Saturday, December 16, 2017

Photos from the 38th Annual Paul Winter Winter Solstice Celebration

Here are a few photos from the 38th Annual Paul Winter Winter Solstice Concert at the Church of St. John the Divine. My friend Mandy and I like to do something musical around the holidays; usually it's traditional carols at one of the local churches, and for at least  one year it was the singing Christmas tree at the South Street Seaport. I'm not really a churchgoer these days, and relentless holiday muzak in a store just makes me want to hurry on my way, but I do still love joining others in singing the old carols and listening to performances of less familiar ones.

This year's musical event was a little less traditional! It was spectacular, with great voices, musicians, and dancers, and pageantry, and I never could've imagined an audience being invited to howl like a gigantic pack of wolves in church (the director called it the "Howl-lellujah Choir" and it was so unexpected to us, being newbies at this event, that we started laughing, but we did get our acts together and join in after a bit - fortunately I get some good howling practice in out on Jamaica Bay when I can make it out for Vicky the official club mermaid's full moon paddles). The Puritans would have been appalled. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I was sort of surprised - when I posted these photos on Facebook, I actually left a comment saying,

"Would it be taken the wrong thing if I said this was the most pagan thing I'd ever seen in a church? I don't mean it as an insult, I was kind of amazed at the way it was direct praising of the earth and everything on it, rather than the more usual thanking of God for 'giving us' all these wonders. Wolf howls,
 elephant growls, whale songs, and instruments echoing the natural sounds - very cool and very outside of anything I'd ever imagined under the roof of a church".

Vicky, the official Sebago mermaid, who also happens to be a Presbyterian minister, had a very interesting response, which she said I could share here:

"There is actually a new 'liturgical' season that was begun by the church in Australia called Season of Creation. The themes are very earth-based and each week water or flora or earth is celebrated. The end of the season is the first Sunday in October which is Blessing of the Animals. I’ve done a round of this season."

She continued,

"Besides if it weren’t for pagans we wouldn’t have the holidays we celebrate in the church!"

And that was exactly the sense I'd had at the cathedral on Thursday - that this celebration was going back to our natural joy in the daylight beginning to come back that goes back for who knows how long before the Christian holy day was overlaid. And it was beautiful.

Here are the photos - click for a slide show view.

And it's going to be a very busy week at work (moving days on Wednesday for the bosses and Friday for the rest of us, yikes!) and I saw at least one video and an NPR piece about the performance. I think a couple of quick lunchtime posts with those will keep things moving here while I'm busy packing!


Carol Cassara said...

It looks like a fantastic event. I need to attend another solistice celebration one day.

Haralee said...

Love your photos. What a great event. Love the howling!

bonnie said...

It was unusual but really quite beautiful.

Funny post-script about my surprise at the nature of this event:

I went to a tree-trimming party at a neighbor's and was talking to one of the hosts, who also happens to be a minister, about the event and how I was kind of surprised by the entire focus on the natural world, and he told me that he'd once read a conservative Christian blog that described the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as practicing "Episcopaganism".

It was probably meant as an insult but he said he kind of loved it. Not to get heavy deep and real or anything but I actually feel like it shows a very high level of spiritual confidence for a Christian church to be willing to host a celebration like this.

Alana said...

I found it fascinating. I wonder if my sister in law (who lives in NYC) knew about this. She isn't a churchgoer but.....