PAUL WINTER’S Solstice Saga Celebration
Solstice Saga is a retrospective three-hour video odyssey that interweaves iconic performances from our first forty years of celebrations at the Cathedral. It’s now available to view for free on YouTube by clicking on the video below.
In 1980, Paul Winter and the Consort were invited to be artists-in-residence at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Paul Winter explains: “The Dean had a vision of creating a bridge between spirituality and ecology. He appreciated our music, but I think it was the ecological dimension of our repertoire that convinced him that we could be integral part of his dream for the Cathedral. The premise of the invitation was entirely secular; it was not to have us play liturgical music. We could present any events we wanted, as long as we produced them ourselves.”
“For our first major event, I wanted to find the most universal milestone we could celebrate, and I thought of the winter solstice, which embraces everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere of our planet. That December, we presented our first “Winter Consort Winter Solstice Whole Earth Christmas Celebration.” I could never have imagined then that this would become an annual tradition and that the event would be enduring four decades later.”
Central to all the traditions of solstice is the renewal of spirit,
symbolized by the rebirth of the sun.
winter solstice is a time for healing and hope;
it is a time to celebrate community and relatedness;
and a time to honor the diversity and the unity of this
great cornucopia of life on Earth,
in remembering the solstice, we resonate once again
with the rhythm of the cosmos,
and allow our hearts to embrace the optimism of our ancient knowledge
that the light will overcome the darkness.
The winter solstice is the great turning point of the year. From time immemorial, people of the northern latitudes regarded this coldest and darkest time of the year with mingled foreboding and expectancy, for the longest night of the year was also the uncertain threshold of return towards the year’s fullness, when green things would grow again and life would be sustained. People felt a responsibility to participate in regenerative rituals to ensure the sun would wax again. Bonfires and candles, with their imitative magic, helped fortify the waning sun and ward off the spirits of darkness. These symbols live in our modern seasonal customs: the candles of Hanukkah and Christmas are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of earth’s renewal.
JOURNEY WITH THE SUN
“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 rotates within the Milky Way Galaxy,
revolving around the Galaxy every 212 million years.
The Milky Way Galaxy itself pinwheels through
a cluster of 72 galaxies,
that astronomers call our Local Group.
All of this spins inside the Virgo Supercluster,
a system of 3,000 galaxies,
which is one of the 10 million superclusters
making up the Universe as a whole.”
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.
THE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
Ever since St. John’s Day, December 27, 1892,
when the cornerstone was thrice struck into the living rock
of Manhattan’s Morningside Heights,
St. John has aimed to be a “House of Prayer for All People.”
To its Great Bronze Doors have come all the faithful –
Christian, Jew, Buddhist, existentialist,
best-dressed, lesser-blessed, socially distressed –
seeking joy and triumph over the universal demons.
In the arboreal stillness of its towering columns and arches
they have listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Buckminster Fuller,
the Dalai Lama, René Dubos, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Jesse Jackson,
Secretaries General of the United Nations, Vaclav Havel, Cesar Chavez,
Margaret Mead, Thomas Berry, Nelson Mandela,
the Paul Winter Consort, and poet Gary Snyder.
Under the jewel light of its 10,000 pane Great Rose window,
they have prayed together for war’s end.
Though its keynote is distinctly American,
as is that of the Episcopal Church,
the Cathedral — affectionately known as “Big John” —
peals a Christmas message around the globe.
“Peace on earth, good will toward all.”
(from ‘Hosanna for St. John the Divine’ in Town and Country magazine)