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.
This year’s Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List has a broad variety of recommendations, including a few surprises. There is something for just about every taste — familiar favorites, less well known music, period instruments, modern instruments, and more. And of course, all the performances are top notch.
Thanksgiving is this week and, like most people, I’ve been contemplating the many things for which I am thankful. Good health, a warm and safe home, and enough to eat are, of course, at the top of my list. In addition to these essentials, I’m grateful for my relationship with music.
Every year at this time, I create a list of suggestions for holiday gift giving. Starting November 20th and continuing through December, you can audition some of my recommendations from the annual Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift list.
A quote I mentioned on the November 13 program generated a lot of listener feedback and inquiry! It was #8 from William Byrd’s list of reasons to sing: The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God there-with : and the voyce of man is chiefely to bee imployed to that ende. [original spellings left intact]
I’ve had the great fortune to meet many people who are famous for their extraordinary talents, and today I met another. Dutch organist, harpsichordist and conductor Ton Koopman is an expert on baroque music, and a towering figure in the world of music in general.
Ton Koopman is an organist and harpsichordist, a conductor and a teacher — one of the world’s most prominent and respected authorities on baroque and early music. You regularly hear his performances on Sunday Baroque. He founded Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, and while he specializes in baroque and early music on period instruments, Ton Koopman’s repertory is extensive. He frequently guest conducts modern orchestras playing classical and romantic era music, and has led some of the most prominent orchestras of the world. I am excited to be interviewing Ton Koopman this week. Having listened to and admired the trailblazing and versatile musician’s performances for decades, I have a long list of questions I plan to ask him, but I would also like to include your questions for him. Please submit your suggestions by midnight (EST) on Monday, Nov 7. We will publish the audio of my interview within the next week or two, so you can hear his answers!
November 3 is a national holiday in Japan. It’s the annual celebration of Culture Day. There are festivals, parades, and awards ceremonies to honor individuals for their remarkable contributions to Japanese culture and to society overall. In addition to celebrating traditional Japanese culture, the purpose of the holiday is also to promote the love of freedom and peace.
I love that “culture” is directly linked to the promotion of “freedom and peace.” It’s all too easy to forget that a society’s culture represents our humanity. As John F. Kennedy said, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”
So on November 3, maybe we can ALL mark “culture day” in our own ways — listening to a beautiful piece of music, gazing at a magnificent work of art, reading a great work of literature, or maybe simply encouraging someone who is creating one of these lasting contributions to the human spirit.
Happy Culture Day!