As 2016 winds down, I’ve been thinking about musical highlights of this past year. There were some interesting recordings released in 2016 (see the Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List for a few of my favorites), and I had a chance to interview some renowned musicians including organist and conductor Ton Koopman and lutenist Ronn McFarlane, to name just two.
People often ask how I craft Sunday Baroque each week from the enormous array of options. I start with the general parameters of the baroque era — 1600-1750 — and extend it to include some of the music that led up to those years. There are many composers and compositions and many recordings of their works, including familiar “big names” and music, and less well-known musicians and music of the era. Some of those recordings employ “period” or historical instruments.
Quite a few of our most beloved and familiar Christmas carols have roots in the baroque era or even before. Many of them started as popular secular music such as dances, folk songs, or even drinking songs, with festive words added to go with the holiday theme. One of my favorites is Branle de l’Official from Thoinot Arbeau’s Orchesographie. It’s a dance tune from the 1580s, but you probably know it better as the lively Christmas carol Ding Dong! Merrily on High. In 1924 George Ratcliffe Woodward wrote the familiar words to go with the ancient dance melody. Do you have any favorite Christmas music? Maybe you even sing in a choir and have some hands-on experience guiding your choice of favorites. I’d love to know what music (baroque or otherwise) helps makes Christmas special for you and your family.