John Foreman: An early Christmas.
Carols by Candlelight – the cheesy, sentimental, homespun soundtrack to Christmas Eve – is back for another year. And it's just as popular as ever.
"For many people watching the show, it's become sort of a marker in their year," John Foreman, the show's musical director for more than a decade, explains. "Because it's on Christmas Eve, it holds a very special place in people's hearts.
"I grew up watching Carols – everybody did. It's a thing in a lot of households – it's on while you're wrapping presents, while you're getting ready for the big day. It's a tradition."
And it's certainly a large presence in Foreman's life – for the better part of half a year.
"Christmas means different things to different people," he explains. "For some, it's a holy occasion. For others it's a chance to crack open a bottle of bubbly and catch up with friends. For me, it's a busy night at work. It's a very intensive show from a musical point of view."
This means, for months on end, Foreman is "par-rup-a-pum-pumming" through his daily life.
"A lot of people are surprised when they see Christmas decorations start popping up in shopping centres. Sometimes there might be a little bit of a groan when they first see them, because they think it's too early.
"But, for me, the festive season begins months out. And I'm walking around the house humming The First Noel and Oh Come All Ye Faithful. And it's August!"
Um, annoying much?
"Look, I've always loved carols and I've always loved the music at this time of the year." Foreman laughs. "And, lucky for me, I never get sick of it."
And neither, it seems, do audiences. Although it falls just short of the ratings year, it's still a massive event for the Nine Network, which boasts sizeable viewing figures each year.
So how do they insure the show remains fresh and interesting, and keeps festive revellers tuning in year after year? After all, a carol's a carol, right?
"If you look at Carols now, and Carols 10, 15 years ago, you can see an amazing difference," Foreman says, adding that there have been several technical improvements over the years, "most of which the audiences wouldn't have noticed.
"But at the same time, it's important that Carols doesn't change too much. Or that it doesn't change too quickly. Because when things are traditions, they're very close to people's hearts."
Along with stalwarts like Marina Prior and Silvie Paladino, there are also young guns like Anthony Callea, David Campbell – who will host this year along with Lisa Wilkinson – and The Voice star Anja Nissen.
"It's the addition of people like her who keep the show fresh," Foreman explains. "If you have great singers joining the Carols family, you don't really need to reinvent the carols too much, because the presence of new faces and great, young voices, adds to the colour and the tradition of what's there."
Carols By Candlelight, Wednesday, Nine, 8pm
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