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Kathleen Kajioka's Christmas Music Picks

Kathleen Kajioka's Christmas Music Picks featured image

My first pick is the work that fast-tracked me into the mood this year:  “Christmas Oratorio” by J.S. Bach. I had the privilege of starting the season performing in not one, but TWO different productions of this stunning work — which is rare! Over in Germany, Bach’s telling of the Nativity story is an annual tradition. But in North America we rarely play it, sticking instead to our English-language “Messiah.”  Wondering what it would be like to hear such incredible music in my own language makes me want to learn German. The opening movement alone is enough to transform the spirit, with the rousing drum and trumpets, and the sound of an army of angels descending from the heavens, singing, “Jauchzet, frohlocket!” — “Shout for joy, exult, rise up, glorify the day!”


Speaking of what’s bred in the bone… I do love Handel’s “Messiah.” A professional hazard, though, is that after having played between 5-10 Messiahs every year for many years on end, it is possible to need a break from it. But no matter how Messiah-weary I may feel, that final “Amen” chorus gets me every time! It might be at the moment when the choir drops out and we hear only the intimate moment between the violins, or when the choir thunders back in, or failing all else, at the final cascade of “amens” leading to the end — my tear ducts will always get pried open.

Ensemble Polaris — known, tongue-in-cheek, as “Canada’s premier Arctic Fusion Band” — came out with an album last year called “Nutcracker Nouveau.”  In the midst of thoughtful renderings of Russian folk songs, Polaris re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s old chestnut in the most playful, fresh and loving way.  It has become my new at-home Christmas soundtrack.

Click here to listen to Ensemble Polaris ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ from their album ‘Nutcracker Nouveau’

Kathleen Kajioka is host of In The Still of the Night and Dinner Classics on The New Classical FM.

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