cousins, Jim and Vernette, just before the show there. As you know, being able to meet with with my family when on tour is such a highlight for me.

After sound check, we had dinner backstage, with longtime fans and friends, Ernie and Vicki Knight, another warm, lovely couple who have followed us for years. Over dinner, they confided that they couldn’t attend the next evening’s show in Cedarburg, WI, and had two extra tickets if I needed them. I texted my Wisconsin cousins, Tom and Sue, immediately. They were thrilled to pass them on to friends, who had missed out in the rush for tickets to the sold-out show.

Meanwhile, back to Naperville! I had a short visit with my cousins Jim and Vernette before the show and we caught up on both sides of the family. They spoiled me with peppermint bark, (peppermint-covered white chocolate) and a beautiful mug filled with Chicago’s famous Fannie May chocolates.

It was a sold-out show in the 700-seat theatre, with a stage in the round. Jim, John Trones and I really enjoyed the stage and the evening. The audience was terrific! Afterwards, Jim and Vernette met me in the lobby to voice their enthusiasm over the show, followed by the best farewell bear hugs in the Midwest!

The following day was slotted for our show at The Cedarburg Performing Arts Center, in Wisconsin. This time I visited with my cousins, Tom and Sue, who drove in from the Milwaukee area, along with their friends, the happy beneficiaries of Ernie and Vicki’s tickets. Sue brought a gorgeous tin of her fabulous homemade baked goods, toffee and candy. Although we could only visit for a bit, I cherished every minute. They are adorable! And seeing them always calls to mind wonderful summer memories of family gatherings at their beautiful lake house in Oconomowac.

This 600-seat theatre was sold out too and the audience was fabulous! After the show, the shining faces of my cousins and their friends, wreathed in smiles, told me how much they enjoyed the it… regretfully, we were soon “goodbye-ing” until next time.

We boarded the bus at midnight for the 8 1/2 hour drive to Cleveland. I disembarked at 9:30 am, took an uber home, hugged my hubby, and hit the ground running! We were only in town for the day, with a departure scheduled shortly after midnight. This would be our only show night off for the following two weeks. I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, wrapped gifts (and here you thought that was behind me—but there are always temptations picked up on the the road to deal with) shopped for groceries, did multiple errands for Ed, repacked…and oof, ended the day with a nice Mediterranean dinner out.

Before we knew it, Ed was dropping me off at the tour bus once more and the crew and I were on our way to Manchester, NH. The 11-hour trip turned into a 15-hour afffair, due to snow, ice and dangerous road conditions.

We arrived safely at the venue at 3:30 pm, I went to my hotel for a quick shower, and was driven back to the venue for our 5:00 sound check at The Palace Theatre.

We play this venue almost every year and as you may recall, we love taking advantage of their annual production of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, working the backdrop and scenery into our own show. It’s so much fun using some of the doors in the set for our own entrances. This edition starred just Jim and me and the audience was wonderful! It was great to chat afterwards with some familiar faces like Lana and Frank, and Laura and Bob. But, like clockwork, we pulled out at midnight and were on our way to Portland, Maine.

And I was going to fit in a visit with my old friend, Lisa! She and her husband (also from our alma mater) have lived in Portland for many years. The last time I saw her was at our high school reunion in July. I grabbed a few hours sleep after checking into my hotel and we agreed to meet at Arabica for coffee and a good chat.

Buried in work and deadlines, Lisa wasn’t going to be able to make the show that evening. With only a 2-hour window for our visit, we caught up on our lives, our sons, siblings, aging parents…and even a little politics! Her handsome husband, John, popped in for a quick visit, too. A short, but intense meet-up! As we walked back to her office and hugged goodbye, we both hoped it wouldn’t take another reunion to bring us back together.

Before heading back to my hotel and a little power nap, I admired the shop windows and indulged in a little more Christmas shopping, totally under the spell of this charming city. After a 30-minute rest back in my room, it was time for sound check. I was driven over to The State Theatre around 4:30—and did I mention that the thermometer registered only 12 degrees that day?

Thankfully, it was warm and cozy inside, albeit a bit challenging! Our dressing rooms were on the 2nd floor, right above the stage. The iron staircase was quite steep and especially tricky with four wardrobe changes and high heels. Oh, and when I had to cross over to my entrance, stage left, I had to walk down another spiral staircase, below the stage and across the basement to the other side, where there was another spiral staircase to ascend back to stage level. Who needs an exercise room with a workout like this?

The audience was very responsive to Jim, Tracy and me. Yes, Tracy was back at last! He adds so much with his 6-string violin, personality, and performance. He would be accompanying the show through the 23rd of December. Yay!

After the show, we saw Claire and her hubby, as well as Lana, who had attended the Manchester concert the night before. Claire had won tickets to the Portland show on the radio that morning and gave them to Lana, who brought her friend, Howard, along on the two-hour trip from Manchester to see us again. Lana told us we would be seeing her again in Woonsocket, RI, a week later! What a fan!

And in the blink of an eye, we were on our way to Verona, NY, home to The Turning Stone Casino. We had performed here twice before in the past and all remembered the wonderful hospitality of the personnel. This time was no different.

On stage, however, it was hard to get a reading on the audience. But, by the 2nd Act they were having fun with us and we garnered yet another standing ovation!

If only ovations could have saved Jim from coming down with a horrible cold! It was so bad that he had to cancel early morning radio and TV and we ended up spending the night in the comfy Casino hotel, meeting the bus at 8:30 the following morning for our ride to North Tonawanda (Buffalo), NY.

This was my first appearance at The Riviera Theatre, and the nearly sold-out crowd was wonderful! We connected with fans we hadn’t seen in a while, and that’s always a treat. Poor Jim had trouble singing through his cold but made it through, like the pro that he is. We boarded the bus, tried to get some sleep and pulled into Cleveland, at around 4:30 am.

Hannah and I took an Uber to our respective homes upon arrival. I gratefully slept in my own bed for about four hours. Once up, I straightened up the house, visited my mom briefly, did some laundry, shopped for groceries and even squeezed in a hair appointment before taxiing down to the magnificent State Theatre at Playhouse Square for our 5:00 sound check.

Before the show, Kim and Teri, fans who had purchased a “backstage experience”, greeted me with gifts and goodies. There were over 2,000 people in attendance and when I first walked out on stage, I was thrilled to see friends, Barb, Joe, Alana and Rick, seated in the front row! My husband, sister, son and his gal were there, too, of course, along with my best friend, Carol and her son, CJ, among many other friends, but I couldn’t see beyond the first row. It was a fantastic, top-notch audience, and Jim made it through, though still feeling awful, poor guy.

Tracy and I visited with fans after the show and I reconnected with some old friends I hadn’t seen in years. After bidding goodbye to my family, I was on the road, again, to Columbus, for a 4:00 matinee at the beautiful Southern Theatre.

We arrived at around 3:30 am, and foggily checked into The Westin Hotel, where I grabbed six hours of sleep. I awoke at 10:00 and walked to the theatre next door, for our 1:30 sound check. Jim was still not feeling well, but we had a great show and the audience jumped to its feet once again!

Tracy and I greeted people in the lobby after the show. Fans and friends: Kristin, her mom, Nancy, fiancé Frank, and granddaughter Lyla, presented us with beautiful mugs, one with a keyboard handle for me and another with a violin handle for Tracy. We posed for photos and met other lovely people before packing up our dressing rooms.

I was soon snug in my hotel room, where I ordered room service and relaxed in my bed, watching “The Sound of Music” for the umpteenth time. I first saw it when my dear grandmother took us to a theatre in downtown Cleveland to see the movie on the big screen. I try to watch it every time it airs, Granny!

The following morning we were on the bus at 8:30 am, headed for Frankfort, KY. Our driver, Arnie, dropped me at my hotel in downtown Frankfort, where I rested a bit before going over to The Grand Theatre. I couldn’t find an Uber this time and ended up pushing my bags a few blocks to the charming venue which seats 400.

The stage was small, so we couldn’t use our elaborate set, but it was very cozy with tall, lit Christmas trees, with beautifully-wrapped gifts beneath their boughs. The audience was warm, too, and I loved the intimacy of the room. But by 12:30 am we were already on our way to Knoxville, TN.

It was only a four-hour drive and Arnie walked me into the hotel lobby at around 4 am. I checked in, and immediately went to sleep for another six hours. In the morning, I worked on my computer and did a little last-minute Christmas shopping on line, and made lots of phone calls.
At around 4:30, I was picked up by William, from the venue, who drove me over to Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre.

This 700-seat theatre is supposedly the most haunted in the US. Other than a hard-shelled beetle dropping from the ceiling backstage while I awaited my entrance, and what felt like someone grabbing my heel from beneath the staircase (not once, but twice!) as I descended to the basement for the crossover to the other side of the stage, I came through unscathed. The audience was wonderful, with the whole place on its feet at the end! We had a marvelous time at the spooky Bijou!

At around 12:15 am, we departed for the 260-mile journey to Roanoke, VA. Arnie woke me when we arrived and I was in my hotel bed at 5:00 am. My day followed its usual pattern of phone calls, computer time, Christmas shopping and working out.

I was soon picked up by Kathy and taken to Berglund Performing Arts Center. We have played here many times, when this venue was still called The Civic Center. The crowd seemed a bit reserved, but gave us a standing ovation at the end! They did enjoy the show! After a quick meet and greet which further confirmed the fact, we were all packed up and ready to go by 12:30 am, for our 4-hour trip to Newport News, VA.

I checked into my room at around 4:30 am and slept a good part of the morning. Before I knew it, I was taken to The Ferguson Center for the Arts, on the Christopher Newport University campus. It’s a beautiful theatre and facility which seats around 1,700; we were expecting an audience of 1,000.

During our sound check, Santa (Bob, our sound man), paid us a visit and we recorded silly banter and a couple of songs for Jim’s Facebook Live Video. You can find it on my Facebook page, too.

The show opened at 7:30. Jim was starting to feel like himself again and the audience was definitely in the holiday spirit. As was most often the case this tour, they were on their feet after our last song!

By the way, “Christmas Where You Are”, was written by Jim and John Ondrasic of Five For Fighting. On tour, we tag the song with the chorus of Jim’s “Peace”, and end the show with its wonderful message. During the post-show meet and greet, Tracy and I were moved by the veterans and by those still serving in the military, who came up to thank us for the song and the support. They are all heroes to me!

Within a couple of hours we were on our way to Philadelphia. After a six-hour drive, we checked into our hotel and I went back to sleep. You know the routine by now! After I made my daily protein drink, sipped my first coffee, worked a bit on my computer, and did a little exercise, showered and was off to The Keswick Theatre, for our 4:30 sound check. This was our fourth date at The Keswick, which was celebrating its 89th birthday on Christmas Eve.

There were about 800 in the audience that evening. Just before the show, the Make A Wish Foundation granted a wish to a beautiful young boy, for a week at Disney World.

Then it was time for Jim’s entrance! I could tell that it was going to be a great night from the welcome that he received. We felt the most amazing energy from the crowd, which fueled us throughout the night.

When Tracy and I met and greeted people after the show, the comments were wonderful! Jim’s friend, actress Kate Flannery, also known as Meredith from the TV hit, “The Office”, came through the line and couldn’t have been sweeter. She’s funny and talented and had just come off a two-week tour of her own, with Jane Lynch.

When we boarded the bus for Woonsocket, RI, Bob set up his karaoke and we all took turns. There’s definitely some talent among our “behind the scenes” personnel! We had some pretty good laughs, too. I just hope nobody videotaped my song, “Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” from “South Pacific”.

I had to ‘leave’(this was on the bus, remember?) the karaoke party at around 2:30 to get some sleep. And I did! I was awakened around 5:45 by Arnie, who walked me into my hotel.

I slept for a few hours, embraced the day, and was picked up at 4:30 for our 5:00 sound check at The Stadium Theatre. We have performed at this venue before, too, and the audience is always full of energy. This night did not disappoint!! It was a great send-off with Tracy,
before we all went home for Christmas. (I still had two shows to look forward to with Jim after Christmas without Tracy.)

That night, Daniel, Hannah and I were dropped off at our hotel at Boston’s Logan Airport, for our flights out the next morning. After two hours of sleep, I boarded the plane and arrived home in Cleveland, at around 9:45. Ed picked me up and I was home by 10:30.

Home sweet home...but just for a couple of days. As usual, I hit the ground running, starting with a visit to my Mom, grocery shopping, laundry, getting rooms prepared for guests, final-final gift wrapping, etc. I was also going to squeeze in Christmas Eve mass but just wasn’t up to it. I took a 20-minute nap, Ed picked up our LA son at the airport at 5:30 and we all enjoyed dinner with my sister, Wendy, who was spending the night with us, bringing back fond childhood memories.

After dinner, we all watched “The Post”, which, by the way, was an excellent movie! The following morning we attended 11:15 am Christmas mass together and it was beautiful and peaceful. Afterwards, we went back to our house and exchanged gifts.

It was a relaxing day, with just six of us (my husband, two sons, Wendy and my mother) for Christmas dinner at our house. Wendy prepared a magnificent meal of beef tenderloin with a delicate mushroom sauce, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, a mixed green salad with cranberries and orange sections, croissants and a yummy pecan pie.

The following day, her son and his two adorable children arrived. I drove with Wendy to pick them up so that she could go in to help Ryan with the kids and all their gear. It was so wonderful to see them again—it had been five months since they had returned to Denver! Little children, especially these little sprites, add so much fun to Christmas, and to any situation, for that matter!

We were eleven at Wendy’s that evening for a re-enactment of Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, chestnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish and my holiday salad with oranges and pears, topped off with Wendy’s caramel apple cheesecake), missed by Ryan and our Sean this year. After which, we exchanged gifts with the kids and Ryan. The gift-giving seemed to last all week!

The following morning, I flew to Minneapolis for a show with Jim. It’s always so hard to leave my family right after Christmas (and the two little elves didn’t make things any easier for me!), but I would be back in a couple of days. The show that evening was at The Ames Center in Burnsville, MN, the hometown of John Trones, who would be joining us again. John has a beautiful voice and is a lovely man. His family and friends would be cheering him on that evening! A bit subdued after the hectic holidays, I imagine, it was still a good crowd! And it was fun visiting with John’s sisters afterwards.

We drove to our hotel and I was able to get a very good night’s sleep-- my flight the next morning to Salt Lake City, was not until 10:45. I arrived at around 1:30 and went to my hotel for a couple of hours before heading to Abravanel Hall. This was where Jim’s first concert took place over 20 years ago. It was also the set for his first PBS Special, where I sang “The Gift” with Donny Osmond. We have been back a few times since, and this edition evoked volumes of wonderful memories.

After the show, John and I were greeted by so many nice people who had nothing but wonderful things to say about it. My friends, Vicki, Dale and several members of their family attended and we visited for a bit. It was my last “A Joyful Christmas ” show of the season and it’s always bittersweet: I love performing Jim’s holiday show every year, spreading the joy, and seeing so many wonderful people around the country…while longing to be with my family gathered back home.

I returned to my hotel and slept for about five hours before rising for my flight home, through Chicago. I had a tight connection, but all was good! My Ed picked me up once again. Upon my arrival home, I was greeted by Sean’s darling gal, Caitlin, and her lovely mom, Seton, who had arrived the day after Christmas.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed watching movies, dining out at our favorite restaurants, “Tommy’s” and “Crop Bistro”, and I hosted a send-off pizza party for my nephew and his darling children, who flew home on the 30th. We spent NYE at a private event, but I was happy to have my family and close friends near to ring in 2018!

With no further ado, to one and to all, a happy, healthy, harmonious New Year!