- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

As I write, we are in the middle of that dreamy week - after Christmas, but just before New Year’s - when nothing gets done at work, parties take place on “school nights” and children go bonkers with freedom from school.

Around this home office, there isn’t a great deal going on, which is to say that for days now, I have rarely been out of my sweatpants and couldn’t care less if I wash my hair anytime soon.

I have been listening to nothing but seasonal music for nearly a month. Each year, I excitedly await the arrival of Dec. 1, when I feel it’s safe to pull out all my holiday choral CDs and punch eternal shuffle on the CD player. I suppose I could start listening the day after Thanksgiving or even before (the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see stores decorating for the holidays right after Labor Day), but somehow it wouldn’t feel quite right.

We live some distance from town, so I have a lot of time to listen in the car. For this past month, I have had my satellite radio’s Channel 79 on permanent selection. It has been calling its programming “Holiday Pops,” but there’s not much in the way of “pops” as I know them. It’s more heavily weighted toward classical and sacred choral fare, which is fine with me. The only time I turn down the volume is upon hearing - for, oh, the 32nd time that day - the first strains of yet another version of “O Holy Night.”

But I don’t think I could ever tire of the work of British composer-arranger-conductor John Rutter. I read somewhere that he is considered “the musical equivalent of Dickens”; he is that closely associated with the music of Christmas.

I remember how I first heard his work. It was around 1994, and Volvo was running a television ad that touted the safe construction of its automobiles. The music and singing in the background were spell-inducing, and I made a point of going to the classical section of Olsson’s Books and Records - may it rest in peace - in Georgetown to find it.

Not surprisingly for that late, lamented local independent chain, someone was working there who knew exactly what I was seeking when I said it was something I had heard in a Volvo commercial. The song was “What Sweeter Music,” with music by Mr. Rutter and lyrics taken from a poem by the 17th-century British poet Robert Herrick:

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,

And give the honor to this Day,

That sees December turn’d to May.

That day, I purchased my first CD by the Cambridge Singers, the chamber choir Mr. Rutter formed in 1981. I have avidly collected Mr. Rutter’s work ever since.

All of that good stuff on Channel 79 has kept me pretty happy for the past few weeks. But today I turned on the car, and Channel 79 had reverted back to just plain old classical. My steady diet (some in my household would say gorging) of holiday music is over, and I am bereft.

John Rutter has observed that “… people who are not touched by choral music for the rest of the year often find that Christmas music touches their heart.” As far as my love of his music is concerned, a year seems an unbearably long time to wait until I can fill my house and car with it again.

Wishing everyone peace, love and music in the new year.

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