Santa's Helpers

Rainbow Guitars' Third-Annual Holiday Album Is Good News For The Old Pueblo Children's Homes.

By Mari Wadsworth

FIVE YEARS AGO, the employees at Rainbow Guitars did something many of us long to do: give up the office gift exchange. But far from giving up the holiday spirit, they instead got together to figure out how to replace it with some more meaningful tradition. After much discussion, they hit upon donating their time and money to a cause that never gets enough attention in this state: abused and neglected children.

Music Being musicians all, it didn't take long to figure out a new direction for their energies, and this month the staff at Rainbow has delivered its third-annual holiday album--a professionally produced collection of favorite Christmas tunes and some originals, all with fresh arrangements and full instrumentation. All proceeds from sales benefit Old Pueblo Children's Homes, Inc., a state-licensed, non-profit group that in the words of Rainbow's Peggy Martin, "works tirelessly to provide a safe and warm environment for the children in their care."

For several years, Rainbow has provided a tree and all the trimmings for some 30 kids who would otherwise have gone without--kids between the ages of 3 and 12 who most likely will not return to their families, and who will remain in the system until they're either adopted or turn 18. In other words, kids in desperate need of a bit of joy and kindness.

They say the third time's a charm, and A Gift of Rainbows fills the bill with 10 delightful tracks arranged, performed and recorded with equal parts musical prowess and light-hearted humor by the talented Rainbow staff and guests from the local music scene. Mostly instrumental and definitely contemporary, it's the perfect CD for a any holiday gathering--upbeat and charming, without being the predictable Christmas shtick.

For example, there's something of Vince Guaraldi in the jazz keyboard rendition of the album's opening cut,"O Tannenbaum," arranged by Marc Cherry and Holly Morgan. And you'll definitely want to uncork the bubbly to JC Hopkins smooth vocals on "Christmas Time Is Here Again," if only so you'll be ready to slow dance later on when the Bad News Blues Band slides into "Merry Christmas, Baby."

Sure to get people up on their feet are the house version of "Little Drummer Boy" (with vocals by Fitzroy and Neon Prophet's Jamie Cirrito); guitarist Xavier Marquez' nimble fingers on "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (another jazz-inspired take); and the rollicking country melange "Merry Medley," featuring upright bass, snappy percussion, and a whole lotta guitar pickin'. The latter is provided by Jeff Sanders, who also lends his considerable talent to a flamenco-styled "Away in the Manger," which puts so much passion in this tired tune it would make the Virgin Mother blush. Very cool.

Other fun tunes include a nod to electronica called "Little Jungle Boy," Pete Fine's "Christmas in Tucson" (which sounds like a lost B-side to Chipmunk Punk), and a rockin' "Winter Wonderland" by the Rainbow man himself, Harvey and His Hanukkats.

All the time and equipment for the album were donated, meaning every cent from the proceeds goes directly to the kids at Old Pueblo. In fact, last year there was actually money left over after the tree had been decorated, the gifts all delivered, bikes assembled, and free tickets to special events and movies doled out to eager hands. At the encouragement of agency director Tom Young, Rainbow purchased art supplies with the surplus, and Young hired an art teacher. The result is the cover art for this year's album--the winning entry by 11-year-old Judy, one of the home's residents. In addition, all the kids will have a showing of oil paintings this summer at the Tucson International Airport.

The staffers hope that sales from this year's CD will allow them to renew not only the art program, but also to start a musical one, so that next year the kids can be involved in all aspects of the disc.

"I don't think there's any way to measure the feeling of accomplishment a child gets from these experiences," Martin says. "Our staff isn't short on ideas to improve the lives of these children--just the money it takes to get there."

A Gift of Rainbows (CD, $15) is available at Rainbow Guitars, 2550 N. Campbell Ave.; Hear's Music, 2508 N. Campbell Ave.; Borders Books and Music; Barnes & Noble; and all three Reay's Ranch Market locations. For more information, call 325-3376.

Clothing, toys and monetary donations are always gratefully accepted at Old Pueblo Children's Homes, Inc. They're also looking for people to individually sponsor a child in an extracurricular activity like gymnastics, horseback riding or dance. For details, call Executive Director Tom Young at 760-2782. TW

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