My first pick is the work that fast-tracked me into the mood this year: “Christmas Oratorio” by J.S. Bach. I had the privilege of starting the season performing in not one, but TWO different productions of this stunning work — which is rare! Over in Germany, Bach’s telling of the Nativity story is an annual tradition. But in North America we rarely play it, sticking instead to our English-language “Messiah.” Wondering what it would be like to hear such incredible music in my own language makes me want to learn German. The opening movement alone is enough to transform the spirit, with the rousing drum and trumpets, and the sound of an army of angels descending from the heavens, singing, “Jauchzet, frohlocket!” — “Shout for joy, exult, rise up, glorify the day!”
Ensemble Polaris — known, tongue-in-cheek, as “Canada’s premier Arctic Fusion Band” — came out with an album last year called “Nutcracker Nouveau.” In the midst of thoughtful renderings of Russian folk songs, Polaris re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s old chestnut in the most playful, fresh and loving way. It has become my new at-home Christmas soundtrack.