This past year, on the Sounds of Christmas, I paid special tribute to artists that have passed away with special In Memoriam weekends. I don’t typically post about this kind of thing, other than a video on our Facebook page. Most singers and bands are known for their entire catalog of music, and their Christmas release or releases are usually a small part of that.
But that’s not really the case with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Paul O’Neill, the mastermind behind TSO, passed away this week; he was only 61. He wrote, arranged and produced nearly everything that Trans-Siberian Orchestra ever did. By many accounts, 2016 was their most successful year, as they toured in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their first album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.
While Christmas music only made up about half of what they’ve recorded and released, it’s still what they’re primarily known for. And since their tours were almost exclusively in November and December, this fact was hardly lost on them.
A singer or band that is mostly known for their Christmas music is very rare. Most artists don’t want to be thought of that way. Sadly, many of our most cherished performers from that past are only now heard when their holiday tunes get played on the radio.
While Paul had written, recorded and produced other works with TSO, and had plans for more, their initial success with their Christmas trilogy cemented their place in musical history. Never before had such a band exploded on the scene, launching into arenas instead of the usual route of smaller clubs. They were one of the top ten ticket-selling bands for the first decade of the 21st century.
As of this writing, I don’t know if the band will continue to tour under other guidance and direction. I feel very fortunate that I was able to see Paul’s band, more than once, during their Christmas tours. While I never got to meet him, he was kind enough to email me back, answering some questions and talk about the possibility of advertising on my station.
I’m grateful for the music he shared, and I look forward to playing plenty of it on the Sounds of Christmas, as I have before.
And the question Paul probably got most often was where the name for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra came from.
“In the 1980s I was fortunate enough to have visited Russia. If anyone has ever seen to Siberia, it is incredibly beautiful but incredibly harsh and unforgiving, as well. The one thing that everyone who lives there has in common, that runs across it in relative safety, is the Trans-Siberian Railway. Life, too, can be incredibly beautiful but also incredibly harsh and unforgiving, and the one thing that we all have in common that runs across it in relative safety, is music. It was a little bit overly philosophical, but it sounded different, and I like the initials, TSO.”
Rest in Peace, Paul. And thank you so much for the music!