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Tis the Season for Music & Reflection

It ain't the holidays until the Innocents have been dispatched and the boy choir sings.

Tis the Season! Most Atlantans are now enjoying their favorite music of the season, ranging from God Rest Ye Merry to Ma'oz Tzur and Silent Night. Familiar songs fill the airwaves, from old favorites to new. Speaking of faves, my current top-of-the-list pop holiday song is Christmas Makes Me Hot, from Atlanta’s rock band “13 Stories” led by my favorite pop-funk psychotherapist, Cheri Augustine Flake (aka Cheri D). Available on Amazon and iTunes.

On a more contemplative note, these last two weekends have been filled with music that you can rarely hear outside of Atlanta: the virtually annual performance and never-to-be-missed Play of Herod, presented by Camreata Theatre, and the annual Christmas concert of the Atlanta Boy Choir.

The Play of Herod is a twelfth-century music-drama that that tells a rarely heard story, a dark tale that is underemphasized in our current culture of holiday shopping and feasting; the story of innocent children being murdered in the hopes that the little Jesus would be among them – what has come to be called “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” The music is as beautiful and foreign to our ears as the drama is bizarre and unfamiliar to our minds. It focuses our attention on the extraordinary lengths that those in power may vainly undertake to preserve their power: a tale of murder and intrigue and the perfect anecdote to kneeling Santa yard “art.” This moving and inspired performance is followed by home-baked cookies and festive caroling in the hall - perhaps suggesting that this glumful material is far too unsettling aside from the one hour for the rendition itself.

In juxtaposition to this darkness comes the light and wonder that is the Atlanta Boy Choir. These Innocents have a different but equally compelling story to tell: that of the early training of voice, mind, and manners. As an alum from the late 60s incarnation of this ensemble, I am still enchanted by the purity of tone that was often heard under the direction of Fletcher Wolfe. Following an extended sabbatical originally imagined as a retirement, Mr. Wolfe has returned to help safeguard the future of this magnificent choir. With funding for the musical education of children being cut, and bands being disbanded, I recall and point to the many benefits available in the discipline of well-performed music. Thank you boys, parents, and Maestro Wolfe!

In these two magnificent performances, we are reminded that we live in a relatively safe city during relatively safe times, even though my profession as a psychotherapist reminds me that such safety often does not translate to the home itself. As we move into the week of family gatherings and holiday festivities, perhaps we can establish some new traditions that will help create more harmony and bring more light into our city and our world.

What new traditions will complete your holiday gathering this year?

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Cooper December 21, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Love this column. Definitely reminds me of the importance of music in this season. I'll think of this when singing the midnight service at Duke University Chapel this year :)
Alan Harris December 22, 2011 at 12:25 AM
I loved the lyrics for Christmas Makes Me Hot and forked over the big 99 cents so I can listen to the entire song. I still enjoy listening to good youth choirs and the Atlanta Boy Choir is one of the best. This year my almost 19 year old daughter asked to go see The Nutcracker which used to be a perennial favorite. We also took my 86 year old mother! A good time was had by all (except for the discussion of the slight changes from the last time we went.
David Davis December 22, 2011 at 11:36 PM
You are so right, one of the great sounds of Christmas is the annual concert by the Atlanta Boy Choir.
Lynden January 05, 2012 at 12:58 AM
"originally imagined as a retirement" --that's hilarious. Really enjoyed the column and hope you post it again next year for those of us reading a little later in the Christmas season.

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