In addition to what Belinda wrote about this being the month of myriad requests for recommendation letters, it is indeed that time of the year once again: the holiday season. For me, this usually means lots of holiday parties at various musical organizations, but all too little music actually related to the holidays. Honestly, when you think about the holidays, do you ever think about new music?
By and large, it seems like precious little contemporary music is holiday themed. Mind you, I’m a devout secular humanist, but as a proponent of the “by any means necessary” method of new music promotion, the end of the year holidays seem like a golden opportunity to get some new music into circulation. So why aren’t more contemporary composers jumping on the bandwagon (or should I say sleigh) here?
I don’t mean to imply that it would be the easiest thing in the world to get recognition for a new holiday-themed concert work. It’s even difficult to break a new holiday song in the pop world. Most of 25 entrees on a list of the most widely performed holiday songs recently posted on the ASCAP website were written before I was born. And in the world of so-called classical music, we all know how difficult it is to cut through the standard repertoire at any time of the year, but hasn’t everyone had enough of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah at this point? Sure, I know, both are wonderful, transformative works. But must we hear them every single year, sometimes multiple times within each week of every December?
It’s great to see that John Adams’s El Niño is finding a place on the concert calendar of some cities this season, and I recently discovered a couple of Christmas hymn settings by George Perle that are included on Bridge’s just-released 2-CD retrospective of his works. But this should only be the tip of the iceberg. How about the “Twelve Tones of Christmas”? Or the Octatonic Hanukkah Variations? Isn’t Kwanzaa still in need of a great oratorio?