Just got back from a great but exhausting week in Baltimore. Listening Lab residency with the BCO and Hampstead Hill Academy every day, where I got to share some music with a really sweet and responsive group of kids. And then rehearsals for Ensemble 4-33 every night, where we rolled up our sleeves to take on open form cadenzas and syncopated septuplets with click tracks. 4-33 concert on Saturday, Listening Lab concert on Monday - it was a busy week, but lots of fun.
Somewhere in there, my amazing hosts took me to The Book Thing, a classic Baltimore institution, where I picked up two tiny books to read on the plane. I only later realized I'd picked up two books of letters - C.S. Lewis' ten-year correspondence with an American fan whom he never met, and a book called Letters to Juliet, about the "Club di Giuletta," a string of volunteers that has been answering thousands of letters that arrive in Verona each year, addressed to Juliet, since the beginning of the 20th century. Who knew? The world is full of odd and wonderful things.
Grabbing two books of letters was a coincidence, but not a surprise - letters and diaries are some of my favorite reads. I especially like the letters of Brahms, so, for my first Christmas gift to you, I give you a nine-year-old Brahms' New Year's greeting to his piano teacher:
My next gifts to you have to be musical, since that's what we do here. I hope the next time I share music with you it will be our own. I was so happy with 4-33's performance of Earle Brown's Centering, thanks in no small part to Ledah Finck, who ate the solo part for breakfast. I'd like to share that soon, but right now, I'm committed to sitting happily in front of my Christmas tree for 24 hours, and that doesn't include a soul-crushing battle with my aging MacBook to get concert video posted.
So instead, I give you three of my favorite under-the-radar Christmas tunes/carols/scores. (Oh, by the way, I LOVE Christmas.)
First, Elizabeth Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree." This has to be one of the most beautiful carols of all time, period, musically and textually, and it is, at best, on the margins of the "familiar carols" roster.
Second, the opening of Thomas Newman's soundtrack for the 1994 film Little Women. Sheesh, what a great score. I'm determined to sneak it into the American symphonic canon before I retire.
Third, Nick Lowe's "Christmas at the Airport." I love whole Quality Street album - which Rolling Stone aptly described as "world-weary, but still full of good cheer" - but this is my go-to song.
By the way, you are *listening* to this stuff, right? Why else would you be on a music blog?? If you won't do it for me, do it for you, and if you won't do it for you, do it for me, okay?
Wishing you happy, restful holidays with lots of good food and good company and good music. See you in 2018.