On the Eighth Day of Christmas

Happy New Year! Are you a fan or do you avoid the annual New Year Concert from the Vienna Philharmonic? Their performance of lively music, including famous waltzes by Johann Strauss is adored by audiences around the world. It’s not my cup of tea but I can see the attraction (!) in this moment from ‘The Sound of Music’ where Maria and Captain von Trapp dance a traditional Austrian ländler. Originally a folk dance, from the late 18th century, the ländler became more refined as it was adopted in the popular dance halls of 19th century Europe. In the context of the film and the era in which it is set, I find the music quite poignant: the chandeliers, the glamorous gowns, the couples dancing in the background. And (plot spoiler alert) the looming threat to Austria’s autonomy makes its traditional culture seem all the more precious.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

Celebrating Auld Year’s Night or Hogmanay with a gathering of family and friends has long been a Scottish tradition. So, for what is also the seventh day of Christmas, I’ve chosen music from Scotland. It’s from the tradition of puirt à beul or mouth music, a form of song which sets Gaelic lyrics to instrumental dance tunes. It was originally a way of providing music for dancing when no instruments were available. These songs feature a strong rhythm and tongue twister like lyrics. Here’s Hug Air a’ Bhonaid Mhoir performed by the wonderful Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis. You can also hear Julie Fowlis presenting ‘Inside Music‘ on BBC Radio 3 tomorrow at 1pm.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

The most relaxing and peaceful Christmas television for me this year, was the film of Norway’s Sami reindeer herders guiding their animals’ migration, 160 miles across the region of Finnmark. It’s a trek across an expanse of snow, hundreds of reindeer, no commentary, just the natural sounds of the breeze, the animals and the song of the Sami people known as yoik. It’s a sound which seems to belong in this landscape, calling out across vast mountainous regions and a centuries old way of life.

The programme is available on BBC iPlayer for a year.

All Aboard – The Great Reindeer Migration.