The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir. Photo by Steven Godbee.

A Christmas Australis with Real Music with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir

Having grown up in the northern hemisphere, the winter Christmas is ingrained in me, but the event is fundamentally connected to mid-winter. The pagan winter solstice festival with its strong connection to nature, namely the Sun, a celebration of the days starting to lengthen and a new year beginning, is tied to Christmas as the scriptural imagery is compatible with the older ritual’s. Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, and Mithras are all also alleged to have been born on the (northern) winter solstice and St. Chrysostom said of the timing of the Nativity in the 4th Century ‘while the heathen were busied with their profane rites the Christians might perform their holy ones without disturbance’ but also thought it a suitable birthday for the ‘Sun of Righteousness.’[1] In that sense it naturally and intuitively doesn’t feel like the right festival for the southern hemisphere’s summer solstice. So unique traditions evolve here and the more appealing ones are strongly connected to nature — spending all your time outside enjoying the long daylight while it lasts, roses blooming, surfing, eating seafood, fresh fruit, especially cherries, etc. —, but still are colored by the northern traditions. With his Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Sydney’s main squeeze for Baroque music and period instrument lovers, Paul Dyer provides the best music for this austral summer solstice Christmas, music which makes natural and festive sense. It is very serious, ‘scholarly’ music, but with the artistic spirit of the Baroque steeping it, it has a bright festive sunny quality too, especially in the style of their playing. Dyer has assembled a varied program of traditional carols played very thoughtfully, Spanish popular music from the 16th Century, late Baroque instrumental music and early Baroque motets and more recently composed pieces. Somehow Dyer’s enthusiasm, sense of occasion and serious-festive-art approach to music allows all this to hang together comfortably.

Ensemble Rebel’s Concert: “Kingdoms and Viceroys: Music of Spain and its Dominions”

A beautiful, warm, late-autumn Sunday afternoon in the peaceful village of Bedford, New York was disrupted by some cracklingly energetic performances of Hispanic vocal and instrumental music performed on period instruments by Ensemble Rebel and guests. The title of the program was misleading; there was nothing that referred to the political powers that shaped the cultures from which this music came. This raises the question: how should such a program be billed? As “Spanish and Latin-American Music from the Baroque Era” or “Baroque Music from Spain and the New World?” The difference has to do with the way you like to categorize such unruly experiences.

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