Advent Calendar 2022: Day 21 🌗

Today in the Northern Hemisphere is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day (and longest night) of the year: we get a total of 7 hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds of light, if we’re lucky. It is the day that marks the official start of the winter season (i.e. not 1 December as meteorologists would have us believe). In previous years I have played some tunes to mark the day, but this year I thought I would actually incorporate them into my Advent Calendar for the first time, rather than play catch up as I’ve done in the past. This will be a bumper edition, as I have several solstice favourites to play you, plus the new Phil Beastall video that I promised you yesterday. Deep breath…

I’m starting off with what I think is likely to be the only song that stands a chance of being familiar to you, unless you remember my previous Solstice posts. This has always been a seasonal favourite of mine, and this animated video goes so well with it:

Jethro Tull have long been a favourite band for me. This song dates back to the period when just about every band was aiming for chart success with a Christmas song. Some were better than others, this being a case in point. This is described as a promotional video for the BBC, and I’m pretty sure it was shown on their Top Of The Pops show back then. It was released in November 1976 as the lead single on an EP containing four tracks, and reached the dizzy heights of #28 here. It also got to #78 on being re-released as part of another EP in 2004. The track was also included on the Songs From The Wood album, which was released in February 1977, reaching #13 in the UK and #8 in the US.

My interest in the Solstice is its significance in a cultural and spiritual sense. Apparently this goes back as far as Neolithic times, when it was seen as the most propitious time for planting their crops and mating their animals – I wonder what those cave paintings were like? This time of year is important in many cultures, dating back long before it was appropriated by Christian faiths as ‘Christmas.’  The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day “midwinter” (winter solstice) holiday called Yule, amongst many names. Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath and the Yule log are directly descended from ancient Yule customs. The underlying theme is how important this time of year is in the natural world, as a time representing rebirth and the beginning of more fruitful seasons.

Unlike Tull, much of the music I know for today is what would be termed ‘folk music.’ This is a good example of that, from a guy based in Brighton, here in the UK, known as Damh The Bard:

There’s a warmth to his voice which I find appealing: his words give a very good explanation of what the pagan midwinter season is about, and draw the comparison with Christian beliefs. An interesting song.

This isn’t just a British thing, though. There is an Australian pagan band called Spiral Dance, who played gigs here with Damh The Bard in 2017: small world, eh? This is from their 2006 album The Quickening:

Again, there is a real warmth to the voice of the lead singer, Adrienne Pigott, which makes the music feel very welcoming.

Continuing my trip around the world, this next one is from Canada:

The Wyrd Sisters are very much under the radar, selling albums direct from their website and at live shows, festivals etc. This song features on Leave A Little Light, the first of their six albums, all of which were issued independently and seem to be unavailable except via their website. I’m not sure that they are fully into the pagan tradition, but the lyrics of this ‘carole’ very much are, and I do like their harmonies.

I’m going back more to the mainstream for today’s final song, which is one that surprises me in a couple of ways. Firstly, that it has taken me 21 days to play anything by the wonderful Mary Chapin Carpenter, and secondly that I have never played this song before:

As she says in her intro, this was a track on her seasonal album Come Darkness, Come Light, which was released in September 2008. It wasn’t her most successful album, only reaching #155 in the US and not making the UK chart at all, but I have always loved it: twelve beautiful songs, all sung in that wonderfully warm and soothing voice of hers. This version was from a series she ran throughout 2020, when the pandemic was at its height and we were all confined to our homes, and I so looked forward to dropping in on her each week as she took us through solo versions of her amazing back catalogue. This is the perfect song to end today’s music, with its hopes for the renewal that a new year can bring.

That may be the final song, but it isn’t the last video. Yesterday I promised you Phil Beastall’s 2022 Christmas offering, and here it is:

Another beautiful little tearjerker, I think. I really should have bought some shares in Kleenex* before I began this series, shouldn’t I? (* other tissues are available)

That’s it for today. It has been a slightly unusual day in terms of the music, but I hope you’ve enjoyed being taken off piste. How about an image to end with?…

See you again tomorrow ⛄️

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35 thoughts on “Advent Calendar 2022: Day 21 🌗

  1. YAY!!! Just 90 days ‘til Spring! That first one is a fun video, even though the song didn’t do much for me. The second one, DAMH the Band, was more musically pleasing to the ears and had a cool lilt to it, though I wouldn’t necessarily think of Christmas if I heard it on the street. Solstice Evergreen … oh what a peaceful song … I don’t know why, but I just thought of peace when I listened to it. And then … the Wyrd Sisters … peace again, though I don’t understand why, but they just lifted the stress away and I sat back, listened, and enjoyed. I’ve got mixed thoughts about the Mary Chapin Carpenter videos, so more some other time. Good post, my friend … I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember the Jethro Tull song from a previous posting. Even if I didn’t, few musicians have a more distinctive sound.

    I’ll give even marks for On Midwinter’s Day. I didn’t dislike it, but I probably wouldn’t listen again. I can appreciate that you enjoy this genre more than me.

    I like Solstice Evergreen more than the former. Interesting that the bands played gigs together.

    I love the harmonies of Solstice Carole—a pleasing sound.

    I’ve learned that Mary Chapin Carpenter is one of your favorites over the years, and I like this one too. Your first and last selections were my favorites today.

    The short film was as touching as you described, although good deeds don’t have to be performed by elves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You do know how to find the tear jerker videos, don’t you! And yes, Mary Chapin Carpenter has a soothing voice. How cool that she did a series during the pandemic. I am sure it made you smile when you checked in. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s YouTube recommendations that do it: you watch one, and then they suggest others.

      MCC’s voice is wonderful. She has a song on her seasonal album called ‘Hot Buttered Rum’ which I think sums her up perfectly. Music has always been important for me and it helped me through the pandemic. Regular live streams from home by MCC, Sarah Darling, Caroline Jones, Kate Rusby and Gretchen Peters kept me going. Spot the connection!

      Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed them. I think most Solstice songs are based in folk music and trace their links back to pagan beginnings, so they tend to go under the radar and don’t make the mainstream. I’m a longtime follower of folk music!

      Liked by 1 person

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