Hazelnut Tree Christmas

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking about some of my experiences relating to my journey through music.  Since this week leads into Christmas, I thought there was no better time to talk about a Christmassy event that I anticipate each year. 

It all started in 2007 at my local coffee shop.  The Hazelnut Tree inBaldwin,Wisconsinhad just stared having live music on Thursday nights, and my friend Laura worked at the establishment.  She asked if I would be willing to fill a slot on the last Thursday night in November, and I said yes.  At first, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.  My only concert performance outside of leading worship services with my family was a single performance at the Crossroads Chapel at the Minnesota State Fair.  The thought of finding enough music to fill two hours was a daunting challenge that I wasn’t sure I was ready to meet. 

But almost immediately, I realized that my performance would fall a week after Thanksgiving, so I was excited to know that I would be able to sing and play Christmas songs.  That Thursday night in late November, we had a full house, and the owner asked me to return to do a concert in the future. 

I performed at the Hazelnut Tree again in later months, but as Christmas approached, I asked to fill a slot— this time in early December.  For the first time, I coined the title “Hazelnut Tree Christmas,” and the event became a tradition of sorts for three years following.  One year, Erica Skog joined me in a few duets and we welcomed a children’s chorus made up of youngsters from the local area.  The next year, Joe Clendenen and Katie Bothum joined me for a few duets, and I premiered some new Christmas favorites.  And then finally, just a few weeks ago, I welcomed Katie Bothum and her friend, Ben Peterson to join me for “Hazelnut Tree Christmas 2011.”

Each year, “Hazelnut Tree Christmas” has been an event I have looked forward to with increasing excitement.  As soon as I book the date, I begin practicing and deciding what kinds of music I will choose and whom I will select to take part in the concert with me.  The Hazelnut Tree Coffeehouse has been an integral part of the process in putting on the concerts, and I couldn’t think of a better venue to host this special event.  Brenda and her staff are beyond helpful, and even with the changes that took place this year, everything went extremely well. 

So as my little “Hazelnut Tree” song says, “Here’s to the Hazelnut Tree— a special place for you and me.”  It is indeed a special place for me, and I think Erica, Joe, Katie, Ben, and the others who have taken part over the years would agree with me.  This Christmas, I am thankful for the opportunity to share my voice and the songs God has given me in a truly “special” venue. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Maybe I’ll see you at “Hazelnut Tree Christmas 2012.”    

Here’s a link to “The Hazelnut Tree” song as I performed it a few years ago.  I’m sorry, but the video is rotated on its side. 


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