Listening for Silence

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

a program of music, poetry, and prose

inspiring you to embrace winter.

Embracing winter can be tricky for some of us as it tends to arrive on our doorstep with a significant amount of baggage, doesn’t it? As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes a daily challenge, we tend to spend a bit more time indoors ruminating over another year almost gone. Suddenly we’re also faced with the holidays — bringing a host of traditions, obligations, and (perhaps like Ebenezer Scrooge) “ghosts” from the past.

Finding the ability to embrace winter requires us to venture somewhere beyond the reaches of our comfort zone (or at least what presently seems comfortable). We have to step away from the inviting warmth of the fireplace, out-of-range of the familiar, hypnotic hum of our modern gadgetry. We have to shut out the ceaseless chatter of 24-hour news, the invasive ads, the mountainous junk mail, the screens of e-mails … Winter invites us outdoors to find a silence hard to find in our 365-days-of-summer lifestyles. In our harried world, could there be a sound more profound than silence?

    Winter Uplands


    The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
    The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
    The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
    I sit in the great silence as one bound;
    The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
    Across the open fields for miles ahead;
    The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
    A tender line upon the western red;
    The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
    Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
    So wonderful, so many and so near,
    And then the golden moon to light me home–
    The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
    And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.
    — Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Canadian poet Archibald Lampman grew up in the countryside but spent much of his adult years in cities, only visiting the country for extended trips. He found simplicity and grace in the natural world when urban life proved to be utterly dehumanizing. An avid hiker and camper in the wilds of Ontario, Lampman’s poems are awash in sounds and imagery from nature and all four seasons.

Sadly, his life was cut short by a heart weakened by rheumatic fever; he died at 37. In his short life, however, he IMG_7345wandered along the banks and fields finding wonder in nature’s ordinary beauty. Even later in life, beset with sorrow from the sudden death of his infant son, he found solace in nature and the cycle of its seasons.

    “The evening deepens, and the gray
    Folds closer earth and sky;
    The world seems shrouded far away;
    Its noises sleep, and I,
    As secret as yon buried stream,
    Plod dumbly on, and dream.”

    — from “Snow”, by Archibald Lampman

Celtic-New Age composer, Loreena McKennitt, set Lampman’s poem “Snow” to music for her 1987 album To Drive the Cold Winter Away. For our first-ever Winter Songs & Carols performance in 2015, I created an arrangement for piccolo, flute, clarinet, bassoon, lever harp, and soprano. Because the lyrics speak so perfectly to this year’s theme of peace, healing, and renewal, we’re dusting off the arrangement IMG_6154and are excited to perform it featuring Emily Curtin Culler, soprano.

Lampman’s poetic lines, McKennitt’s lyrical music, and the colorful combination of winds, harp, and Emily’s beautiful voice combine to create a heartwarming invitation to embrace winter as a welcome guest. Within winter’s blustery cold and hush lies a peaceful space to find quiet and time to dream.

We hope you’ll join us, this December, for an inspiring evening of music, poetry, and prose exploring the season of winter.

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