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behind the music
Palm Springs Life

12/1/2007
by Janice Kleinschmidt

In late June, amid triple-digit temperatures, Palm Springs residents Ray and Cheryl Kelley celebrated Christmas - with snow.

This month, the entire nation can share in their experience by tuning in to A Holiday Celebration at Ford's Theatre, airing on ABC. The taping of the show in June involved machine-generated snow, holiday decorations, folks dressed in winter attire, and the Secret Service. Atten-dees included the President and First Lady, as well as members of the Senate and Congress.

"It was a career highlight for me to perform before such a distinguished audience," says Ray Kelley, who has played cello in recording sessions for Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney, and Barbra Streisand. As first cello in the orchestra, Kelley also performed a solo with Olivia Newton-John.

Kelley, who plays a 1694 Giovanni Grancino cello, enjoys more career highlights than most people. He plays principal cello for The Simpsons TV show, played in the string orchestra for Bob Hope TV specials from 1975 through 1996 (Hope's last special) and for the Andy Williams and Glen Campbell shows; and performed for five years with his father and brother in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (His father played with the Philharmonic for 48 years, 30 as principal string bass. His brother, who also plays string bass, is the Phil's oldest member in age and seniority.)

But Kelley's heart lies in Palm Springs, where he founded Resort Music, Inc. It began with a simple concept: Counting himself among musicians who play for movies and advertisements, he says, "All we do is work on things that promote everybody else. Why not a city?"

So in 1988, he produced a CD titled The Palm Strings. He has since produced "destination" music for Chicago (Sears Tower has its own version), Wisconsin, Florida's Space Coast, and Marriott Casa Magna Mexican resorts. Cheryl Kelley - whom he has known for 31 years, worked with for 20 years, and been married to for 4 years - produces the souvenir liner notes with pictures, descriptions of attractions, and maps.

Chicago remains the Kelleys' biggest customer. They continue to place orders, whether for retail sales or a gift item. Destination CDs are used in tourism promotions and gift bags. "It's a reminder of where people were when they heard [the music]," Cheryl says. In fact, more than 100 titles of the all-instrumental music can be heard in background music systems on five continents. Most of the songs are original pieces, though a couple of standards could hardly be overlooked, i.e., Chicago/My Kind of Town and On Wisconsin.

"The whole idea was to promote Palm Springs internation-ally," Ray says, noting that when he is interviewed on radio and television, he talks about Palm Springs "and how it all started." His musician friends have told him, "You're a really good cello player, but you really should be a lobbyist."

Reprinted with permission from Palm Springs Life Magazine

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