A Bluegrass Christmas with Monroe Crossing at the Minden Opera House, Minden, Nebraska
On a cold December night with temperatures nearing the zero mark we made a short trek to Minden, Nebraska, also known as Christmas Town because of the thousands of decorative lights adorning the Kearney County Court House. Across the street from the court house was our destination, The Minden Opera House constructed in 1891 and completely renovated in 1999-2000.
On this night we were there to attend A Bluegrass Christmas with Monroe Crossing (named, of course, in honor of Bill Monroe). Hailing from Minnesota, they don’t have much sympathy for us regarding the cold but, considering they spend the winter in Florida playing cruises while we are stuck here, I think maybe they should.
They started out with two fiddlers playing O Come All Ye Faithful and were soon joined in by the whole band for Christmas Time Is Coming. The band members were dressed to the nines with the men wearing suits, fancy shoes, and vintage style hats. And the music! Banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass all played with gusto to make us tap our feet and nod our heads.
Speaking of the bass, I had never seen a bass that sleek before. Mark explained to us during the intermission that it was an acoustic bass designed especially by a friend of his for easy traveling. It is very light for a bass and the neck can be removed. It has a little amplifier to magnify the sound.
They played several Christmas Carols including Joy To The World, Angels We Have Heard On High (described as Bill Monroe meets Antonio Vivaldi), God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (which became a medley with Jerusalem Ridge), Silver Bells, Go Tell It On The Mountain, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, and It Came Upon A Midnight Clear which was played so fast on the banjo that the whole song was done before a typical singing of the verse would be.
They also played traditional bluegrass Christmas songs such as Christmas Time Is Coming, Footprints In The Snow by Bill Monroe, Christmas Time Back Home by the Country Gentlemen, and one not bluegrass Christmas song – Blue Christmas by Elvis.
The band includes Derek Jensen on guitar. Derek is also known as Yukon Cornelius for his uncanny resemblance to the character from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. As you might remember, Yukon was on his way to town for ham hocks, gun powder, and guitar strings.
David Robinson plays banjo. He joined the band right out of high school and has been with them for 5 years. He also sang a mean rendition of You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch while donned in a Grinch hat he found back stage.
Matt Thompson plays Mandolin and I mean plays. He wailed on that mandolin during a rendition of Man of Constant Sorrows from O Brother, Where Art Thou.
Mark Anderson and Lisa Fuglie are the married couple of the group and played Bass and Fiddle respectively. Mark was a punk rock drummer in another life and Lisa’s claim to fame is that she was born on Christmas.
The second half of the show was really my favorite because they took requests. These included Fireball Mail, Who’s That Knocking At My Door, Scotland by Bill Monroe, Ole Slewfoot, At Last by Etta James (sung with souful grace by Lisa), Rocky Top Tennessee by the Osborne Bros. and I’ll Fly Away requested by my wife.
The show ended with and encore of Man Of Constant Sorrows and the PeanutsTheme. It was a magical night and as we stepped outside to the beautiful Christmas scene we knew we’d be back to see them again.