In a world where radio stations air Christmas tunes around the clock from Halloween to New Year's, can you imagine a full-time channel playing nothing but Hanukkah music? Now that would be a miracle!
Just such a miracle happened this week with the launch of "Smooth Hanukkah," a streaming audio channel from smooth jazz webcaster ChiTownSmoothJazz.com, a service of Kurt Hanson's Chicago-based AccuRadio Inc. And it arrives just in time: Hanukkah begins at sundown Dec. 11 and lasts eight days.
Billed as "the first radio channel in the world devoted entirely to the wonderful music surrounding the Festival of Lights," the "Smooth Hanukkah" online stream is the brainchild of Rick O'Dell, operations manager of ChiTownSmoothJazz.com and former program director and midday personality at WNUA.
"I've been playing Christmas music on the air since the early '80s," O'Dell said. "Every year I get requests for songs pertaining to Hanukkah. Trouble is, we never had enough Hanukkah music in a contemporary vein -- until now. The marriage of smooth jazz and Hanukkah has been nothing short of remarkable. In many cases, the result is simply entrancing."
The channel features jazzy versions of traditional Jewish holiday songs by such artists as Kenny G, Dave Koz, Bela Fleck and Ben Sidran, as well as original compositions. It's one of more than a dozen smooth jazz radio channels on the free site.
Host of "Smooth Hanukkah" is veteran broadcaster and ChicagoNow blogger Bruce Wolf, who's said to be quite a dreidel spinner himself.
"I am proud to be a Jew and to help out in any way I can with this effort," Wolf said. "As someone once pointed out, the Jews wrote a lot of the great Christmas songs -- 'White Christmas' by Irving Berlin, 'The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)' by Mel Torme. I'm pretty sure there never has been a Hanukkah song written by a Christian, though I'd have loved to hear a latke fugue by J.S. Bach. I'm grateful that I was asked to do this, and I'm hoping I'll be asked to intro the best of Purim Rock."
Elsewhere on the media beat:
- Tickets are sold out for what's being called the last-ever live performance by Bill Jackson, the legendary Chicago children's show host best known for "Cartoon Town," "The B.J. and Dirty Dragon Show" and "Gigglesnort Hotel." Jackson and his puppet pals will appear Saturday in Oak Park at a benefit for the Museum of Broadcast Communications. One of the most inspired talents in Chicago television history, Jackson designed and built the sets, created and worked all of the puppets, wrote the scripts and was the voice of the characters.
- Business is booming for Tom Hudson, former host of Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting's nationally syndicated "First Business" and onetime news anchor at former all-news WMAQ. On Tuesday, he was named co-anchor of PBS' "Nightly Business Report." He'll succeed Paul Kangas, who's retiring after 30 years with the Miami-based business news program.
- A clarification to an item here earlier this week about the resignation of Ben Goldberger as editor of Huffington Post Chicago: While candidates are still being interviewed for that position, New York-based blog editor Matt Sledge is handling the editing, publishing and placement of blogs that had been overseen by Goldberger.