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Saturday morning quotes 8.49: Season’s greetings

December 24, 2022

After quite an extended hiatus we return to wish our readers warm greetings for a Happy Christmas. Today’s temperature has been hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit with a blustery wind chill of minus thirty, and an enforced indoor sequestration allows us this opportunity to reconnect with the world.

Our offering is the video above, featuring Donna Stewart singing an a cappella version of the traditional Irish Wexford Carol. Those readers who know something of our approach to early music may understand that it is generously informed by traditional music, which we feel strongly offers a much more grateful linkage to performance of early music than, say, 19th century art song.

Although it deals more directly in the art of poesy, we readily extrapolate and take a bit of artistic inspiration from an essay by T. S. Elliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” as found in T. S. Elliot, Selected Essays, Faber & Faber, London, 1932.

“Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write, not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as the temporal, and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity.”

This describes our sense of historical music, how we approach it and how we respect it, and how we channel it to listeners of today after years of study, refinement and familiarity. Ultimately, we humbly step aside and allow the past to speak to those today who might bother to listen beyond the surface and embrace the original message of the music and the text.

Happy Christmas to all.

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