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Paul Winter Consort Celebrates Summer Solstice 6/18

At this annual solstice ritual, the Paul Winter Consort celebrates the first sunrise of summer within the vast acoustics of the world's largest cathedral, New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Beginning in complete darkness, musicians surrounding the audience play continuously for two hours as the cathedral's stained-glass windows gradually illuminate to usher in the longest day of the year.

For its 16th annual performance, the Consort will premiere music from their Grammy-winning album Miho: Journey to the Mountain, inspired by the architecture, landscape and antiquities of I. M. Pei's Miho Museum in the Shigaraki Mountains near Kyoto, Japan.

Joining 7-time Grammy-winning soprano saxophonist Paul Winter are cellist Eugene Friesen; Armenian vocalist/percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan; Paul McCandless on oboe, English horn, and bass clarinet; Tibetan vocalist Yangjin Lamu; bansuri (Indian flute) master Steve Gorn; percussionist Glen Velez; Yukiko Matsuyama on koto; and Tim Brumfield on the Cathedral's pipe organ.

"Summer Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year, when the sun is at its peak and the days abound with the promise of life's fullness," Winter said. "It is a serenely powerful time in which the beauty of the natural world can infuse our spirit, bring us alive to the present, and perhaps awaken a deeper sense of relatedness to the community of life, to the Earth, and to the cosmos."

The Paul Winter Consort first performed Summer Solstice in 1994 as a counterpoint to its popular Winter Solstice concert series, which attracts 10,000 audience members and is broadcast on 300 National Public Radio stations each December. Just as these longest days of the year in June contrast to December's longest nights, the simplicity of this all-acoustic summer concert is the polar opposite of the highly theatrical winter concerts.

Winter welcomes this opportunity to present a more intimate and reflective musical journey, in which players and listeners alike can revel in the extraordinary acoustics of the Cathedral, with its 150-foot dome, 600-foot length and seven-second reverberation.

"My dream is to offer an experience of resonance, through a deep-listening journey in the mystical ambience of these early morning hours within this awesome space. By the end of the concert, there's a feeling shared among the audience and musicians that together, we have taken part in the dawning of summer," Winter said.

On the Miho album, Winter's clear sax is intertwined with taiko drums, bansuri flute, sarangi fiddle, birdcalls, waterfalls, and bells of the Miho. All serve to form a shifting, meditative image of paradise reflected in Japan's iconic Miho Museum and its collection of antiquities. World-renowned American architect I.M. Pei came out of retirement to design the museum, reached by a soundproofed tunnel meant to clear the mind and then by a graceful suspension bridge over a stunning gorge.

Immediately following the concert, the entire audience will be invited to a free tee and coffee reception in the nave of the Cathedral, during which members of the audience can meet each other along with the musicians.

"Our most profound event of the year."

The word solstice comes from Latin sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still). During winter solstice, the sun reaches it southernmost point from the equator and seems to pause before reversing its course; at summer solstice the sun attains its northernmost point and, once again, seems to stand still before turning back.

But while summer solstice offers perspective on the entire year, the sunrise concert also celebrates the importance of taking in each morning. Winter calls it, "our most profound event of the year."

"In early morning there's a sense of timelessness and possibility," Winter said. "When I'm awake in the darkness before dawn - as the birds begin to sing, and the Earth prepares for the Sun - I feel as if life is beginning again. There's something magical about that virgin time, when we're free of our habitual patterns and obligations. My dream of evoking this feeling in music was the original inspiration for Summer Solstice."

Winter has long regarded summer solstice as an auspicious opportunity for music-making. Over the past decade, these performances have yielded a body of acclaimed live recordings, including Winter's 1999 Grammy-winning album Celtic Solstice, with Davy Spillane, Karan Casey, Joanie Madden, and Eileen Ivers; and his Journey with the Sun, in 2001, which received a Grammy nomination for best world music album, featuring Mickey Hart, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Niamh Parsons, and Spillane.

Concert Details

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, Manhattan.

Tickets for this 4:30 a.m. concert Saturday, June 18 are $35 general admission available at or by calling (866) 811-4111.

Miho: Journey to the Mountain
"Extraordinary music. ... The Paul Winter Consort has created a classic."
- Stephen Hill, Hearts of Space

"Paul Winter's music pulsates with the earth's polyrhythmic heartbeat. Various incarnations of his Consort have been so in tune with the ground beneath their feet that this ensemble, in all its forms, has come to be the harbinger of the wellspring of all life. ... However, with the release of Miho: Journey to the Mountain, Winter may have exceeded himself in his unique musical expression."
- Raul d'Gama Rose, All About Jazz

Paul Winter
Paul Winter is a seven-time Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, whose jazz sextet was the first jazz group to perform at the White House, at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1962, his sextet toured Latin America as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department, playing 160 concerts in 23 countries. Hearing the songs of humpback whales for the first time in 1968 further expanded Winter's concept of a musical community.

The Paul Winter Consort's rich sound textures create music with a unique and alluring quality; sounds from the natural world are interwoven with classical and ethnic traditions, then infused with the spontaneous spirit of jazz. For 30 years, the Consort have been artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.

Paul Winter has performed in over 2,000 major concert halls, as well as Washington's National Cathedral, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the Grand Canyon, the Negev Desert in Israel and the palace of the Crown Prince of Japan. He has received a Global 500 Award from the United Nations, and the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award, among others.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Designed in 1888, construction of Cathedral of St. John the Divine begun four years later, and has continued through fires, vandalism and two World Wars. The mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, it was chartered to be a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. It is nearly two football fields in length and maintains one of the world's most renowned tapestry collections.

Photo Credit: Amy Shaughnessy

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