The holiday season is upon us yet again, and each time this time of year rolls around, I feel as though it never went away. No, it's not because of all that hokey Christmas music we hear anytime we set foot inside a store. That's not my kind of music, really. If it's yours, that's great, you have the advantage of hearing it virtually anywhere you go this season, and I really hope I can have that pleasure some day.
For some, there's much more to holiday music than the Christmas classics sung by Sinatra, there's Baroque and chamber music, there's Celtic music, and then there's my personal favorite compilation of seasonal tunes, A Winter's Solstice II. Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill Records, brought, what is for me, a penultimate of feel-good, wintery, instrumental arrangements, some of which are acoustic guitar oriented.
Seeing as how today marks the 17th anniversary of the loss of the late, and for modern acoustic guitar lovers, extremely important, Michael Hedges, I thought mentioning my first introduction to his guitar music would be more than fitting. On this album, Hedges performs "Prelude to Cello Suite #1" on a harp guitar. This song, with which many people will be familiar upon hearing, set the soundtrack for me as I read books in snowy Decembers. The Neverending Story comes to mind when this song queues up. Truly, I have those warm fuzzy memories we all should have, because of this performance by Michael Hedges. Sometimes, I'll cheat and listen to the tune out of season, because it is one of my absolute favorite guitar arrangements.
As for other solo guitar on the album, Will Ackerman, a fantastic guitarist as well as music producer, plays "Abide the Winter," a slow, thoughtful song that, if it were long enough, might help one push on through the coldest of winters with fresh hopes for the coming spring.
My love of music started very early, probably long before my lungs held their first breaths. My parents and friends were folk music lovers, and though I don't know the year A Winter's Solstice II landed on our home stereo, I remember it as if it has been there each and every year of my life, (I'm 28 by the way). The special thing about this album, is that it comes out only once a year for no more than three to four weeks, and this always coincides with the passing of Michael Hedges.
As others look fondly forward to their Christmas music, I look to this album to set the mood for the winter ahead. If you're a fan of instrumental music, which if you're here, I truly hope you are, I can't exceed my recommendation in finding this album somehwhere and giving it a listen. Make sure it's snowing outside, and make sure you have some hot chocolate on hand.
And, to Michael, sometimes your music crops up at unexpected times, and at times when it is needed most, for that, thank you.