5 Musical Gifts that Keep On Giving

When it comes to holiday gift giving, a never-before-heard piece of music written especially for you would be hard to top. Though these classical delights were originally dedicated to individuals (during the holiday season and otherwise), we’re glad they’ve since been gifted to the world! 

Rosephanye Powell’s “With What Shall I Come”

Having a choral piece dedicated to you would be an honor for anyone. Now imagine that work was written by one of America’s premier choral music composers! Rosephanye Powell’s breathtaking “With What Shall I Come” was composed as a gift to Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, in honor of his 25th season. In a post on her website, Powell explains that she selected one of Armstrong’s favorite texts, the biblical passage Micah 6:6-8, and “sought to set this text emphasizing two words that come to mind when I watch Dr. Armstrong conduct: beauty and passion.” 

VIDEO: St. Olaf Choir – “With What Shall I Come”


Pauline Viardot’s Six Morceaux

Portrait of Pauline Viardot, painting by Carl Timoleon von Neff. Woman with black hair pulled back into a bun, looking towards the viewer. Wearing a chandelier earring and off the shoulder white lace bodice and blue tulle dress.
Pauline Viardot by Carl Timoleon von Neff – скан, Public Domain.

Though supporting your child’s musical aspirations is a gift in itself, French composer, pianist, and mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot went a step further: her Six Morceaux for violin and piano were given as a gift to her young son Paul, a promising violinist, in 1868. Pauline was no stranger to talented relatives – born to a family of professional singers, her sister Maria was one of the top opera stars of the 19th century – and both Paul and his sister Louise went on to become highly accomplished musicians. 

VIDEO: 6 Morceaux: No. 6, Tarentelle

Clara Schumann’s Gift of Lieder 

Lithograph portrait of a young Clara Wieck, later Schumann, sitting at piano looking toward the viewer in a lace off the shoulder dress with left hand on piano and right hand in lap. With hair pulled up in a bun with ornate decorative braids. Sheet music sits on piano stand.
Clara Wieck (Schumann), from an 1835 lithograph. By Julius Giere – Schumann-Portal, Public Domain.

On March 13, 1840, Robert Schumann wrote to his future wife, Clara Wieck, that she should consider writing songs again. After the two were married later that year, Clara got to work on a new collection of lieder and presented three of them to Robert as Christmas gifts: Am Strande, Ihr Bildnis, and Volkslied. The inscription on the set, which can still be viewed at the Robert Schumann House in Zwickau, reads “In deepest modesty dedicated to her most fervently beloved Robert at Christmas 1840 from his Clara.” Robert was touched and overjoyed by Clara’s gift, later writing in the couple’s shared diary, “how the clarity of my heart brings me such delight with this present… we have had the pleasant idea to weave them together with some of mine and to have them printed. That would be quite a truly love-inspired book.”

VIDEO: C. Schumann: Am Strande

Jean Sibelius’ Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9

Black & white picture portrait of Jean Sibelius in 1890. Looks toward viewer sitting in a chair with a dark tweed suit with hand reaching into inner coat pocket. Has a distinct handlebar mustache.
Jean Sibelius in 1890.
By Paul Heckscher – YLE/Finnish National Broadcaster, Public Domain.

Though he never personally found success as a musician, Finnish nobleman Axel Carpelan’s musical impact lives on through several of Jean Sibelius’s most important works. A close friend and devotee to Sibelius’s music, Carpelan helped Sibelius name Finlandia and was the first to suggest that he should write a violin concerto. In a letter to Carpelan, Sibelius’s wife Aino described his struggle to complete the concerto due to an overflowing of material, remarking that “there are so many ideas that one can’t believe it is true, all of them so rich in possibilities for development, so full of life.” Sibelius’s emotionally moving Romance in D flat major, now one of Sibelius’s most popular piano pieces, was composed as a Christmas gift to Carpelan in 1901. When Carpelan died of pneumonia in 1919, a shattered Sibelius wrote in his journal, “Who shall I compose for now?

VIDEO: Jean Sibelius: Romance D-Flat Major, Op. 24, No. 9 – Vladislav Peysakhov, piano

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel

Photograph portrait of composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Looking toward viewer sitting in chair wearing a tuxedo. Has distinct full mustache and goatee.
Composer Engelbert Humperdinck by Unknown photographer, Public Domain.

Often performed at Christmastime, Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel had appropriately festive beginnings! Humperdinck’s sister Adelheid Wette had written the text to a set of folk songs for her daughters and asked for his help setting them to music. Inspired by the story of Hansel and Gretel, Humperdinck eventually completed a brief singspiel for his nieces to perform at a family Christmas party with a libretto written by Wette. The girls’ performance was a hit, and Humperdinck was so pleased that he later fleshed out the singspiel into the full-scale opera we know and love today. 

VIDEO: The Evening Prayer – Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade

Sources and Further Reading

Hansel and Gretel – The Metropolitan Opera Guild (The Metropolitan Opera Guild)

“With What Shall I Come” – SATB with Violin (Rosephanye Powell Official Website)

Romance in D flat major, Op. 24 No. 9 (Sibelius One)

From Finland with Love: The Sibelius Violin Concerto (Houston Symphony)

Sibelius, Jean (1865 – 1957) (National Biography of Finland) – translated from Finnish to English

About This Recording: Paul Viardot & Pauline Viardot, Works for Violin and Piano (Naxos)

About This Recording: Clara Schumann’s Complete Songs (Naxos)

What Sweeter Music: WDAV Staff Members Share Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes

Whether you’re pulling a faded card out of grandma’s recipe box or Googling “how to make gingerbread,” holiday desserts often mean more to us than your average sweet treat! Familiar flavors have the power to bring us together, remind us of loved ones, and transport us to memories of holidays past. From our table to yours, we’ve compiled a collection of holiday cookie recipes that fill our hearts with joy year after year. 

Myelita Melton’s Favorite: Hello Dolly Bars

Hello Dolly bars
Hello Dolly Bars by Myelita Melton

Here’s one of my family’s favorite holiday treats – Hello Dolly Bars. My mom didn’t make a lot of things from “scratch.” She worked at a hospital ER, and time off during the holidays was precious, so she was always looking for something quick, easy, and delicious to fix! These Hello Dolly bars are the easiest thing in the world to throw together. I have varied the chips I add depending on what I have in the pantry. If you don’t like butterscotch chips, leave them out. If you prefer semi-sweet chocolate chips, use those. If you go for milk chocolate, use those. Just go with what you feel, and what you have on hand!  Enjoy!

Recipe: Hello Dolly Bars

Rodger Clark’s Favorite: Bird’s Nest Cookies

One of my best holiday memories is my mother busily baking cookies for the various family gatherings. My absolute favorite was what we called her “Bird’s Nest” cookies. These were wonderful confections that featured a crushed-up Life cereal coating and a dab of strawberry preserves in the middle – purposively indented to look like a nest. She only made these during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, she passed on the recipe to my wife (in her handwriting) and now we have to have at least one batch every Christmas!

Mix Thoroughly

1 cup soft shortening (1/2 butter)

½ cup light brown sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Sift Together

2 cups flour

½ tsp salt

Blend all ingredients. Roll into 1” balls and dip in slightly beaten egg whites. Roll in crushed Life cereal (or crushed nuts). Place about 1 “ apart on ungreased cookie sheet and press thumb into the center of each cookie. Bake 375º for about 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool.

Place red or green jelly in the center of each.

Mary Lathem’s Favorite: Snowballs 

Snowball cookies on a plate
Snowballs by Mary Lathem

I’ve heard these called Danish Wedding Cookies, Russian Teacakes, and plenty of other names, but whatever you call them, they always disappear quickly in a Christmas cookie spread. My family loves them so much that I got the party started early this year and made some the day after Thanksgiving! I’m sure there will be many more batches of these coming out of my oven this season. 

Here’s the recipe I use: Land O’ Lakes Snowball Cookies

A few tips!

  • Use raw, unsalted pecans. I like the texture best when they are crushed until they resemble coarse crumbs. You can use a food processor or a Slap Chop to make this faster.
  • For a (truly) delicious gluten free version, I use an even mixture of Bob’s Red Mill oat flour and 1-to-1 baking flour. 
  • A BIG ONE: After the first roll in powdered sugar, sift fresh powdered sugar onto a new plate and let the cookies cool completely before the second roll. This makes the finished cookie look much neater than the ones in the picture, but I only do this if they need to be presentable – usually we just eat them immediately! 

Will Keible’s Favorite: Laurie Squares

My favorite Christmas treat comes from my mother-in-law and stalwart WDAV supporter, Marilyn Bradley, who lives in Voorheesville, NY. They are a bar cookie affectionately called Laurie Squares, named after her niece. Marilyn makes these every year and they alone are worth the trip to the cold, dark North. (Side note: I’m hopeful that this public recognition earns me my own named treat 😊)

32 caramels (unwrapped)               

2/3 cup (5.5 oz can) evaporated milk

1 cup flour

1 cup quick oats (uncooked)

1 cup chopped nuts

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup melted butter

1 cup M&Ms

  1. Cook the caramels over low heat with evaporated milk until blended.
  2. In a bowl, mix dry ingredients with melted butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. RESERVE 1 CUP. 
  3. Press remaining mix into bottom of 13 x 9 pan. Bake 10 min.
  4. Sprinkle M&M’s over partially baked crust.
  5. Drizzle melted caramel mix over candies. 
  6. Sprinkle reserved crumb mix.
  7. Bake another 20-25 minutes at 375º.

Rachel Stewart’s Favorite: World Peace Cookies

I love this recipe from Pierre Hermé via Dorie Greenspan. These cookies have the perfect taste and texture as well as the perfect name for sharing during the holiday season. The World Peace Cookie is a chocolate sablé (French shortbread cookie) with a touch of salt and a just-right chewy texture. Once you’ve tried one, you’ll want more, and you’ll want to add them to your holiday baking repertoire.

Recipe: World Peace Cookies

Culinary Masterminds: Legendary Composers’ Favorite Foods

By Connie Kim and Mary Lathem

Composers: they’re just like us! If you’re skeptical, consider the fact that Ludwig van Beethoven’s favorite food was essentially macaroni and cheese… and he’s certainly not the classical music world’s only foodie. Just in time for Thanksgiving, we’re serving up a feast of delicious dishes loved by (and named after) famous composers. Bon Appétit!

  1. Rossini This, Rossini That
Gioachino Rossini

19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini is well known for his comic operas, but did you know his passion for food rivaled his passion for music? Tournedos Rossini, Chicken alla Rossini, and Eggs Rossini are just a few of the many dishes named for the composer, all proof of his “gastronomic virtuosity” and penchant for experimentation. Rossini himself once claimed he had only cried three times in his life: once when his earliest opera turned into a fiasco, second when he first heard Niccolò Paganini play the violin, and third when his truffle-stuffed turkey accidentally fell into Lake Como.


  1. Hildegard’s Healthy Living Tips

When studying 12th century polymath Hildegard von Bingen, you’d be hard pressed to find a subject area she wasn’t heavily involved in. Aside from her status as one of the most famous composers of sacred monophony (and the most recorded in modern history), Hildegard was an abbess, writer, medical practitioner, mystic, visionary, and theologian believed by many to be the founder of scientific natural history… and, in her free time, a nutritionist. Compiled in 2019, her guidelines for healthy living called for a balance of acidic and alkaline foods to prevent disease. Her go-to dishes? Spelt, beans, and chestnuts.


  1. Chopin’s Polish Pride

Composer Frederic Chopin often drew on Polish themes in his work, and it seems he had a great appreciation for the food of his home country as well! Zrazy, a Polish dish made of thin slices of chopped beef stuffed with vegetables and eggs, was one of his personal favorites. Chopin, who often longed for home, was once overjoyed to discover zrazy was on the menu at a dinner party and wrote, “This rare man, Dr. Malfatti, is so considerate of everyone. If we come to dine with him, he searches out Polish food for us!”

  1. Risotto for a Virtuoso

Born to a family of grocers and restaurateurs, it makes sense that opera composer Giuseppe Verdi had refined taste buds – and as a self-proclaimed connoisseur, Verdi had a particular love set aside for risotto! Described by his wife as “divine,” Verdi’s own risotto recipe may be lost to time, but his passion for the dish did lead to the naming of a popular risotto dish in his honor.

  1. Igor Stravinsky’s Sweet Side

Although he wasn’t known for his sweet personality, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s adoration for honey was well documented. Specifically, Stravinsky always had royal jelly honey on hand, even going so far as to bring his own jar of honey to restaurants. Looking for a new way to make friends? Here’s an idea from a fellow composer: when he heard about Stravinsky’s enthusiasm for honey, Sergei Rachmaninoff came knocking on Stravinsky’s door one night with a massive jar of honey!

  1. Marillenknödel alla Mahler 

No one can deny Gustav Mahler’s devotion to music, but you may have never heard of one of his other great loves: traditional Viennese apricot dumplings called Marillenknödel. Mahler’s sister Justine had perfected an amazing recipe – so amazing that when Mahler found out his friend Ludwig Karpath didn’t like Marillenknödel, he insisted that Karpath come over immediately to sample Justine’s “heavenly” cooking. Karpath was an instant fan (and you can use Justine’s original recipe to find out if you are, too).


  1. Paganini Ravioli 
Niccolò Paganini

Imagine a ravioli dish loaded with sausage, veal, beef, and butter… yea or nay? Ravioli was one of Niccolò Paganini’s favorite foods, and there wasn’t a hint of green in his own meat-loving recipe (though it did contain calf brain). The original handwritten recipe is now housed in the Library of Congress.

  1. Duke Ellington’s Culinary Travels
Duke Ellington (center) having his dinner at the Hurricane with his wife, Bea Ellington (right), and a friend.

Best known as a jazz legend, Duke Ellington is also celebrated for his contributions to the classical and film music spheres. As it turns out, he might have made a pretty excellent food blogger, too. In an interview, Ellington spoke at length about the list of favorite foods he keeps from his travels, from chicken liver omelets in Los Angeles to octopus soup in Paris and everything in between. Ellington was no stranger to fine dining – one of his favorite restaurants in the Netherlands offered 85 different hors d’oeuvres, all of which he sampled – but for the best fried fish in the world, Ellington knew a spot in St. Petersburg, Florida: “It’s just a little shack, but they can sure fry fish.”

Pictured: Duke Ellington (center) having his dinner at the Hurricane with his wife, Bea Ellington (right), and a friend.

Sources and Further Reading

Composers In The Kitchen: Gioachino Rossini’s Haute Cuisine (NPR)

Six Curious Facts About Gioachino Rossini (CMUSE)

HISTORY: Hildegard of Bingen (Bioregulatory Medical Institute)

15 Composers who loved their food (BBC Music Magazine)

Composers In The Kitchen: Risotto Giuseppe Verdi Style (NPR)

Risotto Giuseppe Verdi Style (Academia Barilla)

Sweet-toothed composers (BBC Music Magazine)

Composers In The Kitchen: Gustav Mahler’s Just Dessert (NPR)

“Marillenknoedel” from Classical Cooks: A Gastrohistory of Western Music (New York Philharmonic)

Cooking Up History: Niccolò Paganini’s Ravioli (Library of Congress)

Playlist: A Few of Duke Ellington’s Favorite Things (Lapham’s Quarterly)

Playlist: Sinister Scores for Halloween

by Connie Kim

It’s Halloween season! Perfect for a party or an eerie evening of trick-or-treating, our selection of spooky scores from iconic horror films and television will give you the chills.

  1. “Cabrini Green” (Philip Glass, Michael Reisman, The Western Wind) – The Music of Candyman (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  2. “Main Title” (John Williams) – Jaws (Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  3. “Polymorphia” (Krzysztof Penderecki) – The Exorcist (Original Motion Picture)
  4. “Main Title” (Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind)- The Shining (Original Motion Pictures Soundtrack)
  5. “Flight”(Bernard Herrmann) – Psycho (The Complete Original Motion Picture Score)
  6. “Dance” (Max Lilja) – The Exorcist (Original Radio Play Soundtrack)
  7. “The Car Lot” (Bernard Herrmann) – Psycho (The Complete Original Motion Picture Score)
  8. “The Shark Approaches” (John Williams) – Jaws (The Collector’s Edition Soundtrack)
  9. “The Shadow”(Bernard Herrmann) – Psycho (The Complete Original Motion Picture Score)
  10. “We’re Not the Only Ones Watching” (David Julyan) – The Cabin in the Woods (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  11. “Night of Terror” (Clint Mansell) – Black Swan (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  12.  “The Cabin in the Woods” (David Julyan) – The Cabin in the Woods (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  13. The Haunting of Hill House (The Newton Brothers) – The Haunting of Hill House (Music from Netflix Horror Series)
  14. The History of Hill House (Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra) – The Haunting (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  15. “Headless Wizard” (Christopher Young) – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  16. “Gassed” (Bobby Krlic) – MidSommar (Original Motion Picture Score)
  17. “Femme Fatale” (Michael Abels) – Us (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  18. “Go Tomorrow” (The Newton Brothers) – The Haunting of Hill House (Music from Netflix Horror Series)
  19. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach, William McVicker) – Great Organ Classics
  20. “Finale” (Michael Abels) – Us (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  21. “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” (Michael Abels) – Get Out (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  22. “Children of the Corn” (Marco Beltrami) – A Quiet Place (Original Soundtrack Album – edited)
  23. “WTF is That” (Michael Abels)- Nope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  24. “Caleb is Lost” (Mark Korven) – The Witch (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  25. “Filthy Dog”(Mark Korven) – The Lighthouse (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  26. “All Together Now” (Marco Beltrami) – A Quiet Place (Original Soundtrack Album)
  27. “Suspiria”(Goblin) – Suspiria (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Sinister Scores Playlist

Holiday Havoc: WDAV Staff Members Share Stories of Christmases Gone Wrong

We can wish for the perfect holiday season all we want, but in the mix of family visits, packed schedules, and high expectations, it’s not uncommon for plans to go awry. When the most wonderful time of the year takes a not-so-wonderful turn, sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh (and share the story with our coworkers and listeners). 

Myelita Melton
Associate Content Director and Afternoon Host

“I was getting married and preparing for my first Christmas with my new in-laws, and I wanted to make a great first impression. My fiancé and I had had a professional photographer shoot engagement photos for us, so I thought pictures would make a great gift for his parents. The problem was that I didn’t have a box that was the right size, and I wanted their present to be gorgeous. As the day for the Christmas gathering approached, I had some frozen shrimp delivered – and lo and behold, the box the shrimp came in was the perfect size! It did smell a little bit, but I thought I could eradicate the odor of the shrimp by dousing the box with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The package was beautiful, but the second my mother-in-law took off the first piece of tape, the smell of shrimp invaded the living room! I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life at delivering a gift that was truly a fish out of water!”

Will Keible
Director of Marketing and Corporate Support

“Trouble. I had a knack for finding it when I was kid. And each year at Christmas I was reminded how much of it I had caused by the number of sticks that my parents… err… Santa left in my stocking. When I was 8 years old, and still squarely in the pro-Santa camp, I was greeted at the fireplace with an entire sapling stuck in my stocking. It was so big that it brushed up against the ceiling. I recognized it immediately as the tree that I had snapped in half while roughhousing with my friends that past Summer. My Dad had recently planted it and was more than a little angry to see it contorted into a right angle. I don’t know if he hatched the plan for the stocking then and there, but its appearance six months later is evidence that my Dad rarely missed an opportunity for a well-timed joke.”


“One moment that is forever seared into my memory is the night Santa Claus skipped our house. As kids, my brother and I were notorious for taking forever to fall asleep the night before Christmas, and I guess my parents had had enough of it this particular year. Just as my mom was begging us to go to sleep, my dad walked past our bedroom windows shaking a set of jingle bells, which we all heard loud and clear. Mom shrugged and explained that the sound of bells passing by meant that Santa knew we weren’t asleep yet, and ‘maybe if you go to bed right this second, he’ll come back!’ I won’t say I recommend it, but it worked like a charm, and we all crack up about it to this day.” 

Kendra Intihar
Assistant General Manager & Director of Community Outreach

“When my brother was 10 and I was 13, we committed the Christmas crime we are still paying for all these decades later.

Our family did not have extra money to throw around when I was growing up, but somehow, Mama always made Christmas look like a cozy movie scene. She was so careful, thoughtful, and precise about how much money she spent on each of us and how all the toys and packages would look laid out in the living room next to the tree. Our stockings were stuffed to overflowing, and the toys Santa left for us were thoughtfully displayed without wrapping paper with the tree and the mantle as a backdrop, like a beautiful department store window with its moody colors and twinkling lights. It was her joy to get up with us on Christmas morning and watch us open our gifts.

At six o’clock that infamous Christmas morning, I sneaked into my brother’s room and announced quietly that Santa had come. We knew Mama hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, so we resolved that we’d go open all of our presents quietly so as not to disturb her. When she woke up, we’d “tell” her what we got and how much we loved it.

Reader, I need you to know something: This was the worst idea I’ve ever had, and it isn’t even close. Mama alternated between crying and yelling for a week, and the Ghost of Christmas Past visits my brother and me every single year as we sit and endure the time-honored tradition of listening to our mother tell her version of the scandalous event. I live in hope that my own children will someday allow me the pleasure of haranguing them for decades, too.”

Classical Icons at Christmastime

Though it’s natural to think of classical music icons as far removed from our lives, their holiday festivities had just as much joy – and just as many mishaps – as ours do today. This holiday season, let’s take a look at what some of history’s most cherished classical figures were up to at Christmastime.

Opera Star Grace Bumbry Finds Her Voice
Grace Bumbry
By U.S. federal government – Kennedy Center Honorees at the White House, Public Domain.

While her parents and brothers rehearsed for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, superstar mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry – then too young to join any of their church’s choirs – soaked in the music from the pews. Later, as they finished their chores one Saturday afternoon, Bumbry’s brothers made a shocking discovery:

“We were doing the washing, and Benjamin and Charlie were singing along in The Messiah, and I popped in with something that was missing. And they said, ‘Well, how do you know that?’ I heard it in the rehearsals. They were surprised to see that Grace knows all of the music.”

– Grace Bumbry

Though the director of the church’s junior choir deemed Bumbry too young to join the group, she was impressed with the little girl’s singing ability and arranged a solo performance for her at that year’s Christmas program. “I sang ‘O Holy Night,’ which I later found out was really quite difficult,” Bumbry explained in an interview with St. Louis Magazine earlier this year. “But in those days, you don’t have the sense to know that it’s hard… For me, it was normal. It was like playing with my yo-yo or something.” And the rest is history. 


A Raucous Premiere for Frederick Delius’ “Sleigh Ride” 
Nina and Edvard Grieg, Johan Halvorsen, Frederick Delius, and Christian Sinding play cards at their 1887 Christmas gathering in Leipzig.
By Photographer unknown. – Reproduced from Delius Society website, PD-US.

What do you get when Edvard Grieg, Johan Halvorsen, Christian Sinding, and Frederik Delius walk into a party on Christmas Eve? A truly unforgettable premiere. Before Delius’ “Sleigh Ride” was part of the standard holiday repertoire, it was reportedly conceived as a piano work, which was given its first performance as an after-dinner treat for the attendees of an 1887 Christmas celebration. In a letter to close friend Frants Beyer, Grieg describes the raucous scene

“After the meal we were, without exception, all plastered, but the programme had to be adhered to and it offered music, music and still more music! What a Christmas Eve! … Mr. Delius played a piano piece which he calls ‘Norwegische Schlittenfahrt’ (Norwegian Sleigh Ride) with great talent.”

– Edvard Grieg

Chiquinha Gonzaga’s Christmas Debut

Long before she was Brazil’s first female conductor (and one of the most important figures in Brazilian music history), 11-year-old Chiquinha Gonzaga was a budding composer and accomplished pianist. She performed her first-ever composition, a song titled Canção dos Pastores (Song of the Shepherds), at an 1858 family Christmas Eve party with flute accompaniment from her uncle Antônio and verses contributed by her brother Juca. Though the score was never published during her lifetime, Gonzaga’s biographer Mariza Lira recovered it in 1939, and the music remains available for all to enjoy in print and online

Video: CHIQUINHA GONZAGA, Canção dos Pastores
A Sibelius Family Christmas
Jean Sibelius
By Paul Heckscher

Despite composing many of Finland’s most popular Christmas songs, Jean Sibelius wasn’t exactly a fan of the holiday season (in fact, he once wrote to his secretary that “immediately after Christmas is over, things improve and life is fun once more.”) Nevertheless, the Sibelius family Christmas celebrations were filled to the brim with tradition. During visits from Sibelius’ daughters and their families, the house would reverberate with music and the din of childrens’ games, topped off with a delicious feast and an annual sleigh ride. The moment the children treasured most of all was the lighting of the Christmas tree, when their grandfather would lead them in singing his own Christmas carols around the sparkling display. Sibelius’ granddaughter Laura Enckell later recalled the tradition in her writings

“(The tree) really had to dazzle you with its brightness. He played ‘High are the snowdrifts,’ and he played so loud, with the pedal down, as if he were playing the organ… We sang this song and then we sang ‘Give me no splendour, gold or pomp.’ This was all very jolly. It wasn’t pious or gloomy at all.”

Laura Enckell


Christmas in Finland with the Sibelius Family (This Is Finland)

Delius and His Music (Martin Lee-Browne and Paul Guinery, p.15)

Frederick Delius: Sleigh Ride for orchestra (1889) (British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content)

Opera superstar Grace Bumbry reflects on her start at Sumner High School, Kennedy Center Honors, and meeting two presidents (St. Louis Magazine)

SONG OF THE SHEPHERDS, Christmas Eve (Chiquinha Gonzaga Digital Archive)

Chiquinha Gonzaga Biography (

Native American Heritage Day: Get to Know 5 Native American and Indigenous Classical Icons

November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States, an observance which honors the cultures, traditions, and contributions of Native American peoples across the nation. On this Native American Heritage Day (November 26th), take some time to get to know five outstanding classical artists of Native American and Indigenous heritage, all of whom have brought unique perspectives and innovation to the art form. 

Louis W. Ballard

Known as “the father of Native American composition,” Louis W. Ballard’s passion for Native American music and musicians is evident in his work’s seamless blend of traditions. Though the symphony and dance piece Incident at Wounded Knee is perhaps his best known composition, he is also remembered for numerous ensemble pieces, choral works, and stage pieces, including the ballet The Four Moons. Ballard received a Lifetime Musical Achievement Award from First Americans in the Arts in 1997, and in 2004, he became the first classical composer to be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. 

Video: Louis Ballard’s Ritmo Indio

Dawn Avery

Committed to Indigenous language and cultural preservation, Mohawk composer, cellist, and educator Dr. Dawn Avery melds classical music with pop and folk elements to create a sound all her own. Avery is a prolific recording artist including the albums Our Fire (2011), Beloved (2019), Global Music Award-winner 50 Shades of Red (2016), and many others. Since 2006, she has toured with the North American Indian Cello Project, which commissions and premieres contemporary classical works by Native composers. Avery, who serves as a full professor at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, is the 2011 recipient of the United States Professor of the Year award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 

Video: Decolonization (North American Indian Cello Project – Dawn Avery)

Brent Michael Davids

Concert and film score composer Brent Michael Davids, a citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, is one of today’s best-known Native musicians. Davids’ work in film includes music for The Business of Fancydancing (2002) and a new score for the 1920 film The Last of the Mohicans, and he has composed works for ensembles and institutions including the Kronos Quartet, Joffrey Ballet, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Chanticleer. In his own words, “I strongly believe that when we collaborate and experiment in song, the benefits go beyond music itself. Our interactions as composers, performers, audiences, students and teachers – Indian and non-Indian alike – constitute important relational skills. If we can excite creativity and cooperation in each other, we have accomplished a magnificent thing!”

Video: Brent Michael Davids

R. Carlos Nakai

Described as “the world’s premiere performer of the Native American flute,” R. Carlos Nakai began playing the traditional flute in the 1980s with a background in classical trumpet and music theory. His extensive recording career has spanned over 50 albums, including Canyon Trilogy (2014), which became the first ever traditional Native American solo flute album to go Platinum. Nakai’s works have been nominated for 11 GRAMMY Awards in 4 categories, and he has sold over 4 million albums throughout his career. According to his website, “Nakai’s career has been shaped by a desire to communicate a sense of Native American culture and society that transcends the common stereotypes presented in mass media.”

Video: Phoenix Chorale – Desert Song featuring R. Carlos Nakai 2015

Gabriel Ayala

Gabriel Ayala, a renowned classical guitarist and member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, is known for his unique playing style incorporating elements of the classical, jazz, and flamenco traditions. Among numerous awards for his work, Ayala was named the 2011 Native American Music Awards Artist of the Year. An avid educator, Ayala shares his personal philosophy with all he teaches: “Love your children, honor your elders, and respect your women.”

Video: An Afternoon with Gabriel Ayala

You can listen to these selections on our Native American Heritage month playlist on Spotify.

Sources and Further Reading

BALLARD, LOUIS WAYNE (1931–2007) (Oklahoma Historical Society)

Dawn Avery – Bio (Dawn Avery Official Website)

North American Indian Cello Project (Dawn Avery Official Website)

Brent Michael Davids (The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Brent Michael Davids (Wikipedia)

R. Carlos Nakai (R. Carlos Nakai Official Website)

Gabriel Ayala (Sākihiwē Festival Website)

Gabriel Ayala (Tucson Meet Yourself)

Pictured: Dawn Avery of the Mohawk Nation by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office – PHFL+soNativeAmerican-p-1-Heritage, CC BY 2.0.

Thanksgiving 2021: Notes of Thankfulness from WDAV

It’s a simple question, passed around the table time after time: “What are you thankful for this year?” We may get tired of hearing it around this time of year, but no matter the season, taking a moment to reflect on life’s most precious gifts can give us new perspective and remind us what truly matters. In the spirit of the holiday, we asked members of the WDAV staff to share what’s filling their hearts with gratitude this Thanksgiving. 

Will Keible
Director of Marketing and Corporate Support

“I’m lucky – I have so much to be thankful for. I am blessed with a wonderful family, caring friends, good health, great colleagues, and a job that allows me to do meaningful work. What more could one ask for? Well, there is one thing for which I’d like to give a special shout out, and that is how thankful I am for all of the artists and musicians in the world. Art, in all of its forms, adds color, beauty, and depth to our existence. Not a day goes by during which I’m not moved by something someone has created, yet rarely do I ever have the chance to thank the person who made it. So, here it is. THANK YOU TO ALL ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS – PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE – FOR SHARING YOUR GIFT WITH THE WORLD.”

Heidi North
Administrative Assistant

“I am deeply grateful for my family, my colleagues, and my friends, especially during the pandemic. I am surrounded by a lot of supportive and kind-hearted individuals which made our surreal reality over the last year and a half much more bearable.”

Mary Lathem
Marketing & Digital Communications Specialist

“Everyone in the office is probably tired of hearing about her, but I have to be honest: this year I’ve been especially grateful for my cat, Flora. She’s been the best little buddy and source of comfort over the last year and a half, always following me from room to room, hiding in the laundry, and making me laugh. When I was working from home, she got so used to Zoom meetings that now she needs her own chair every time I’m on a call (otherwise she’ll yell about it). She’s completely ridiculous and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jay Ahuja
Corporate Sponsorship Representative

“I’m thankful we made it through the past 20 months relatively unscathed and not to have gone through this alone. Without Karen and our dogs, Tosh and Jango, I probably would have gone nuts. I’m thankful our families are healthy and we are too. I’m thankful our friends are fun, generous and caring. I’m thankful for music, art, books, newspapers, magazines, movies and sports. I’m thankful that we have concerts, travel, and cultural events of all kinds to look forward to. I’m thankful we work for organizations run by the best kind of human beings who look out for our best interests. I’m thankful for our co-workers, clients and volunteers. I’m thankful for meaningful volunteer work that connects me with wonderful people and sustains my creative juices. Lastly, I’m thankful I never joined Facebook.”

Ted Weiner
Music Director

“I am thankful for the Fall colors and the falling leaves that cover my car and interfere with my windshield wipers. It reminds me that life isn’t always so convenient just because it is beautiful.

I am thankful for being so lucky to work with the best group of people in all the 35 years I have been with WDAV and Davidson College.

Most of all, I am thankful for my good health and that of my two grown daughters, as well as my elderly siblings. Health… the most important thing. Without it, everything is just plain… doo-doo.”

Kendra Intihar
Assistant General Manager & Director of Community Outreach

“Over the course of the past year, many people I love have experienced profound losses. For better or for worse, this has made me unusually reflective about all the things in my life I’m grateful for. In 2021, I made a promise to myself to be intentional about noticing little bits of joy in ordinary places. Here are a few little things I’m grateful for this year:

  • the scented candle aisle at TJ Maxx
  • the sound of my toddler quietly singing the ABC’s to lull himself to sleep at night
  • mismatched linens
  • the way pothos and potato vines don’t apologize for the beautiful way they take up space
  • late night philosophical and theological conversations with my husband
  • independent coffee and book shops
  • getting random middle-of the day texts from my teenager
  • hammock chairs
  • the church bells across the woods from my house
  • the fact that my larger-than-life eight year old isn’t yet “too old” to ask me for a snuggle
  • re-reading the books my grandfather once read and finding his notes in the margins
  • Nutella
  • weekly lunch dates with my mother… and her hugs
  • the back porch at our house (pictured)
  • sentimental stories

Of course, I could keep this list going for hours. I’ll sum up, though, by saying that, as always, I’m so very thankful for my incredible colleagues here at WDAV. They are the smartest, kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and they have topped my ‘thankful things’ list every year since I began working here in 2013.”