A “Year of Wonder”-Ful Classical Music: December

NOTE: Is this a December-themed post appearing in March? Yes, yes it is. While the timing is not ideal, I’d like to point out that a New Year’s Resolution that takes a year and three months is still a completed goal. Even better news is that the timing doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the music! So three cheers for completed goals and the beauty of sound!

December is that wonderful month of anticipation! Advent is here, Christmas is coming soon, and there’s lots of fun to be had! While things get quite frenetic this time of year, use these pieces to take a rest from the whirlwind of sales, shopping, slushy roads, and the endless to-do list. Let’s make this December one of peaceful memories, shall we?

1) O Magnum Mysterium, by Morten Lauridsen

There are many variations of O Magnum Mysterium, but none have really struck me the way this one did. I never knew something could sound so adoring and yet so like a lullaby. All the stillness of Christ’s birth is captured in sound, as if it’s the unseen choirs of angels surrounding the stable in Bethlehem. This is perfect for a little Advent or Christmas meditation.

2) Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, by Elizabeth Poston

The setting for song, which has an Old English carol vibe, was actually composed in the earlier half of the 20th century. The female and male voices just ripple on top of each other, and I found it mesmerizing. Plus, given my penchant for English carols in general, this was an instant winner! Can you just imagine hearing this performed in a cathedral with fantastic acoustics? Cue the chills down my spine…

3) Overture from Nutcracker Suite, by Duke Ellington after Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

If you’ve been following these posts steadily, you’ll know by now that I’m an absolute sucker for jazz. I also happen to love the Overture from The Nutcracker Suite. This unique musical pairing is as intriguing as it feels classic. This is SO fun to listen to! Perfect background music to baking cookies and other Christmas treats (or eating them).

4) What sweeter music? by John Rutter

Okay, back to lullaby vibes. This is strongly reminiscent of a Christmas Lullaby cassette tape I would play on repeat when I was small. Although I wish I knew the name of that song, it has male and female singing parts similar to this piece. Make sure you take a look at the words for this one!

“What sweeter music can we bring / Than a carol, for to bring / The birth of this our heavenly King? / Awake the voice! Awake the string!”

5) Champagne Polka, by Johann Strauss II

Hey, presto! It’s New Year’s Eve! Back in January, I attended a concert called Salute to Vienna (highly recommended, by the way). So while I began 2019 with the Blue Danube Waltz, it seems only right that I finish it off with another piece from Strauss. This polka is meant to emulate the fizziness of champagne, complete with the beautiful sound of corks popping! Thanks for coming along for the ride as I discovered amazing classical music, and I hope you continue the journey for yourself! Raise a glass to 2020 everyone!

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