Morning of the Phoenix:
Paul Winter’s 19th Annual Summer Solstice Celebration, June 21, 2014, 4.30am
Our 19th annual Summer Solstice Celebration at NY’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine took place on Saturday morning, June 21st at 4:30am. This year’s performance was a revolutionary event, given the spatial placement of our musicians, the visual dimensions , and the nature of our performing “partners.” For we were collaborating, in a real sense, with two gigantic bird sculptures suspended above us in the Cathedral’s Nave.
The Cathedral has recently mounted what perhaps is the most colossal exhibit of an artistic work that New York has ever seen. Over the course of two years, pioneering Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing culled detritus from construction sites across the rapidly changing urban landscape of Beijing, and transformed it into his most monumental project to date:Phoenix (2008-10). A feat of engineering and ingenuity, Phoenix is composed of two birds, a male called Feng and a female called Huang—each weighing 12 tons and measuring 90 and 100 feet long, respectively. They hang suspended in the Nave, two majestic birds in perpetual flight beneath its celestial ceiling.
At once fierce and strangely beautiful, these sculptures combine the wildness of pre-historic beasts with the unfettered imagination of a child’s creation; together they address the radical economic changes that have transformed contemporary China.
“Morning of the Phoenix” featured Paul Winter, soprano sax; Paul McCandless, oboe, English horn, and bass clarinet; Chris Brubeck, bass trombone; Marcus Rojas, tuba; John Clark, French horn; and Timothy Brumfield, pipe organ.
A gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer Paul McCandless has been integral to the ensemble sound of two seminal world music bands, the Paul Winter Consort and Oregon. He is credited with more than 150 albums, and has performed with such musicians as Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Mark Isham, Steve Reich, Al Jarreau, Bruce Hornsby, Victor Wooten, Fred Simon, Michael Manring, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, and The String Cheese Incident.
Chris plays bass, trombone, piano, and guitar. In the 1970s, he began touring and recording with his father, the legendary pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. Chris has since earned international acclaim as a composer, performer and leader of his groups, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet and Triple Play. Downbeat describes Chris as “one of the finest performing jazz trombonists around today.” The Chicago Tribune calls him “A composer with a real flair for lyrical melody – a 21st Century Lenny Bernstein.”
Considered one of “the best all around tuba players in the world” (Harvey Pekar, Jazziz), Marcus Rojas has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New YorkCity Opera, American Symphony, American Ballet Theater, the New York Pops, Radio City Music Hall, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis, and ensembles led by Gil Evans, George Russell, Jim Hall, Lionel Hampton, Dave Douglas, Wayne Shorter, David Byrne, and P.D.Q. Bach. He has also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Today Show, Saturday Night Live and The Grammys™ from New York City.
“Rojas is a superb player who managed to do things that probably shouldn’t be allowed on tuba… The tuba will never be the same again.” – John Kellman, All About Jazz
“The most gripping, stirring, and powerfully emotional live solo Tuba performance I have ever witnessed. This guy was unbelievable. - Blogger Chazarmaveth for Horn Roller.com
Horn player, arranger, and composer, John Clark has performed around the world in a variety of musical arenas: from jazz and pop to classical. His collaborators include Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Joe Lovano, Jaco Pastorius, Hank Jones, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, P. “Diddy” Combs, Sting, Leonard Bernstein, the Boston Symphony, the Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Leroy Jenkins, Gerry Mulligan, Paquito d’Rivera, Natalie Cole, and Luther Vandross.
Timothy Brumfield is considered one of the world’s finest improvisers on the pipe organ. He tours regularly as a solo organist and pianist, and lectures on the art of improvisation. Formerly organist at the world’s largest gothic cathedral, New York’s St. John the Divine, he currently serves as Director of Music and Organist at Christ Church Riverdale, in the Bronx. He has performed with the Paul Winter Consort since 1998.
Summer Solstice Tradition
Summer Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year, when the sun is at its peak and the days abound with the promise of life’s fullness. Traditionally, people have paused at this time to reflect upon the journey of life.
The word solstice comes from Latin sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still). The winter solstice is when the Sun reaches it southernmost point from the equator and seems to pause before reversing its course; at summer solstice the Sun attains its northernmost point and, once again, seems to stand still before turning back.
It was believed that at the moment of solstice, time, flowing in a circle, stopped, before ends of the year were joined. These two great celestial milestones of the year, are perhaps humanity’s most ancient ritual observances.
For living music, Paul Winter
Summer Solstice Recollections
It’s always been difficult to describe Summer Solstice to someone who’s never attended. So recently we asked audience members who experienced the concert over the last two years to share their “summer solstice recollections.”
They said it better than we ever could:
“I’ve attended both the winter and summer solstice celebrations. I love both, but the summer solstice seems to resonate at a deeper level. The quiet darkness and smaller audience allows you to be more in tune with the music. You feel it throughout your whole body.”
“As my daughter and I found our seats among the hushed listeners, we felt the special peacefulness of the moment and the restorative calm of the dark morning hour. … As dawn approached the music changed with it. My daughter touched my shoulder to turn and see the stained-glass images that began to softly gather the early morning light.”
“From the first single note emerging from the darkness, all my senses are engaged.”
“It was not about seeing. It was about pure sound, the dawn of a new day.”
“I felt myself transported back to our earliest ancestors and their awe as the sun lined up to their sacred solstice markers.”