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The Snow Globes raise more than just holiday spirits

The Snow Globes: Lindsey Jones, Barclay Martin and Rick Willoughby
The Snow Globes: Lindsey Jones, Barclay Martin and Rick Willoughby Courtesy of the Snow Globes

The Snow Globes started as a whim, but they have blossomed into something significant.

After performing a 2010 Christmas show at Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park, Barclay Martin and Lindsey Jones heard several comments from an appreciative audience.

“They were like, ‘You guys should make a CD,’ ” said Jones, who is now the church’s worship leader. “And they were really serious about it and wanted to help us. We were thinking, ‘Why would we do that?’ 

Martin and Jones conceded that there were plenty of Christmas records out there already, but decided to run with the idea.

“We went the opposite way,” Martin said. “Instead of having just one Christmas record, why not make tons of them?”

So in 2011, they released “Can You Hear the Singing,” a 10-track collection of traditional and standard holiday music and original songs and the first of four Snow Globes recordings. They didn’t anticipate the impending demand.

“When Christ Church offered to help, we figured we had nothing to lose, so we made 1,000 records,” Jones said. “The first night, we sold 400. A week later, we’d sold out of all of them.”

“It wasn’t like a normal CD where you buy one to add it to your own collection,” said Rick Willoughby, who became the trio’s bassist. “People were buying them and giving them as gifts.”

And they are gifts that keep on giving. This month, the Snow Globes are celebrating the release of the EP “Milk and Cookies,” their fourth recording in five years.

Thanks to the generosity of his bandmates, a large portion of the proceeds from the CD sales goes to the Wash Project, a program Martin founded with fellow musician Mark Lowrey. It supports a program that promotes, among other projects, hand-washing and hygiene among more than 7,000 school children in Mali. The band’s donation is significant, Martin said.

“It goes a huge distance in covering the costs of the project,” Martin said. “It’s a massive contribution.”

The band’s sense of mission makes sense. Martin and Willoughby have been friends and bandmates for years. And Martin’s history with Jones goes back nearly 15 years, when they met at Hi Hat Coffee in Westwood Hills, where Martin, a fledgling singer/songwriter, was a barista.

“I saw his CD in the window, ‘Potato Moon,’ ” Jones said. “I said, ‘Are you a musician? I’m a musician, too.’ He said, ‘Come sing with me.’ Who does that?”

The two performed around Kansas City intermittently until 2002, when Jones left to pursue a music degree at Belmont University in Nashville, but they stayed in touch. After graduating, she stayed in Nashville, working primarily as a songwriter for film and television.

In 2010, they ran into each other in Nashville, where Martin was recording “Pools That Swell With the Rain” with the Barclay Martin Ensemble, which includes Willoughby, Lowrey and Giuliano Mingucci. “Pools” benefited a clean-water project.

Martin asked Jones to sing on the record and to join the band at a live performance at the Folly Theater in September 2010. The visit changed Jones’ perspective on Kansas City.

“I met Rick and Mark and all these amazing, creative people,” she said. “It was a huge turning point. I thought, ‘Maybe I should come back here.’ 

Jones moved back in 2011, after that initial Christ Church show that started the Snow Globes’ snowball rolling.

The band released two more full-length CDs after “Singing”: “Winter Benediction” in 2012, produced by former Kansas Citian Don Chaffer, who also produced “Pools”; and “To All Living Things” in 2013, produced by Mitch Dane, at whose studio Jones assisted during her time in Nashville.

By that album, the trio had found its stride, and the “Living Things” record reflects that. All three say it is their favorite.

“We’re proud of all of them, but when people ask which one they should buy, we recommend that one,” Willoughby said.

“It’s not perfect,” Jones said. “There are some wrong notes and pitchy notes I cringe at, but the fact we did it that way, and it’s so real and raw is why I’m proudest of it.”

The Globes did not release an album in 2014.

“I had a baby,” Jones explained.

This year, they returned to Nashville to record “Milk and Cookies,” but took a different tack.

“We sought a more commercial sound for film and TV placement,” Willoughby said. “It’s very different. There are actually drums, full-on pop drums.”

“It’s significantly (less organic),” Martin said. “It has a very different purpose, which definitely has its place. A lot of great records are made that way. But there is something powerful about a presentation that is raw and unfiltered. That’s what I love about the previous records.”

This is the Snow Globes’ busy season. They have performed a few times already, including the lighting ceremony at the Country Club Plaza. This week they booked three shows, including two at Christ Church Anglican: a Thursday night show and a Saturday morning children’s show.

Theirs is a short season, but the Snow Globes’ music and its attending purpose make that season even more fulfilling. The Wash Project also distributes school supplies, sets up soccer and sports tournaments for boys and girls and has started an entrepreneurial program in which women make soap for schools. And the contribution of the band and the generosity of his bandmates keeps his project going, Martin said.

“Everything we do is intertwined with the Wash Project,” Martin said, “and I really admire these two for completely embracing it.

“(The Wash Project) works with 7,000 kids whose spiritual backgrounds and religious traditions are completely different from here. But everything is done at a human level. It embodies the season in its truest sense. This feels like the closest I’ve gotten to truly honor the spirit of what this season means, regardless of from where you come.”

By supporting the Wash Project through every record, he said, the Snow Globes have broadened and deepened the spirit of each recording.

“Sometimes Christmas records, and even the season, can feel overly soft and nostalgic and cloistered, a time to sit in front of a fire and thinking about all you have and being together, which is a beautiful beginning,” he said. “But when you step out and see a bigger world, whether it’s down the block or under a bridge or across an ocean, to me that connects this and makes it feel more true.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Snow Globes shows

The Snow Globes perform twice this week at Christ Church Anglican, 5500 W. 91st St. in Overland Park: at 7 p.m. Thursday and a children’s show at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The trio is also performing at two house concerts: 7 p.m. Dec. 11 and 12. Details are available with a ticket purchase at TheSnowGlobes.com.

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