Very few people have the distinction of being labeled the best. Laurie Berkner is one of those people. She’s the “queen of children’s music.” Sweet, upbeat, genuine, and unfathomably talented, Laurie wears her crown with pizzazz. Her joyous voice is grounded in a comforting warmth that makes her as captivating to adults as she is enchanting to children.
On Sunday, December 3, Laurie will be bringing the magic of her Laurie Berkner Holiday Show to iPlay America in Freehold, New Jersey. There will be two performances, one at noon (doors at 11 a.m.) and one at 4 p.m. (doors at 3 p.m.). Tickets available at ticketfly.com (noon concert/4 p.m. concert). At the show, Laurie and her band will be performing selections from her holiday album, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, along with two Hanukkah songs and some of her greatest hits.
“It’s going to be a Laurie Berkner show, but with the holiday spirit and songs added in. And, there may be a surprise or two,” she teased.
Laurie has been a musical marvel for 20 years. Her lively personality and infectious positivity are the perfect compliment to her pristine vocals and animated songs. With over a dozen albums, as well as DVDs, books, e-books, apps, and even three musicals to her name, Laurie is an entire industry unto herself. Her engaging songs and exhilarating shows have provided her with a devoted following that encompasses more than just young children.
When asked about the age range of her audiences, Laurie replied, “At my last show, a girl told me that she grew up with my music and I said, ‘Wait, how is that possible? You have a kid?!’ She told me that she discovered my music when she was babysitting. So, the age of my current audiences varies depending on how old each person was when they were exposed to my music. Some of the older ones might have been teenagers who were babysitting, others might have had a younger sibling. The kids who are on the autism spectrum, they come forever, so there’s a wide age range in that arena.”
“If I am playing somewhere I don’t play often, there are older kids who have never seen me before, so they will come just to have the experience and to try and meet me afterward,” she added. “And then there are the older teens who just come because they think it would be fun. It’s really quite a broad range of people who come out to see the shows, but I would say the bulk is still the little toddler to the seven or eight-year-old.”
Coincidentally, iPlay America is New Jersey’s premier indoor family fun center. The venue has been carefully designed to ensure that it literally has something for everyone. No matter what age.
“I like iPlay America because I find the energy of the audience is very high and they are always excited for the show,” Laurie expressed. “It’s such a fun place to be and there are lots of things for kids to do even when they are not at the show. Going to iPlay America means a full day of events for a family. Whenever I play here, my daughter, Lucy, comes. She’s 13 now, but I think when she first started, she was only 8 or 9. In fact, we even did a birthday party for her there. We played laser tag, rode the go karts, and watched a 4D movie. We did everything. It was really great! I like knowing that when we go there, we can spend the whole day doing things as a family.”
This time of year, there are a number of holiday activities that Laurie likes to do with her family. Following is her top 5 list. [In no particular order.]
“One of the things I like to do with my family is to go caroling or to go see Christmas music where we can sing-along. That’s why I love doing these holiday shows, I want to offer something that will create a really fun family memory.”
Trimming The Tree While Listening To Christmas Songs
“When I was a kid, we would put on holiday songs while we trimmed our Christmas tree. We would do it at night, put the lights on first, then trim the tree while we listened. My favorites were a French version of ‘Jingle Bells’ called ‘Vive le vent,’ which translates to something like ‘long live the wind,’ and Harry Belafonte’s ‘Christmas Is Coming’ — you know, the one that goes ‘Christmas is coming, goose is getting fat…’ I liked ‘Christmas Is Coming’ so much that I wound up recording it myself.” [You can find the track on A Laurie Berkner Christmas.]
Lighting The Menorah With Friends
“Because of my family’s complicated religious history, we only celebrated Easter and Christmas and I didn’t know anything about my Jewish background. Now, as an adult, I love it when we are with friends and we light the Menorah together. It feels very special because it’s something that I kind of missed out on as a kid.”
“The Advent calendar was like ‘Holy moly!’ for me when I was a kid. My grandparents on my father’s side were German and they would send us a German Advent calendar where you would open up the little cardboard picture and behind it there would be a little molded chocolate. Now that I’m an adult, my mom sent me an advent calendar that you have to stuff yourself. I go out and I fill it up every year for Lucy. I really like seeing her get so excited every day when it’s time to open the next treat. That’s one of my favorite parts of the holidays.”
Seeing The Christmas Lights
“I really am kind of a sucker for beautiful things being lit up everywhere. Yesterday, I was on 125th Street and I looked around at all the lights in the evening and I felt this warmth. Where I grew up, it was much more suburban. When I see houses lit up, it makes me feel a little more connected to the people around me because it means we are all feeling some of that Christmas spirit together.”
In fact, Laurie likes Christmas lights so much that she wrote a song about them. The song is called “Christmas Lights” and it’s on A Laurie Berkner Christmas. You can hear Laurie and her band perform it live in concert when they are at iPlay America on Sunday, December 3 at noon and 4 p.m.
In closing, Laurie offered some sage words of advice for anyone coming to see one of her shows: “Don’t forget to bring an animal for your head!”
Remaining performances of the Laurie Berkner Holiday Show for 2017:
Sunday, December 3 (show at noon/doors at 11 a.m.) – iPlay America – Freehold, NJ (full band)
Sunday, December 3 (show at 4 p.m./doors at 3 p.m.) – iPlay America – Freehold, NJ (full band)
Saturday, December 9 (show at 11 a.m./doors at 10 a.m.) – Capitol Center For The Arts – Concord, NH (solo)
Sunday, December 17 (show at 3 p.m./doors at 2 p.m.)– Tarrytown Music Hall – Tarrytown, NY (full band)
Featured photo by Jayme Thornton.