Even before I was planning to be back in the United States this month, I had purchased for me a ticket to Paul Winter’s 33rd annual winter solstice celebration this past weekend at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. The universe has a way of making things happen.
Parts jazz concert, neo-pagan celebration, multi-cultural festival, and Gospel sing-a-long, Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice is hard to define. I think it’s most defining characteristic might be its venue: the world’s largest gothic cathedral, which is still under construction.
Filled to the choir, this other-wordly sacred space still in the process of being created reverberated with ancient rhythms from Africa, beloved innovations of Paul Winter’s jazz consort, and familiar gospel anthems.
One of a narrow mind might not recognize the Gospel truth of birth, redemption and sacrifice in these reverberations. The twee imagery of the nativity creche is absent, replaced by an epic battle of light over dark.
The celebration this night is not silent or calm, as the traditional carol suggests. As the sun gong ascends 100 feat to the top of the cathedral to the peels of a droning organ, we’re reminded that the brightness that comes with the dawning of redeeming grace, quakes the cornerstone of the most magnificent cathedral, let alone shepherds.
Just watch (at about 1:30)