Music + Culture

 

The Sound of Hanukkah

Dec 15, 2014
Gigi Yellen

Christmas carols, they’re not. But for Hanukkah, the music and storytelling on the NWPR special programs for that holiday have become public radio traditions, even as concert music for Hanukkah remains, in a way, a chestnut still on the tree.

Firmly fixed on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (so its Gregorian calendar dates vary) Hanukkah shares the season of joy with classical-music-rich Christmas, but its traditional music remains closer to folk than to classical. Why?

Boston's Handel and Haydn Society is one of the oldest continuously running performing arts organizations in the country. To celebrate its bicentennial this season, the group made a new recording of a holiday perennial, Handel's Messiah, which also happens to be one of the first works it staged nearly 200 years ago. Still, the Handel and Haydn Society is very different from what it was when it started.

Jeff Goldberg / Esto

Share a good laugh when you read this New York Times review of a cheeky little piece of musical-insider comedy, “The Classical Style,” that played last week at Carnegie Hall. In heaven, Beethoven grumbles, Haydn complains, Mozart rages about the movie Amadeus and demands a cut of the box office. And, of course, Dominant is always followed around by Tonic, a joke for the music theorists in the audience.

Antonio Stradivari, the master violin maker whose instruments sell for millions of dollars today, has been dead for nearly three centuries. Only 650 of his instruments are estimated to survive.

But the forest where the luthier got his lumber is alive and well. And thanks to the surprising teamwork of modern instrument makers and forest rangers, Stradivari's trees are doing better than ever.

From the Top

Videos like this are why we love From the Top so much.

From the Top, the show highlighting extraordinary young people in music, this week will feature two sisters from Bellevue.

String duo "Sempre Sisters," 12-year-old Charlotte Marckx and her 15-year-old sister Olivia, perform and talk about writing and playing music together.

Wikimedia Commons

Get in the holiday spirit with these special programs throughout December.

All programs on the NPR and Classical Music Service unless otherwise specified.

December 16, 8 PM: Celebrate the first day of Hanukkah on NWPR with stories of all sorts on Hanukkah Lights, hosted by Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz.

December 17, 8 PM: The Western Wind and narrator Leonard Nimoy will once again bring you Chanukah in Story and Song, filled with everything from Eastern European Yiddish melodies to modern Israeli tunes.

The words of the Stabat Mater come from an ancient Latin text describing Mary weeping at the cross over her son, Jesus. While the Catholic poem has been set to music by many — from Vivaldi to Arvo Pärt — three contemporary composers have put their own spin on the old verses.

Alissa Firsova was born in Moscow, but has lived in England since she was 4.

For all those who just can't bear to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" or any of the other Yuletide earworms that will invade shopping malls and radio waves in the coming months, Norway's Trio Mediaeval has some new old music for the holiday season.

Stuart Monk /iStockphoto.com

  Let Northwest Public Radio be part of your Thanksgiving celebration with these special programs this Thursday:

Lynne Rossetto-Kasper and a wonderful lineup of special guests take listener calls and provide some dinner-saving cooking tips on the live call-in show The Splendid Table’s Turkey Confidential, which you can hear Thanksgiving morning from 8-10 on NWPR’s NPR News service. 

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