There was a tremendous amount of rain in our area over New Year’s weekend. That being said, we can probably relate to the ideas expressed in Sunday’s prelude music, Largo from Winter, by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). As you may know, Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons) is a collection of four violin concerti that, together, depict the seasons of the year. Each concerto has a matching poem of anonymous origin, and many believe Vivaldi himself wrote them to go with his music. Because of this, The Four Seasons is one of the first examples of “program music” in the strict sense. To say a piece of music is programmatic is to say that it is designed to evoke an extra-musical experience or tell a story. A prime example of program music is the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. While program music is often very popular with audiences, it is sometimes seen by musicians as inferior to more “serious” musical forms. However, Vivaldi’s music is so well written that it does not suffer diminishment from programmatic context (personally, I find it delightful). Each poem is divided into three parts to mirror the three movements of each concerto. The text meant to illustrate this week’s prelude, found below, is humorous and fitting.
"Passar al foco i di quieti e contenti
Mentre la pioggia fuor bagna ben cento.”
(To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.)
The above passage may lead us to think of ourselves, here at Christ Church, warming ourselves in the light of the Gospel while others pass by outside, drenched with the gloom of the daily grind. Perhaps, in its context as prelude this week, Largo from Winter is encouraging us to be grateful for the warmth and love within our church and for the encounters we have here. Perhaps it also bids us to go out and tell others about the joy and beauty we experience every week. No matter how you choose to think about this Sunday’s prelude, it gives us a comfortable sound-space in which to appreciate the gifts of our cathedral and the gift of the season after the Epiphany. Stay dry.