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The Trail Band returns

Almost as reliable as Santa but not quite so elusive, The Trail Band returns to the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater for its 13th consecutive year, bringing with it a fresh mix of holly-jolly, fa-la-la Christmas classics. The Portland ensemble will present its annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at the theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

The Trail Band was originally established in 1991 as an orchestra for a state-commissioned play, titled "Voices from the Oregon Trail."

"Over the course of that play, we bonded and decided to keep gigging," says Marv Ross, guitarist, producer and founding member of the band.

The group performed its first Christmas show in 1994 and has been touring it ever since, changing up songs each year to keep it fresh and festive.

Variety is the hallmark of this band's repertoire, which includes the classics ("Angels We Have Heard on High," "Deck the Halls," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"), a few lively Irish jigs, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" and Lionel Hampton's version of jazzy "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus."

"We're a Christmas machine," jokes Ross.

This year, The Trail Band will introduce the lesser-known, German carol "Puer Natus" by 16th-century composer Michael Praetorius. Four originals also are on the bill. There's Ross' "The Christmas Train," a country fiddle tune and snapshot of Ross' grandfather, a railroad engineer; and "Santa Man," a jump-blues song about a woman whining about all the things she got for Christmas and doesn't want. The band's musical director, Cal Scott, also contributed two songs: "The Road to Heaven," a '50s-style gospel song sung by special guest Linda Hornbuckle, and the Celtic-sounding "Dancing Around the Christmas Tree."

The Trail Band is Scott, Mick Doherty, Phil and Gayle Neuman, Eddie Parente, Dan Stueber and Ross and his wife, Rindy Ross.

Each of the musicians plays at least three instruments, and 35 different instruments are featured in Sunday's show. The members have been known to transition effortlessly from an all-brass jazz piece to a string bluegrass tune, once again proving their versatility.

Tickets to the concert cost $24, $27 and $30; $17, $20 and $23 for ages 18 and younger. Call 541-776-3000 or see www.craterian.org.

Besides its Christmas show, The Trail Band performs three other shows “Voices from the Oregon Trail,” “Lewis & Clark” and “Best of The Trail Band.” - Photo by Keith Buckley