Early in the morning in June 2021, in the hills of northwest Connecticut, an ensemble of musicians gathered in the hayloft of a barn to perform a special livestream concert in celebration of the summer solstice. The album of this music, Concert in the Barn, by the seven-time Grammy-winner Paul Winter Consort, will be released by Living Music Records on June 17, 2022.
The inspiration for this concert comes from a long tradition of solstice celebrations by Paul Winter and his colleagues at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Consort’s long-time home forum. For the previous 25 years, the Cathedral had been the venue for this event, to welcome the sunrise of the longest day of the year.
With the Cathedral closed for performances during the pandemic, the group took advantage of the loft of Paul Winter’s barn as a “grass-roots alternative to playing in the world’s largest cathedral”. Because of pandemic logistics, the event also features “players from the neighborhood.”
The great majority of the pieces are new musical offerings by the Consort. Concert in the Barn embraces the gamut of genres that Paul Winter’s solstice celebrations have been known for, “interweaving instrumental adventures” with songs sung by Theresa Thomason and Jeff Boratko. And as the date of the concert, June 19th, also happened to be that of Juneteenth, Thomason sang, in the finale, the traditional anthem, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
We had never performed this before. And the spontaneous version that Theresa and Henrique created is, to my ear, iconic.
The music of Concert in the Barn comes in a continuous stream, having begun in total darkness at 4:30 a.m., flowing on until its final climax with the first sunrise of the summer.
We wouldn’t have had applause to contend with, in any case, since our entire audience consisted of two horses, Lucky and Nikki, who were listening from the stable below.