Creating A Christmas Classic

Patrik Maiani is a talented guy. He and his brother Rick grew up in Montecito, on Hermosillo Drive. Patrik teaches piano and guitar and sells real estate for RE/MAX. He has also, along with Sabrina Oertle of Blue Chair Productions, put together this past Christmas’s most popular new item: the “I Wish Everyday Was Christmas” CD. Twenty-five kids, many from Montecito, aged from 4 to 13, spent more than two months rehearsing and recording this five-minute song and shooting video for a projected documentary; Patrik hopes the song will become not only a Christmas classic, but a year-round favorite. It might; it could. It has taken Barry DeVorzon’s “It’s Christmas Once Again In Santa Barbara” a few years to establish itself as a genuine Christmas classic and there’s no reason why a similar fate might not be in store for Maiani’s catchy tune.

Patrik, during a short interview, says his inspiration was the observation that “Everybody changes the day after Christmas, and goes back to their old ways. Everyone is grumpy and has to get back to work.” He started writing the song a couple of Christmases ago, using John Lennon’s “Imagine” as his prototype, “kind of slow, in the key of C,” he says, adding however, that “it went from an ‘Imagine’ type song to a ‘Hey Jude,’ where it builds and keeps building.”

When they were ready to begin production, they “printed flyers and sent them around to all the local schools and auditioned the kids that responded for about a month at Paul Colombo’s house,” Patrik explains. Four or five of the kids on the CD are his music students, but he says he received the best response from Franklin School students, who are well represented among the 25 voices eventually chosen.

“The kids never sang before,” Patrik continues, “and didn’t know each other.” Dennis Dragon, who produced the music and who has worked with the Beach Boys (Dennis’s brother is “Captain” from Captain & Tenille), suggested each child just sing one line and if they were a little bit out of line, Dennis could fix it.

When they went back to listen, they chose their singers by which voice they liked. “When we picked it,” Patrik laughs, “we had to put the voice with the face and Ryan, a four-year-old who we figured could not only not sing but could not learn the lines, came up two or three times and actually did the best job!”

Monique Roebuck (daughter of Athena Roebuck, who taught PE at Montecito Union School), is one of Patrik’s students, and she was first to learn the song (she’s now 14). She was “too old” to be on the CD, but Patrik asked her to teach the little kids the lines; “they’ll listen to you,” he pleaded. Monique recorded the song at Beagle Studios in Montecito. “We made a CD of it,” Patrik recalls, “and sent it around to various arrangers. They recommended that I write another section for the song. So I wrote the B section, arranged it, changed keys, and brought Lois Mahalia (of the Musical Family) in to sing the harmonies.” Dennis and Patrik played all the instruments except for bass and drums.

The entire production was documented as it went along. “When [the kids] were singing the song, there were two huge cameras in their face,” Patrik remembers, but Sabrina says there “were actually three cameras. We did a lot of interviews with the kids,” Sabrina continues, “and they were recording their lines at Santa Barbara Sound Design. In the recording booth with Patrik, the kids would do their one line. They’d come out and sit with me and my video director Stan Taylor, and I would ask questions like, ‘Do you believe in robots?’ ‘What do you need for Christmas?’ ‘What has this song taught you?’ Things like that. We got some amazing answers.”

The five-minute video begins with two children playing a child’s piano under a single spotlight, singing:

I wish everyday was Christmas

All around the world

I wish everyday was Christmas

For every boy and girl

I wish everyone was happy

And everyone got along

The whole world would harmonize

In one big glorious song

I wish everyday was Christmas

All around the world

There’d be peace, love, and harmony

For every boy and girl

It continues with videos of all the participants during the recording, including every child, Lois, and Patrik directing the kids. The video is available on YouTube and has received a four-star rating (out of five) from viewers.

All of this will be in the documentary that Patrik and Sabrina hope to have ready for next year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival. They are now cutting a short film, making trailers, submitting them to ad agencies to market it, hoping to interest national advertisers in using a piece of the video for a commercial.

As for the kids on the CD, “They’ve all become best friends,” Sabrina says. “They call each other on their cell phones. Kids are just kids,” she remarks.

“Some of the kids are Jewish,” Patrik reminds, “some were different religions, and they came to realize they were not to take it literally that ‘I wish every day was Christmas,’ but just the vibration or the feeling of Christmas.”

“That’s the whole point of the song,” Sabrina interjects. “It’s not about ‘Merry Christmas, how many gifts can we get?’ and the kids got that.”

For next year, they’ll insert different religions, like “I Wish Every Day Was Hanukah,” and do that for many different religions, “so that everyone can have it.”

Although the team is in association with the Profant Foundation, Sabrina says they are “looking for other corporate sponsors to get behind this and really make it a big thing for the kids.” If you’d like to be a part of the effort, go online to: Iwisheverydaywaschristmas.com and contact the producers.

My Life In Cabo

by James Towle

(Last issue, we reported that inveterate traveler James Towle discovered a very live Saddam Hussein hunkered down among beer bottles in a Mexican bodega. This issue, we have his direct travel report.)

Now here is an example of being soooo remote on the Baja Peninsula that among the people we have come across, I look good! The group of misfits includes surfers that came here in the 1960s and returned to buy property, hippies that came here during the drug years and came back ... still on drugs, expatriates from Europe of all ages, retirees collecting Social Security, living in trailers under cactus trees, law breakers on the run from everywhere, tax evaders, men and women from divorced or broken marriages ... all come together and mix with the very wealthy who have bought large tracts of beachfront, built fabulous homes with the latest solar generators and leased them until such time they can “flip it.”

There is no law enforcement this far out, nor is there medical. One landowner put in a helicopter pad and when he returned, all the concrete was broken up, the lights were stolen, and cactus planted in its place. It is a Rogues’ Gallery of dropouts and the wealthy, similar to a movie we have all seen about what life is like after the bomb, like "Road Warrior" or being deserted on an island too vast to cover and "tribes" of people coming and going.

In short, it is beautiful and raw.

During the summer, it must be a living hell, the heat unbearable; all activities revolve around the beach and each tribe claims a rocky cove section. For hundreds of years people have come here, pirates rowing ashore to hide treasure, dusty cowboys herding or rustling wild humpback cattle, fortune hunters dragging instruments across the desert and setting up camps in search of minerals, to lonely gold miners with only a pan and a tent. There are remnants of shipwrecks all along the coastline and fossils of prehistoric animals inland. We took an ATV ride up one of the long twisting arroyos that flood when hurricanes bring huge torrential rain storms, it was a Jurassic Park adventure of strange plants and bushes, things moving when there was no wind as if something were escaping just ahead, startled by the sound of the motors.

It is easy to look up along the ridge some 50 yards above and see Panache Villa riding with a band of scruffy bandits, spitting tobacco and wearing sombreros, or a parading Mexican army dressed in green and red uniforms heading for a battle in California.

Or, maybe it’s just this cold beer I drank before breakfast.

Who knows? You just have to be here…