Aaaahhh! One of the best nights of the holiday season is the Friday night on or near the Winter Solstice, when Paul Winter creates the Winter Solstice Concert in St. John the Divine Cathedral in Manhattan. WVXU runs it live each year, and I just melt into it. It is especially wonderful, since I go back into the memory of being in that magical space for one of these concerts in the mid-80s.
My favorite new piece this year – just tonight and just completed – might have been the Ode to Joy, played as though by Pete Seeger, which went on and on, long enough to be lost in the sound and energy. What joy – and what sheer fun!
This year’s musical place was Puerto Rico, with performers, music and songs from that magical place. I picture it all taking place in that magnificent cathedral – a side chapel of which has a quartz crystal nearly as big as a house. During the performance, props – for instance, trees – are pushing in and out of the space. A huge gong rises like the sun to the 100′ height of the ceiling, while the huge space is totally dark. We can feel that the sun will return.
Throughout the concert, different worlds are created and then disappear. With the audience of several thousand totally rapt throughout.
Until, nearly at the end, Paul Winter plays Wolf Eyes, in mostly dark, with wolf howls engaging with the piece. And the audience joins in – what an amazing experience of the natural and wild world. All melts into holiday songs and then Auld Lang Syne. When the audience is released into real time and space once again, they flood out onto Amsterdam Avenue howling like the pack they have become.