Programming Notes: December 2014

Dec 1, 2014

Twinkle lights aplenty!

So, we’ve made it to the final month of 2014. Are you surviving the crowded parking lots and the tug-o-war for the perfect gift? Or, like me, have you convinced your family that it’s a much better idea for everyone to donate to charity instead of giving and getting yet more stuff? Yes, selfish in the sense I don’t have to leave the house, but selfless because we’re helping other people and animals. Of course, if someone were to find a set of kitten mittens for Mr. Regis, I don’t think I’d turn them down. No matter what, I do love me some twinkle lights and time with the family. And do we have some amazing programming this month to cook to, sit by the fire with, or listen to as you’re traveling or working.

To get you into the spirit for the lighting of the candles, on Tuesday, December 16th at 11AM, Hanukkah Lights 2014 returns with brand new Hanukkah stories written by acclaimed authors Debra Ginsberg, Anne Burt, Simone Zelitch, Andrew Borowitz, and Theodore Bikel. Hear a wide variety of stories that are perfect for the holiday -- one story is funny and crisp, another historical, and there's one with a multicultural theme. Also included is a story about the supernatural and one that ends with the best last line for any Hanukkah show, "Love is the only miracle."  Then we continue the celebration on Friday, December 19th at 11AM with the perennial Leonard Nimoy Hanukkah Special, with The Western Wind performing Ladino songs of Spanish Jews, Yiddish melodies of Eastern Europe and modern Israeli tunes. And closing out the Festival of Lights, on Friday December 23rd at 11AM we bring you Candles Burning Brightly with music from Jewish communities around the world, plus an exploration of holiday traditions and a special story reading by the incomparable Theodore Bikel.

On Sunday, December 21st at 8PM Paul Winter's all new 34th Winter Solstice Celebration will grace our airwaves. On the darkest night of the year, we head back to New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine to hear The Paul Winter Consort and the glorious Cathedral Pipe Organ. The performance brings traditional holiday favorites and new sounds from around the world with special guests Ivan Lins and Renato Braz.

December 24th, Christmas Eve day, we will present the annual live broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. At 10AM, enjoy this music and spoken-word broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music.

So will we awaken to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning? Will you have gotten any sleep trying to keep the children from sneaking a peak under the tree? Hopefully, a loved one will have coffee and bacon waiting for you. No matter what, we’ll Welcome Christmas! with you and VocalEssence at 9AM. This year will have a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck with his classical Christmas cantata "La Fiesta de la Posada" as well as this year's winners of the annual carol contest with the American Composers Forum. Following at 10AM is one of the great holiday traditions in America, Christmas with the Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs.   Singers from two of the most prestigious historically black institutions in the nation get together to present a spine-tingling concert program. This encore presentation features the best works of the last several years. It's a joyous celebration of the schools' tradition of singing excellence, with their trademark mixture of spirituals and carols. Then we’ll get our dose of laughter at 11AM with Tinsel Tales 3, NPR’s newest in the holiday series.

You will get your daily dose of news with Midday Magazine at 12PM. Our reporters and producers will be here to bring you the latest from around the region and make sure you’re up to date for your dinner conversations. (Think about it, how many times have you said or heard “I heard on WAMC today…”, so we’re just making sure you’ve got the skinny on the latest events.)

At 1PM, the St. Olaf Christmas Festival will bring us hymns, carols, choral works, and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra in Minnesota. And closing out our Christmas Day specials at 3PM, join us for a very special holiday concert with Howard University's premiere vocal ensemble Afro Blue, and special guest pianist Cyrus Chestnut. In An Afro-Blue Christmas, the a-cappela group performs a variety of holiday songs including African-American spirituals, jazz and pop tunes, and classical repertoire. The joyous celebration includes one-of-a-kind arrangements on traditional holiday songs plus new compositions.

So now that everyone has left your homes and you can putter around, deciding what dishes to do first, or enjoying the quiet, we have some more specials for you to laugh, relax, and cry to. At 9AM on December 26th, we’ll have back-to-back episodes of Selected Shorts. The first is with guest host Jane Curtin, who will be presenting “You Might As Well Live: A Dorothy Parker Celebration," followed by “Take a Seat” hosted by Robert Sean Leonard. Then at 11AM, we have the last of the holiday music (I promise), with Holiday Standard Time with Michael Feinstein. It’s an hour-long celebration of the American holiday songbook, with rarely heard recordings from Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Prima, and Donny Hathaway, and featuring Michael Feinstein performing three holiday favorites. 12PM brings us Midday Magazine, at 1PM you can hear The Moth Radio Hour, and at 2PM we present Cobblestones: Jim Henson from A to Zoe. It’s a sound rich special that includes original interviews, clips, music, and new skits with many of the original performers, builders, and writers who worked with Jim Henson from the beginning. This one-hour focuses on Jim and Fran Brill. Fran is a five time Emmy winner and the first woman hired by Jim Henson. She's just announced her retirement (her last episode aired this month) after 42 years. 

And finally, (yes there is an end to the madness), at 9PM on New Year’s Eve (12/31), we’ll ring in the New Year with Toast of the Nation. An NPR tradition every New Year's Eve since the 1970s, Toast of the Nation is perfect for the occasion. It's jazz that you can party to, all night from coast to coast, with countdowns to midnight in all four continental time zones. Spirited, improvised, grooving and swinging, each segment is a stop in a sequence of celebrations and contributes something new to the musical feast.

So I hope everyone has a safe December. Enjoy the time with your families, remember to eat extra stuffing for me, and make sure you have your kitten mittens.