The supermarket franchise celebrates their 2022 holiday items!
I love Christmas horror movies.
The newest Holiday EP from internationally acclaimed jazz artist Spiros Exaras is here, and The Knockturnal got the inside scoop. Exaras’s first ever original holiday single “The Magic of Christmas”, released on December 1st, brings joy to the world. Exaras is known for his impressive fusion of different musical elements, notably in his Greek- Cuban collaboration with Elio Villafranca, “Old Waters, New River” as well as in his signature Blue Note album “Phrygianics”. Along with title “The Magic of Christmas”, Spiros Exaras also released a second Christmas track titled “Christmas Wish”. In the title track, “The Magic of Christmas”, Spiros’ resonant guitar sound meets with Don Braden’s distinctive sax, and Eugene Ruffolo’s smooth vocals to create what is sure to be a future Christmas classic.
Inspiration for “The Magic of Christmas” struck when Spiros’ daughter was studying abroad and was unable to join the family in decorating the Christmas tree. With love and imagination, Spiros and Ileana decided to co-write a song expressing the holiday cheer that magically unites people, no matter the distance. A jolly journey of two solos is followed by a line in Spiros Exaras’ native language, Greek. “Ding, dong! Christou’genna pantou,’” (Christmas is everywhere), wishing happy holidays from his home to the world. Indeed, The Magic of Christmas knows no borders. The second track, Christmas Wish, is a heartfelt song about lending a hand to those less fortunate. It is a wish for a world where holiday joy is not a privilege for the few, but can spread to all people. Amanda Homi’s soulful voice along with Caryl Paisner’s stunning cello interpretation blend with Spiros’ dynamic arrangement to create a song that is both touching and hopeful. The Magic of Christmas EP is a joyful sleigh ride, a cheerful stroll through a sparkling city, and gift of heartwarming melodies that once opened, will bring smiles to all its listeners.
Check out our interview with guitarist, composer, producer Spiros Exaras below and don’t forget to check out the music video for “The Magic of Christmas” along with “Christmas Wish” now on YouTube and Spotify.
Tell us about your new song
In my family, we have a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together while listening to Christmas songs- jazzy Christmas songs. One year my daughter, Ileana, was studying abroad and couldn’t join us for this annual tradition, so we decided to unite in a different way: by writing a song that we could look forward to listening the next holiday season we’d get to spend together as a family.
It had to be Christmas song- a jazzy Christmas song. If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll get to hear holiday spirit from four cities, all of which Ileana and myself have travelled to: Paris, London, Moscow, and of course, New York. “The Magic of Christmas” is about the joy- bearing holiday energy that knows no borders, and that brings us together no matter the distance.
It’s available on all streaming services, but Apple subscribers exclusively can also listen to the Atmos mix for a more cinematic and immersive experience.
What was the creative process behind it?
You would think that after being exposed to so many holiday songs in one’s life, writing them would be second nature, but its not so! If it’s a Christmas song, you want it to “sound” like Christmas. The challenge then, is trying to think about the song rationally- as in trying to come up with festive harmonies and thinking about traditional instruments like bells, while also trying to make it come from the heart- and that’s when all the thinking you’ve put in finally translates into emotion. After weeks of thinking and writing nothing, my daughter, Ileana, sent me a picture of herself in front of Saint Basil’s Church in Moscow, a historic landmark. As if by magic, memories came back to mind and the first lyrics landed: “Christmas in Moscow’s Saint Basil, Ding Dong, Saint Patrick’s in New York”. I sent the draft to the ‘master’ to finish it brilliantly. This is the first time Ileana and I wrote lyrics together.
What are some of your favorite holiday songs?
Holiday songs are more than just melody: they are memory, they are hope, and they can inspire comfort even in not so comforting times. Some songs that are timeless for me are “I’ll be Home for Christmas” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, and “Carol of the Bells”. I believe these songs have the power to bring moments of heartwarming unity. Joni Mitchell’s “River” is also an important and beautiful song, showing the angst that can be hidden behind the lights and ornaments of the season.
How was collaborating with your daughter?
Being able to work with Ileana is a blessing. I trust her and take her opinion very seriously. She is in touch with her generation, and her academic and experiential knowledge from living in different countries ensures that I stay up-to-date with the times, and reconsider any ideas that may be old fashioned, both in the music industry and in life. It is important to build a relationship of honest communication and respect with your children. You grow together, and most importantly, these are values that your children will export to society. It all starts in the family. Of course, at times we are both “stubborn Greeks” but that’s because we set the bar high. She has a great gift for translating the emotion I want to communicate into lyrics.
What’s next for you?
Next up, I’m working on a concept album with 11 songs inspired by ancient Greek mythology. You’ll be able to hear exotic rhythms, ethnic instruments, and progressive harmonies mixed with cool electronic sounds. It’ll be performed with my band, World-Jazz Ensemble. If you’re into myths, heroes, gods, and goddesses, stay tuned for a “mythical” jazz twist!
In the meantime, you can get an acoustic glimpse of a Greek-folklore fusion, featuring santurist Loukia Valasi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz63BOf0frk). Finally you can check out another very important project from this past year: a video for “La Ruta”, a song co-written with Jeremy Ryan dedicated to refugees who risk their lives for a better future, with original images from the Syria- Turkey Border, Greece, Serbia, and the United States, by acclaimed photographer Craig Ruttle and original text from NYU psychoanalyst Dr. Spyros Orfanos. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3-68KxF-bY)
What about “Christmas Wish”, the second holiday song you released this season?
The holiday season in New York City is a gift in itself, bringing in a rush of love, compassion, and gratitude. Not everybody, however, receives this love and compassion. “Christmas Wish” is a reminder not to lose sight of our consideration for others amidst the shopping and the sparkling spectacles. It’s a song that I hope will inspire those with a big enough hand, to lend it to those who do not have their basic needs met, physical and emotional. I hope that everyone will have something to feel grateful for this season. That is my wish.
Cover art by Pau Yaniz Gonzalez
We as world have never felt more universally connected.
Amazon Music hosted a holiday party at Ludlow House on December 7 to celebrate Leon Bridge’s latest cover, “Purple Snowflakes.”
The recent Grammy nominee reinvents the Christmas bop, originally sung by Marvin Gaye, by giving it a soulful, Texan twist with a music video to match.
Known for his R&B hits, “River” and “Beyond,” Bridges came across “Purple Snowflakes” back in Fort Worth, Texas when he was bussing tables at Rosa’s Cafe.
“It was part of their Christmas playlist,” he recalled, “before Shazam was a thing.” He continued, “Undeniable music, your just going to gravitate towards it. It was inevitable that I would record it one day.”
That day came and the cover was released back in November before it was recorded exclusively for Amazon Music’s Original holiday songs; a platform that features holiday music from artist all over the world.
Stream “Purple Snowflakes” and more on Amazon Music now and watch the video on Amazon Music’s YouTube account anytime. Happy holidays!
Bright lights, ice cream, every color imaginable, and the most Instagram worthy ballpit in the city. You don’t need anything but an Insta account to know exactly what we’re talking about. Since it’s NYC opening in August 2017, The Color Factory has been making headlines for its unique immersive experiences. The walk through museum features sweet treats, a drawing booth where you can learn a new thing or two about a friend, multiple music themed rooms, a floor map to find out your inner secret color, and so much more. The most iconic feature has to be it’s ballpits, every color factory location from Texas to California has featured one, all with their own unique color and design The Soho location in NYC is special in its own way, as the baby blue sea of balls makes you feel like you’re cruising through the ocean all in the comfort of the city.
Nothing is more special than the holidays in NYC, and The Color Factory was decked out for the occasion. Full of trees, lights and festivity, the already exciting rooms featured a warm sense of holiday cheer. The Factory was transformed for the holiday season, everything down to their iconic color pallets had been changed for a new immersive experience. The holidays are the most colorful time of year, so it only makes sense for the most colorful place in the city to match.
My first visit to the factory was in the summer of 2019, and I was surprised at just how much time and dedication went into transforming the place for this magical time of year. A room that had previously held complimentary beach balls now was covered from floor to ceiling in loose confetti and colorful Christmas trees. There were cameras all over the ceilings to create adorable videos, and we had the best time throwing confetti around the bright colorful room
Even the iconic ballpit got its own holiday makeover. Guests can find the cutest candy cane and peppermint pool floats hanging around, amazing for pictures and lazing around alike. It’s the ideal place to sit and bask in the holiday cheer.
The Ball Pit also features a very special limited edition appearance from Santa Claus, and you know he reps the iconic color pallet as well. Santa appearances will begin on December 17th.
In addition to all of the aesthetics and fun, the holidays are a time of giving and The Color Factory does their part. they are partnering with NYC-based nonprofit Art Start, an organization dedicated to nurturing the voices, hearts, and minds of historically marginalized youth through art. In the museum, you’ll find an on-site gifting wall. The wall invites guests to donate varying amounts of money to help purchase gifts for students of the arts. Guests can send art students gifts such as art supply bags, sketch pads, and even MetroCards to travel to and from workshops. It truly stresses the importance of art in our lives.
You can experience the magic of The Color Factory’s immersive colorful life holiday exhibit yourself! See it from December 1st to the 24th, find tickets here!
Grab your hot cocoa and dive into these fantastic gift ideas, handpicked by our editors.
Home for the Holidays? We got you!
Exclusive: Darby Camp Talks Starring in Netflix’s All New Christmas Film ‘The Christmas Chronicles 2’ [Video]
In Netflix’s new Christmas film “The Christmas Chronicles 2,” we once again meet Kate Pierce as she is taken in another whirlwind adventure that shows her the true meaning of the holiday season.
However in the newest version, Kate has gone from a wide eyed young girl to a cynical teenager who expresses her unhappiness at the situation she’s in, spending the holidays with her family in Mexico where it just doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. She gets taken on a whirlwind adventure to the north pole where she reunites with Santa to recapture the spirit.
Darby Camp is no stranger to the role of Kate, as she originated the character in the very first version of the film back in 2018. Dazzling in her performance, Darby shows viewers the many different sides of Kate between the two films. The story captures everything about the Christmas spirit and Darby once again shines in her role, as both she and Kate have grown up a bit since the last film.
We had the chance to sit down with Darby to talk all about the film and her role, highlighting how it feels to play a character throughout different phases in her life, and what it was like to film the sequel. Check it out!
Get ready ladies and gents, because Disney just made this Christmas a whooole lot more magical! The original cast members of the Mickey Mouse Club have teamed up to create a new reunion Christmas album, Why? Because It’s Christmas. Not only are the cast members spreading Christmas cheer, the proceeds will be going to MusiCares, The Brave of Heart Fund on Music for COVID-19 relief, and the Cast Member Pantry.
The Cast Member Pantry provides grocery items to Disney employees who were furloughed and laid off due to COVID-19.
The new album let’s us take a trip down memory lane featuring holiday classics from 17 original Mouseketeers, including En Vogue’s Rhona Bennett, The Voice’s Tony Lucca, and MTV’s Awkward, Nikki DeLoach among others.
We spoke to En Vogue’s Rhona Bennett to hear her thoughts on the new album, reminisce about her days filming on set at “the most magical place on Earth” and how she got to spend every day at Hollywood Studios. Casual. Check out the full interview with Rhona Bennett below.
The Knockturnal: What are you most excited about with the new reunion Christmas album?
Rhona Bennett: I might be most excited about the fact that people I have a beautiful bond with have come together, once again, to share something that we all love…music. It warms my heart to be working with them. And, I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the magic and individuality everybody brought to their songs on the record.
The Knockturnal: How did this reunion album come about? How did you feel when you were asked to participate? What was your first reaction?
Rhona Bennett: I actually thought it was a great idea. I thought it was so cute and ingenious; all of the components that come together to make up the inspiration behind this creation, as well as the charities that it’s supporting, and the beautiful gift we get to give to loyal fans… I thought it was an awesome idea. I didn’t hesitate to be a part of it.
The Knockturnal: Tell us about Cast Member Pantry. How does it make you feel that by participating in the album you are helping so many Cast Members in need?
Rhona Bennett: It makes me feel like we are right in step with the example that was set for us so many years ago… to give back. To always be vigilant and ready to be of service to people who could be in need, and also to recognize people who are doing great deeds.
The Knockturnal: What is one of your favorite holiday traditions with friends or family?
Rhona Bennett: One of my favorite holiday traditions is simply coming together. I enjoy time with my family and friends. It is the one thing that I truly look forward to, beyond the gift giving.
The Knockturnal: What is one of your favorite memories from the set of Mickey Mouse Club?
Rhona Bennett: That’s a tough question because there are several memories that I am fond of. I did enjoy interviewing Jesse Jackson for Hall of Fame day. The All New Mickey Mouse Club seemed to be on the cutting edge of bringing attention to racial inequality at such a young age on a progressive show.
The Knockturnal: Since Mickey Mouse Club was taken at Hollywood Studios, what was it like being at Disney World everyday?
Rhona Bennett: It was pretty cool. I don’t know that I was fully aware of how special what I was experiencing was at the time. We did get to visit what they call “the happiest place on Earth”, regularly. I can say that I am glad it is a part of my story, and linked to people I love.
The Knockturnal: Recently your song “Free Your Mind” made it to the R&B Top 10 list on iTunes, (congrats!) so what does the future hold for En Vogue? Can fans expect any new releases coming soon?
Rhona Bennett: We are hoping to release music as soon as we can. We did have intentions on releasing a couple singles this year in 2020, however, Covid altered a lot of plans, as you know. We are definitely looking forward to getting back in the studio, and sharing more music.
The Knockturnal: Recently you have been performing live-streams for fans and even a drive-in concert in LA. What has this been like? Do you enjoy the live streams? How are the live streams/drive-in concerts different than performing during pre-covid times?
Rhona Bennett: Different indeed. I will say that the drive-in concert was special because for me it was truly a marker of the times we’re in. Cars were socially distanced across the expanse of a University parking lot. Because of the chillier temperatures in California before show time, people were still sitting in their vehicles warming up while music was wafting amidst the night air. Sounds like I’m writing a book right now.
In all seriousness though, it was interesting to witness the music industry doing its best to be resilient. I feel like we are one of the hardest hit from the backlash of Covid. So it was rewarding to have the opportunity to perform again. For those who were more daring to enjoy the night chill, they were outside of their cars dancing and partying with us. Others decided to stay inside and honk their horns. It is an experience I won’t forget.
Live streaming was also very interesting in that there was no audience for the concert. So, the space in between songs was quite a different feeling. Regardless of those things, any opportunity we have to share the gift of music is welcomed by me. I’m sure we will find our new and working normal soon. Shout out to all the music industry and music lovers who are doing their best at this time.
Want to hear the new Christmas album? Well, of course you do. Check out the Mickey Mouse Club reunion CD here.