Saturday, December 2, 2017


      There's a little magic in this story and I want to share it, especially if this December finds you a bit wearied; amazed at how rapidly the year has flown, crestfallen by the state of the nation, or world, wrestling with health, worried about loved ones or other complexities in the messiness of life.
      This is our little story, but there is something in this for you, a portal to a place where you can lift your spirits. Simply, immerse yourself in the peace of musical artistry as expressed in Christmas music and search your mind for a piece of your childhood.
        Full disclosure. I enter this Christmas season struggling to find that sweet balance where I can be rid of the anger I carry, a disgust that is renewed with each new headline or word of another friend being depressed, troubled or stressed by Washington. Worried about the loss of reason and civility. Saddened by that and news of diagnoses, or the indignity and labor of an aging generation.
     Frequent readers may recall my seasonal ecstasy over Strings in the Chapel.
You can read these love notes beginning here with 2016
Or 2015 Where the title Could it Last Forever gives you a hint.
Over the years the photos and post celebrate a connections to something deep.
      This year I entered into the historic Santa Rosa Chapel and its place in the slipstream of time with a different mind set. But I'm here to say music is indeed therapy. 
     There is a timeless and expansive joy in the music of Christmas, the origin story of the Christian faith. The rich beauty of the music soothes and enlivens that place in us in need of nursing. 
      A cappella vocals with chapel bells, magnificent strings, harp and guitars combining for Low How a Rose, Mary Did You Know, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, O Holy Night and a stunning Ave Maria performed by violinist Brynn Albanese and guitarist Eric Williams lifts one above worry and fretting.
Wandering Shepherd with Molly Pasutti's vocals, accompanied by Eric with Ron Poulos on mandolin sears into your heart. So too was Robin Covey's O Holy Night accompanied by Jill Poulos on Harp, Ron Poulos on mandolin and Bob Liepman on Cello.

     There is also a power in reaching a memory and the images of childhood. It invigorates. Each year at these marvelous concerts Judith Larmore invokes an exercise that awakens the images of Christmas past. She animates our world with the tinsel, winters, family moments, excitement, tastes, sounds and sheer joy of that time in our lives when the magic of Christmas was real. This years reflection, entitled Abundance was a massage of the soul. Much needed. Much appreciated.
     Bruce Black recounts hilarious Christmas adventures with his grandmother as a lead in to his spirited recitation of Twas the Night Before Christmas.
      Between Molly Pasutti's ethereal opening,  Let all That Are To Mirth Inclined, and the closing Sing-A-Long, Christmas invaded my heart.
       And so there is a pass it along moral here.
       Even if you are not a person of faith or even someone 
who eschews religion, let the purity and joy of the origin story's music, some of the most beautiful ever written, wash over you this year, especially this year. Hearing these beautiful songs, performed by strings, is magic.
And surely there is a Christmas or winter fest story from your own childhood that can kindle your heart.
         In a Scandinavian custom, candles were lit at the graves behind the historic chapel.
         We are reminded that life is fleeting. Christmas comes every year, with a purpose, to put light into our life and joy in our hearts. It is an advent. It is also an adventure in lifting ourselves beyond despair or gloom. If you are like me and  really need a dose of this, listen to some of the music listed above-it was employed to spread magic over Cambria this year. Lift your spirits!

       Thanks to the Players and Singers

The Vocalists
Robin Covey
Molly Pasutti
Mark O'Bryan
Eric Williams and Guitar

String Quartet
Brynn Albanese 1st Violin
Sonya Lanzen-Castellanos 2nd Violin
Peter Liepman Viola
Bob Liepman Cello
Ken HJustad Bass

Jill Poulous Celtic Harp
Justin Robillard Guitar
Ron Poulous Mandolin

And a special Thank You to Judith! You made Christmas arrive.

  See you down the trail.      


  1. This and Taylor triggering my Christmas cat memories lifted my spirits this week. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for this joy-filled post. Like you, I'm struggling lately for the reasons you've mentioned and it's important to focus on the positive things close at hand. I hope you're having a terrific weekend.

  3. Thanks Tom. I needed that. Keeping Christmas, in music, generosity and compassion, constitutes something very close to a true fixed point in a chaotic world.

  4. Merry Christmas to you and your family.