Sounds of winter: day 23

Solstice carol. I chose the version by the wyrd sisters for the illustrations. And that concludes my presentation of solstice songs! It’s also an anticlimax for me after the solstice when I celebrate the longest night, the gradual return of the light, and my daughter’s birthday all at the same time. Christmas is gaudier and New Year is internationally exciting (though probably not this year) but the solstice is ‘my’ festival.

The photograph is birds on our local lake again, a few years ago. They skated around happily on the ice, and came rushing to greet visitors in the hope of treats, which they got in such abundance that they started to be picky! They are usually much less ‘tame’ but just as beautiful.

Sounds of winter: day 22

Silent Night Solstice Night, here sung by classykassy is a version of the Christmas carol adapted for the solstice. Instead of a focus on the birth of Jesus the lyrics ask us to think about nature, the ‘fallow’ time of winter and the hope for rebirth.

I hope those thoughts might serve us well, in UK as we face cancelled holiday plans, strict lockdown, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, food shortages, flood warnings, and general misery. Try to remember that some day there will be light again!

Happy Birthday to my daughter!

The quiet and misty winter night icon is by magic_art

Sounds of winter: day 21

Ring out Solstice Bells sung by Jethro Tull (recorded in 1976…) celebrates the solstice. Personally I wouldn’t bother watching the video which I find distracting as it’s somewhat dated, but I enjoy listening to the bells! The carol of the bells would be equally appropriate but I wanted something with no religious connotations. It really is the shortest/longest day today this year. (I know I have quite a few Australian friends/readers.)

The picture, of winter sun, is by roxicons and is a depiction of the solstice setting sun, seen through winter trees.

Happy Solstice Everyone!

Sounds of winter: day 20

Holly Mistletoe sung by The Dolmen. For the next few days (or nights) I want to emphasise the solstice rather than Christmas or for that matter winter. There are some incredibly beautiful solstice songs, some based on carols and some totally unconnected. The solstice is round about 21st of December but the actual timing of the longest night and shortest day changes slightly from year to year according to the earth’s journey around the sun which does not fall neatly into an exact 365 days.

The mistletoe in my photograph is in Virginia Water, part of Windsor Great Park, where, of course, we find Windsor Castle. It’s not far from my brother-in-law’s house so ideal for walking dogs, grandchildren, etc. Unlike holly and ivy (and fir boughs) which are used to decorate church interiors, mistletoe has mostly been banned from churches, possibly originally because of its strong connection to druids.

The Hallé Orchestra (Manchester based) has just announced a specially recorded Christmas Concert, which will be available for free on YouTube from midday (UTC) on Sunday i.e. today. You can tune in by heading to the orchestra’s channel here. And no, I have no idea of the programme. I just copied the information from our local paper.

Sounds of winter: day 19  

Santa Claus is pagan too is sung here by Emerald Rose with lovely illustrations that make us think of Yule, Green men, the origins (both pagan and Christian) of Santa, and the way the Church took over ancient festivals and remade them to suit its own agenda. I am by no means criticising that; I find it fascinating and just think we should always remember the roots of our festivals, as I said yesterday. Incidentally, I’m not Pagan or Wiccan. Or Christian for that matter. If I’m anything, I’m Humanist, but I’m not a member – I tend not to join things.

My photograph of a stone ‘green man’ is in the outside wall of Chester Cathedral. Masons often carved interesting symbols that had little or nothing to do with Christianity. Some were actually useful as water spouts; others were just decorative. We usually call them all gargoyles and use the term to mean something ugly but at times they have a strange beauty.

Sounds of winter: day 18

The Holly and the Ivy is sung here by St Paul’s Cathedral Choir. It’s a traditional carol, with a respectable history going back to the Middle Ages, but it inevitably makes me think of the pagan emphasis on the forests and evergreens of the far north. The trees are given Christian significance but this always seems an ‘add-on’, an attempt to bring Yule to Rome, or Rome to Yule. I love the melody.

I’m currently reading a really interesting book called A Book of Christmas by William Sansom. It explores the links between Christianity and older pagan festivals, both because the early church adopted traditions and added a Christian element to them, and because some of the gospel stories are deliberately ‘tweaked’ to make more of an impact. For instance, the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus have a lot in common with similar stories of Apollo and Mithras and it is likely that dates etc. were altered for missionary purposes. Today I learnt that carols prior to mediaeval times were non-religious songs connected with joyful ring dances. Obviously worth adopting and bringing into the church fold!

The holly in the photograph grows in the unadopted lane where we live. It’s in an ancient hedge and most years there are berries. We now have a holly sapling in our garden, presumably a gift from the lane.

Sounds of winter: day 17

Kidnap the sandy claws is a song from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas which is one of my favourite Christmas (or Halloween) films. I love the combination of the frisson of Halloween with the sweetness of Christmas, and I find Jack’s story of change and redemption compelling. I love Burton’s work and find the songs refreshing – this one finds a trio of ‘bad guys’ (fairly clueless ones) planning a ‘wicked’ attack on Santa Claus.

The picture is that frog again, with added hat and snow. He hasn’t changed colour this time…

Sounds of winter: day 16

Dreidel by Don Maclean. Hannukah this year is between 10th and 18th December so I thought it was appropriate to choose a song for the festival. Dreidels are game pieces for a traditional Jewish game. They’re a kind of dice, spun rather than thrown, and the song reflects that. The game is popular at Hannukah and the pieces are given as small gifts.  

The picture is of a New Year table (in Germany one year) but festive table settings are pretty interchangeable for various feasts!

Sounds of winter: day 15

Winter, according to the Rolling Stones. I think they’re probably my all time favourite group though Queen might be a strong contender. Quite a few groups have chosen winter as a theme and I would also recommend: California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and the Papas.

As you’ve probably gathered by now my tastes range through all kinds of music.

The tree in the picture is at the bottom of our garden. It’s a sycamore and I love watching it throughout the changing seasons. I can see it when I open the bathroom curtains and it tells me what the weather is doing as well as reminding me of the month!

Sounds of winter: day 14

Blow thou winter wind is John Rutter’s setting of the Shakespeare poem sung by Closer with photography by Lukas Fluri. A glorious combination! I’m also reminded of When icicles hang by the wall. Also Shakespeare, this time in a setting by George Wagner and sung by him. I’m not so keen on the music but it’s beautifully sung and the changing winter scenery is lovely. Another gorgeous version of Blow thou winter wind is Cleo Laine’s: I prefer it for listening but the Closer version has the lovely film to accompany it!

The picture was taken in our local park. The waterfowl don’t seem to mind the way their world has solidified. Again – a couple of years ago.