This time of year always reminds me of George Winston’s December. I used to listen to it in college, when I was studying for finals. I’d play it on my cassette deck, rewind, then press play again. But the music often made me visualize things that weren’t on the pages I was supposed to be reading.
George Winston’s December set the perfect tone for studying. Calm and clear, but with the slight urgency of Night: Part II Midnight. It also carried a hopeful hint of the excitement of the holidays to come. The album actually came out several years before I went to college, but I discovered it my freshman year. Snow was new to me, too. I grew up in Louisiana, where once or twice I remember them calling off school because the temperature was below freezing.
The first time I really experienced snow was in December of 1985. It started snowing late one night during Reading Period and Yale’s entire freshman class seemed to erupt onto Old Campus. Huge, wet snowflakes drifted down and coated the lawn or swirled sideways and up, as if in a snowglobe. Someone put their speakers in an open common room window, Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons blasting from the stereo. I still think of that night and the laughing, shadowy figures dancing in the softly falling snow. It was magical – the kind of night where you would kiss a stranger out of sheer joy and beauty.
A massive snowball fight erupted before long. Having never made a snowball before, I was at a distinct disadvantage. I took a direct hit eventually and had to go inside to melt the packed snow from my ear canal. “Probably for the best,” I thought. “Finals are starting soon.”
So, as musical commentary on the seasons, I think George Winston wins hands down over Vivaldi. When I listen to George Winston’s December, I’ve always pictured scenes from nature and – oddly enough – happy children. This year, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of George Winston’s December, I decided to document the waning of autumn and waxing of winter with photographs. In some ways, George Winston’s December is also a theme for me in doing human rights work. We are moving forward, calm and clear, with a slight sense of urgency but with hopeful hints of the future.
Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head
Carol of the Bells
Part I. Snow
Part II. Midnight
Part III. Minstrels
Variations on the Kanon by Pachebel
The Holly & The Ivy
Some Children See Him
A Christmas Song
Sleep Baby Mine