I have a seasonal lament: Christmas music everywhere, and not a note I want to hear. Christmas Carols have finally lost all charm for me after decades of overkill. Same goes for the "classics" on public television, which to me are truly wondrous in their blandness.
But I do have one memory of a Christmas musical event not long ago that was wondrous in a good way, starting with the setting. It took place at DC’s Folger Shakespeare Library, all decked out in authentic decorations and lit solely by candles. The magic of candlelight let me forget how hard the wooden pews were and be transported by it all.
Ah, but the music – the Folger Consort performing an evening of early French Christmas music that was totally fresh to me. It was almost shocking to discover Christmas music that hadn’t been ruined and I wondered at the time why we don’t hear more of these unfamiliar seasonal gems. But of course part of the seasonal gesthalt is returning to the familiar, to family tradition. Fine, but this year I don’t have to sit back while even my favorite radio stations join the chorus of the familiar. This year I’m armed with my favorite new toy – a lovely green Nano. More on gardening with the awesome iPod next season, I’m sure.
Sadly, a second memory always follows that first one – of the memorial concert for the founder of the Folger Consort, Scott Reiss. He died two years ago this week, and the musical community he was so central to put on a remarkable celebration of his musical life shortly thereafter, another wondrous event. He’ll long be missed by people who love early music, folk music and the humble recorder, of which he was the master and I was an earnest bumbler.