If you’re reading this, you already know that I write a letter introducing every RSO concert. This will be my twenty-fourth epistle written in anticipation of the Holiday Pops concert and, to be very frank, this gets harder every year! Not because I’m tired or bored with the concerts — quite to the contrary, during the performances I sometimes wonder if it should be legal to have this much fun. It’s the letters that trip me up, especially when I think that some of you have been reading them diligently year after year (all right, this may be delusional), and might even keep track of what I wrote last year and the year before and so on. What can I say that I haven’t said before?
Perhaps some things are just worth repeating. My first thoughts are always about darkness and light, warmth and cold. It is both dark and cold this time of year. The dates of the Holiday Pops concerts usually coincide with the Winter Solstice, the astronomical phenomenon that marks the end of the gradual loss of daylight that for the northern hemisphere marks the arrival of winter. The hours of darkness outnumber those of light, and even if the sun appears it stays low in the sky, its warmth and light are diminished by its acute angle. And with the extra hours of darkness comes the winter’s cold.
We all need a little help to get past this. Optimists will note hopefully that the days will start getting longer now, but before getting to spring we must run the frigid gauntlet of January and February. Pessimists — well, for pessimists there is January and February.
And so, to warm our hearts and bring light into darkness, let there be — Christmas! And Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. For Muslims, there is Mawlid-al-Nabi. For Hindus, Pancha Ganapati, and Bodhi Day for Buddhists. Ancient Egyptians observed the Feast of the goddess Isis; Germanic pagans celebrated Yule. Ancient Romans had Saturnalia; for ancient Greeks there was Lenaea (and let’s not forget the Seinfeldian Festivus).
And especially, let there be Music. Not that December lacks music! Holiday music — whether it’s sacred or secular, instrumental or vocal, good or bad, funny or serious, sublime or ridiculous —crowds out all other types for the month. All the more reason that you want to hear it performed beautifully. That’s why you’re here, and that’s what we intend to do.
For people of faith, there is metaphor and meaning in finding light and warmth in the dark and cold of winter. For others, a brief respite from winter’s misery will be gratefully accepted. For all, welcome to the RSO’s Holiday Pops!