As of today, October 1st, there are 86 days until Christmas. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
It’s too early for most (read: any) Christmas festivities, of course. Far too early for radio stations to be playing the same ten records on loop—we’ve still got about seven weeks before that happens. But today is still a significant day, in my opinion, in terms of Christmas music. Today marks the beginning of the TSO Trimester.
Two points of clarification:
- “Trimester” means any three-month period. Its use is not limited to describing stages of pregnancy.
- The TSO Trimester is not official in any way, shape, or form. It was born when I was talking to my good friend Marissa about blasting TSO’s music in public. We decided that we needed more than the month typically allotted for Christmas music. So we invented our own holiday.
TSO—Trans-Siberian-Orchestra—for the poor souls among you that don’t know, is a “progressive rock” group formed here (yes, in America. Not Siberia. Common mistake.) in 1996. They’re most famous for their crazy, laser-filled concerts, as well as elaborate arrangements of popular Christmas carols. That said, they have albums that are not Christmas-themed. And most of their best songs can’t be covered by anyone else. They’re the group that does that crazy version of Carol of the Bells that you hear on the radio every year—as well as that thing that sounds like Pachelbel’s cannon but with children singing along.
I had the honor and the pleasure of seeing TSO live during my senior year with several of my friends (another shout-out to Marissa, who planned the whole thing and changed my life in the process). It blew my mind. Guys danced in the crowd with guitars. Solo singers serenaded us with songs so beautiful they made grown men cry. Most importantly, the entire show was accompanied by perfectly choreographed lights and lasers and fire. They literally blew things up as they played What Child Is This. You won’t see that at your nephew’s middle school band concert.
TSO concerts are different than most because they present a narrative. Between every song, a storyteller comes out on stage and strings the songs together into a deep, involved story. One of the albums tells the story of a man who lost his wife in childbirth, and the poor child suffered major brain damage. Another tells the story of a father and daughter who are separated and are unable to contact one another at Christmas. These stories have happy endings, obviously, but they’re still so moving and emotional. The song lyrics contribute to the plot, which is a huge credit to their writing.
I’ve read the narration to Night Castle at least five times and I still don’t get it. So some are better than others. But anyway…
The instrumentals are as good—if not better—than the lyrical bits. You know those crazy synchronized-light-shows people do at Christmas when they have more time than they know what to do with? Most of the popular ones use TSO songs. It makes for awesome driving music.
I was thinking about doing a top-ten list of songs for this post, but when I sat down to do it I got hopelessly stuck. I can’t even do it when I separate Christmas and non-Christmas. They’re all too good. Thankfully, someone on YouTube agreed with me and put entire albums online.
So, in honor of this group that has redefined laser shows for the twenty-first century, that brings new life to tired-old carols, that is unashamed to sing songs about God and Christ and the Holy Ghost in public, we celebrate the TSO Trimester. I have no shame blasting their music through my speakers for the next three months.
Bonus: this is awesome. Not by TSO, but it merits posting anyway.