‘Holiday Grande’ marks McDonough’s 15th tour

Jim McDonough, a native of Monticello, has been touring the State of Iowa for 15 years. His “Holiday Grande” productions have become family traditions for so many, with the shows benefitting Camp Courageous of Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Jim McDonough)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since Monticello native and “Iowa’s own pianist” Jim McDonough started his musical tours across the state.

     Now, McDonough, an international Steinway artist, is in the midst of his Holiday Grande 2017, a concert tour benefitting Camp Courageous of Iowa. Of his 15 years on tour, McDonough has dedicated 11 of those to Camp.

     “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the amazing things that happen there,” McDonough said of the Monticello-based camp, “and how positively individuals with disabilities, and their families lives are touched. I couldn’t be more honored to have the opportunity to not only take the message of Christmas to these beautiful venues, but also to help spread the message of Camp Courageous around the state.”

     McDonough is gearing up for five more shows this year, out of the eight-show lineup. His Monticello and Anamosa Holiday Grande performances are set for this weekend.

     Since starting his tour, he said the biggest thing he’s learned through it all is how amazing Iowans are.

     “The thing I’ve learned the most is that the people of Iowa truly are some of the nicest, most loyal people out there,” he praised. “I have felt a great sense of support over the course of my career, beginning in Monticello where I have cherished the support of my hometown.”

     McDonough said the past 15 years have included a lot of hard work, talented collaborators, beautiful venues, and enthusiastic audiences.

     His 2017 stops include: DeWitt, Ottumwa, Des Moines, Anamosa, Monticello, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Cedar Falls.

     McDonough’s very first show in Monticello was actually quite simple compared to the extravagant set designs and production seen today. He would sit center-stage at his piano and perform a solo concert. Now, it takes much more work to pull off a successful show.

     “The show has expanded to include my professional 14-piece orchestra and a cast of amazing singers,” he said.

     Those who attend McDonough’s Holiday Grande 2017 this year can expect something new: an all-female troupe of dancers. In the past, the performers have been male and female.

     “It takes a staff of talented professionals who make it all come together behind the scenes for each show,” thanked McDonough.

     “This year’s show is so exciting, fresh, and new,” he added.

     Many families make it an annual tradition to include Holiday Grande in their holiday schedules.

     “People who have not joined us before for ‘Holiday Grande’ should let this be the year to begin the tradition,” urged McDonough.

     While some major changes have been made over the years, one tradition McDonough has kept throughout his shows includes audience participation. At each show since 2002, he asks the audience to call out their favorite songs as he hurries to write them all down. (These songs don’t necessarily have to be Christmas-themed either.) Then, McDonough sits down at his piano for an on-the-spot, impromptu medley of those songs.

     “That routine was so well-received that it has remained in every show I’ve performed since,” he said. “By the nature of it, it’s new every time.” You just never know what songs will be chosen. “It’s the one moment in the show I can’t prepare for,” added McDonough.

     McDonough has learned a lot about himself over the past 15 years, too. During the holidays, he said people just really enjoy hearing their favorite songs. McDonough said that’s one thing that has been such a valuable tool for him.

     “It has provided the basis for my career,” he explained. “Songs that resonate with people and have meaning for one reason or another.”

     In fact, many of those cherished songs are featured on McDonough’s 18 CDs to date.

     Tickets are still on sale for all of McDonough’s venues. Visit www.PianoFavorites.com or call 319-465-7095 for more information. Advanced reservations are recommended.

     “The holidays are the only time of the year when every generation listens to the same music,” said McDonough. “For that reason, so many families have made ‘Holiday Grande’ a part of their Christmas, and that’s very meaningful to me.”

     For those wondering about new projects in the works, McDonough hinted that he’s working on some things, but nothing he’s ready to announce.

     “I will say that the next couple of albums will be based on themes I haven’t explored before,” he hinted, “but will be filled with some of the most-often requested and significant songs I’ve ever recorded.”

     McDonough’s Anamosa performance will be Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Ellen Kennedy Fine Arts Center. His Monticello show will be Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Monticello High School.


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