Intimate and majestic, joyous and reflective, spirited and meditative; the holiday celebrations of many lands. No passport or luggage needed! Come take a trip around the world, from rhythm-infused Brazilian, Kenyan and African-American styles, to Asian harmonic color, to the deep, rich Slavic sounds, to beloved works by Brahms and Poulenc, to World Premieres.
Young girls dance in colorful dresses. A simple song is sung. A whole village gathers in a circle. The fire is lit, they watch it burn, and after it is out, they go back to their houses to eat. Such is the North-Eastern Brazilian custom of burning the straw, greenery, and other decorations from the Nativity scenes at midnight on January 6. It has always been a powerful childhood memory for Californian-Brazilian composer Daniel Afonso. This year, as Composer-in-Residence for SFCA, he made it into one of the “postcards” for this Postcards from Abroad program.
Composer-Not-in-Residence Wayne Eastwood based his new piece A Russian Christmas card, commissioned for these concerts, on one of the Nativity Poems of Joseph Brodsky, a Russian Jew. Brodsky, who claimed to be a “Christian only by correspondence”, celebrated the Western Christmas because he found it more richly developed than the Christmas celebrated by the Eastern Church. Eastwood’s son translated the Russian poems into English.
Additional works include Brahms’ beloved masterpiece O Heiland reiß die Himmel auf and Poulenc’s jubilant Christmas motet Hodie Christus natus es. The program travels east for Stravinsky’s gorgeous Ave Maria and a traditional chant from Guria in Georgia, Guruli Alilo, in a new arrangement by assistant conductor Tina Harrington. The journey showcases pieces from Kenya’s Taita people, Peru’s Quechua people, Hindu culture, Armenia, and a celebratory work from South Korea that mixes traditional Korean musical folk elements with Western traditions.