Winter Solstice Concert

25 Days of Christmas Records – Day 21

Paul Winter – Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) [Living Music Records LM0012, 12″ LP, 1986.]

Paul Winter frontToday is the December Solstice. We here in the Northern Hemisphere commonly call it the Winter Solstice, but I sometimes forget that for those in the Southern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice. For us in the northern climes, it is the darkest day of the year, the time of year with the least amount of sunlight. It’s no wonder we have created traditions which help us bring light and hope into our lives. And so it is with Christmas.

Looking back on what I’ve featured during these 25 Days of Christmas Records, I suppose it would have been much more apropos to write about A Winter’s Solstice, the album by artists on the Windham Hill record label, today rather than when I did earlier in the series. As luck would have it, though, featuring the Paul Winter album works out nicely for today since it coincides with the annual National Public Radio broadcast of the Winter Solstice concert which Paul Winter has presented at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for 35 years now. What a wonderful tradition. (See below for details about the radio broadcast.)

Paul Winter back

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) is a beautiful album of mostly traditional folk tunes that may not be familiar to most of us as part of the usual Christmas music canon. It was released in 1986 on Paul Winter’s own Living Music Records label. My copy of the album pictured here is a promotional copy I received at the record store I was working at in 1986. As the jazz and New Age music buyer for the store, this album came into my hands and has been a treasured part of my Christmas collection ever since.

The Paul Winter Consort has long been an outstanding collective of performers making music without bounds. Music writer John Diliberto describes the genesis of the Paul Winter Consort in a piece entitled “Paul Winter Goes Where the Wild Things Are” at his website Echoes:

“World music has always been part of the Consort mix. In the mid-1960s, Winter made a conscious turn from the button-down be-bop and bossa nova jazz that he recorded on three albums for Columbia. Emerging out of jazz, 60s folk eclecticism and eastern influences via the Beatles and rock, the Consort was a group where you were as likely to hear darbuka and sitar as saxophone and guitar.”

He goes on the quote Winter’s own thoughts about the creation of the group:

“The aspiration of the Consort was to see if we could achieve with the symphonic, jazz and ethnic instruments, that kind of soulful tapestry that was orchestral and that had improvising in which you didn’t know where the blowing began and the writing stopped,” [Winter] recalls.

These are apt descriptions of the music you can hear on this album. It goes far beyond the “New Age” label that the Paul Winter Consort gets tagged with. I’ve always been a fan of the Paul Winter Consort and really enjoy the soulfulness, the spirit, the joy, the quiet and the peacefulness that can be heard in their recordings. These are all things I particularly revel in hearing at this time of year.

You can hear Wintersong (Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day) in its entirety here as a YouTube playlist. (As with other playlists like this, be aware that ads may play between tracks; you can usually skip them after a few seconds.)

And, as I mentioned above, many NPR stations will air the Winter Solstice concert tonight, including KWGS – Public Radio Tulsa 89.5 FM, which will broadcast it from 9-11 p.m. Central Time. (Click on the “Listen Live” button in the upper left of the page.) It appears that each year NPR Music broadcasts the previous December’s concert. They also have the Winter Solstice concert archived on their website, along with some of the previous concerts as well, if you don’t get a chance to hear it on the radio.

I hope this music brings some light into this time of darkness. Enjoy the Solstice.