YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The idea for Leanne Binder’s new song came to her years ago. But it took until now for it to be fully realized.
The Youngstown-based musical artist released “’Tis the Reason” this month. It’s a Christmas ballad with tinkling piano and vocals that soar at times and are subdued at others.
Binder wrote the song on Christmas Eve 2012 after witnessing a moment during a church service that she could not shake.
The song is available at all digital music retailers.
Its accompanying video, which can be viewed on YouTube, tells the story in heartwarming fashion.
The video centers around a pensive young girl who is sitting alone in a church on Christmas Eve. She gets a surprise visit that opens her heart to the holiday’s miracle.
Directed by Chris Iacono-Rutushin of Boardman, the video brings the story to life. With a nostalgic touch, it toggles between the action in the church and Binder playing a grand piano and singing in a deserted auditorium.
Binder still vividly remembers the night the inspiration came to her.
She was at a Mass at St. Paul Catholic Church in Salem – a church she had never been to before – on a snowy Christmas Eve.
It was the early evening service, and many families with small children were in attendance.
“Toward the end of the Mass, the doors at the rear of the church opened and Santa Claus was standing there,” Binder recalls.
“He walked up [the aisle] and knelt at the manger [scene at the altar]. Then he stood up and walked out the side of the church.”
Not a word was spoken but it was so unexpected and wondrous that it left an impression.
“I was so moved by it,” Binder continues. “We came home and began our regular Christmas Eve doings but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I sat down and in five minutes I wrote the story of the song. It fell out of me.”
The following morning, Christmas Day, she sang the song for her family.
“My dad really liked it and said, ‘you’ve got to do it,’” Binder says. “But before the next Christmas, he passed away, very sudden.”
The song remained tucked away in her head through the many holiday seasons that followed.
“There is a hazy bit of time after losing a parent,” Binder says, a feeling that someone is missing when the family gathers. But the song her father loved remained alive, as if waiting for its moment.
Then, in November 2019, a message popped into Binder’s head in a moment of solitude.
“I heard, ‘It’s time to do the song,’” she recalls. “I [immediately] called my producer in Nashville and said, ‘you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’ve got to record this song.’”
She wrote a chorus, which was the last piece of the song, and recorded it in Nashville just before the pandemic hit. Music City session players back Binder up on the track, which also features vocals by a gospel singer she hired.
It came together seamlessly, and has the aura of an instant classic.
“Every time I asked something for this song, it came to me,” Binder says.
When outlining the video, she knew she wanted to re-create the scene in the Salem church, but with a lone child, not a packed congregation.
She asked Maureen Collins of Easy Street Productions, who has taught musical theater to children for decades, for recommendations. Collins sent her Alex Cook, 8, of Canfield.
“We made the video a throwback, so that the little girl is me,” Binder says. “She is made to look like she could be a kid in 1970-something.”
The video has Binder singing the song as if recalling a childhood memory.
On her piano rests two framed photographs of Binder – one as an adult and the other as a toddler – with her late father.
William Fain, who is a professional Santa portrayer, plays Old St. Nick in the video, and bears a strong resemblance to him.
“The video is really just about the magic that we experience as children and how that never leaves you,” says Iacono-Rutushin, the video director. “I think we all need that magic more now than ever in the current climate.”
The video was shot in Stambaugh Auditorium and in the chapel at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Boardman. “They made it possible for me to realize a dream I had held in my heart for years,” Binder says.
Pictured: Leanne Binder plays a grand piano in a scene from the video for her new song, “’Tis the Reason.”