“It’s such a warm experience doing this show. It’s so much great Christmas music. It feels like everyone leaves really happy and in the holiday spirit,” McBride expresses to Sounds Like Nashville in a phone interview. “It’s really fun to be able to bring that to people.” When the tour launched in 2010, it originated as a big-budget arena show complete with actors and dancers to help bring the holiday spirit to life. The singer made a point to make the show interactive, from honoring the military by inviting retired and active military members to join her onstage, to hosting story time in the middle of the show where nearly 90 children from the audience would come onstage and sing with her. She’d also venture into the crowd and ask fans questions about their favorite holiday memories and best (and worst) gifts they received. “You never know exactly what’s going to happen or what stories people are going to tell,” she observes. “The spontaneous parts are the most fun, I think.”
The 11th annual edition sees The Joy of Christmas Tour turned into a theatre show with “gorgeous” arrangements, taking the audience on a journey through the many feelings of Christmas. The show opens with holiday classics such as “Let it Snow,” “Silver Bells” and “White Christmas” before moving into the pop hits like “Frosty the Snowman,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” McBride then transitions into a multitude of her own country hits, closing out the show by reading a Bible verse and performing Christmas hymns including “O Holy Night,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Away in a Manger.” “I think this is the best version of it,” she remarks of the “intimate, elegant” show. “It takes you through a few different moods of the holiday and covers all aspects of what the holidays feel like from the fun, uptempo songs, to the reverent hymns.”
The show is inspired by her multi-platinum 1998 album, White Christmas. When recording the project, McBride was intentional about honoring the Christmas classics as opposed to reinventing them, much like her favorite holiday albums by icons Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. “I wanted to make a really classic-sounding album. I wanted it to stand the test of time, to be the kind of album you could put on year after year while you’re decorating the tree or baking cookies or wrapping presents and become part of people’s holiday tradition,” she describes of the album’s purpose. The 1999 re-release saw McBride re-recording the tracks on the original album, with the addition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” And “O Come All Ye Faithful,” at the famed Capitol Studios in Los Angeles where she was accompanied by a full orchestra to elevate the magic of Christmas songs. “Both of them were a lot of fun to make, just to hear that music come alive,” the singer recollects. “Christmas songs have a lot of personality. It’s the same as any other record in that you serve the song.”
McBride acknowledges that while the holiday season can be a somber time for many, she aims to share light and love through the Joy of Christmas Tour. “I hope that it makes them happy and that they can take that joy home and pass it along, that they really enjoy this music. It’s a really pretty show to look at and it’s this classic Christmas music that I hope makes people feel warm and happy,” she shares of how she hopes the show impacts people. “It’s a joyful show. I know it’s not a joyful time of year for everyone, people are going through things, but my hope is no matter what people are going through, try to bring a little bit of joy with this show and through this music for the 80 or 90 minutes that they’re there in the audience. We treasure each one.”
The Joy of Christmas Tour continues through Dec. 19 where it wraps at The Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee.