December: A Time for Reflection, Community, Solitude, and Music

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Dec 17, 2018 / 0 comments

December: it is a time of darkness and light, star-filled nights and bright celebrations.

As the calendar of the year begins to turn, December is a time of reflection.

As winter sets in, December is also a time for community, and for solitude. 

See how the work of these musicians encourages you to reflect on all these things...

December: A Time for Reflection, Community, Solitude, and Music

Every year in New England, there's a series of holiday concerts called Christmas Celtic Sojourn. These arose from the year-round Celtic Sojourn radio program on public radio station WGBH Boston, which is hosted by Brian O'Donovan. He's the one who gives the welcome in this video. Karine Polwart sings a Christmas song from Scotland, and there's lively dance from Kieran Jordan and Nic Gareiss to go along. Though this collaboration hasn't appeared on record, you may find several Christmas Celtic Sojourn CDs and a dvd, also. Karine's most recent release is Laws of Motion. On it, you will find her song I Burn But I am Not Consumed, which she had not put on record at the time I first wrote of it in this series.

Cara Dillon and her husband and musical partner, Sam Lakeman, wanted their children to know and remember the spiritual and reverent side of Christmas, to think beyond the glitz and the tinsel. As they began to put together a collection of music, an album developed. Here Cara sings O Come O Come Emmanuel from that album, which is called Upon a Winter's Night.

Kathy Mattea's holiday album Joy for Christmas Day mixes both the lively and the quiet sides of the season. She always keeps reflection and faith at the center of her recording, though. Here is one of the reflective pieces, Straw Against the Chill.

Matt and Shannon Heaton both write and compose Christmas music, as well as offering their own takes on classic holiday carols and songs. You will find all that on their album Fine Winter's Night, for which Matt wrote First Snowfall of December. He was inspired by thinking what things might have been like for people at a Victorian-era house he often passes by.

First Snowfall of December includes the idea of hope. So does the well-known song It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. It was written at an unsettled time in the United States—it was first published in 1849—a time of uncertainty for many reasons. Take a listen to the words as Cathie Ryan sings it. You may find her recording of it on the album called Narada Presents The Best of Celtic Christmas.

Speaking of hope...that, as you will know from the title, is the idea that sparked Emily Smith, from Scotland, to write her song Find Hope. In this video, she's joined by her husband Jamie McClennan, their friend Anna Massie -- and a cameo from a baby who would not sleep. You may find it recorded on Emily's album Songs for Christmas.

May this music be good companion for you as December and the turning of the year unfold.


Read more: This is part of a larger series, Music for Shifting Times.

Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road.