PAUL WINTER’S 28TH ANNUAL SUMMER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION
This past June, Paul Winter presented the 28th Annual Summer Solstice Celebration at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
“Summer Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year, when the sun is at its peak and the days abound with the promise of life’s fullness,” Winter says. “Our aspiration, with this sunrise celebration, is to offer an experience of this resonance, in the mystical ambience of these early morning hours, through a deep listening journey within the awesome vastness of the Cathedral.” – Paul Winter
The performance included Paul Winter on soprano sax, pianist Henrique Eisenmann, cellist Dave Haughey, and Raymond Nagem on the Cathedral’s organ.
IN THE EARLY MORNING THERE’S A SENSE OF TIMELESSNESS AND POSSIBILITY…
“When I’m awake in the darkness before dawn – as the birds begin to sing, and the Earth prepares for the Sun – I feel as if life is beginning again. There’s something magical about that virgin time, when we’re free of our habitual patterns and obligations. My dream of evoking this feeling in music was the original inspiration for Summer Solstice. The light joins the sound to carry us into the first dawning of summer.”
– Paul Winter
THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
Manhattan’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine is more than a site of liturgy. It’s a home for the human spirit, meant to uplift, inspire awe, unite, and give refuge. It’s the perfect location for Paul Winter Consort’s ongoing exploration of the turning of the seasons and the tuning of the soul.
The world’s largest cathedral, St. John the Divine is also one of its most extraordinary performance venues. The length of two football fields and tall enough to fit the Statue of Liberty under its dome, it was designed with sacred geometry to be a transformative space.
Known since the ’80s as the “Green Cathedral” and as an incubator for art, St. John the Divine became the center of a vital community of thinkers and seekers working on issues of ecology, environment, and world peace. It represented a global forum, where you could listen to the Dalai Lama, Buckminster Fuller, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Gary Snyder, Thomas Berry, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Cesar Chavez, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Secretaries General of the United Nations.
The Cathedral’s vastness overwhelms differences and welcomes and affirms diversity. It has been the perfect venue for the Paul Winter Consort’s Earth-embracing events, within the genre of “Earth Music,” in their aspiration to celebrate the cultures and creatures of the whole Earth. Since they began, the Winter Solstice Celebrations have been a forum for world music performers from around the globe.
But the music is only one layer. Over the years the Winter Solstice Celebrations have evolved into a theatrical extravaganza that inhabits the entirety of the Cathedral’s cavernous space. A giant gong, the world’s largest, rises with its player to the 100-foot vault of the Cathedral at the symbolic point of the Sun’s return; a 28-foot spiral aluminum “Solstice Tree,” adorned with a multitude of bells, gongs, and chimes, to symbolize the diversity of the species, becomes a part of the music; and a giant Earth-globe comes through the Nave and ascends over the center-stage.
“Of all the places I’ve played in the world,” Winter says, “ only two could host an event on this scale: the Cathedral and the Grand Canyon.”
The two great celestial milestones of the year, the Summer and Winter Solstices, are perhaps humanity’s most ancient ritual observances. People paused at these times to reflect upon the journey of life, with its trials, blessings, hopes and promise.
The word ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin ‘sol’ (sun) and ‘stitium’ (to stand still). Summer Solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator and seems to pause before reversing its course; at the Winter Solstice the Sun attains its southernmost point and, once again, seems to stand still before turning back.
The Sun, our great golden star, is the source of our life, and each of our lives is a multi-faceted journey with the Sun. On one level, we are cycling through each day and night, as the Earth rotates from dawn to dawn in the light of the Sun. On another, we are traveling through each year, being carried 584 million miles by the Earth as it swings around the Sun from one Summer Solstice to the next. Simultaneously, we are riding with the Sun as our entire Solar System travels within the Milky Way galaxy, which itself is one of the dozen galaxies in what astronomers call our Local Group. And this whole Local Group of galaxies, in turn, is revolving around the Virgo Cluster of 2000 galaxies, 53 million light-years distant from us.
Making music at Solstice is one way to celebrate our amazing journey. If, in our listening, we are carried by the music, then perhaps the experience of that moment can be a hologram of the entire journey. In reality, the journey is right now, wherever we are. And when we are listening, each moment is the beginning.
Thank you for being part of our ongoing Solstice journey.