The weeks after Thanksgiving can be a dismal time for music lovers. Carols and other seasonal music come blaring from speakers in every department store and radio station like a scourge. Musicians put out holiday albums, and any good music out there seems to get buried under the commercial juggernaut that is Christmas.
It's too much, too early and threatens to turn even the cheeriest into a humbug.
But the lengthening shadows and shortening days of winter should be a boon for music.
There is a spirit to the season. Each year takes on significant baggage, and by December, the earth is cold, barren and in need of a fresh start.
Each year, the knowledge that a new beginning is around the corner comes bursting through the doom and gloom.
San Juan College's Concert Band filled the Little Theater with that spirit.
The concert began with a piece titled "Troika," from the "Lieutenant Kije Suite," by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. It set the mood perfectly.
Prokofiev's music today is performed around the world and renowned for its brazen edginess, a true creative accomplishment in the face of the repressive Soviet regime under which it was created.
The "Lieutenant Kije Suite," is not one of those risky pieces. It is an apology piece composed by Prokofiev to placate the communist party officials he angered through his music.
Although written as an apology, the piece is no less great.
"Troika," was written to illustrate a small sleigh, called a troika in Russian, rushing through the silent, snowbound birch forests.
The college's concert band captured the feeling of gliding through winter perfectly. Their playing was focused, unrushed and featured some standout performances in the flute and brass sections.
Among the concert's standout pieces was "Fantasia for a King, variations on "Good King Wenceslas,'" by Robert Thurston.
The piece featured some excellent playing from its french horns and low-end brass. Their rich, round playing filled the Little Theater with a sense of warmth.
"Fantasia for a King," also featured a wonderful oboe solo that hit all the instrument's strengths. When played poorly, the oboe sounds like a dying duck.
When played well, it is almost indescribably beautiful. On Friday evening, the oboe's lightly reedy, piercing, gentle and melancholic tones were the perfect contrast to the brass section's warmth.
But Friday evening did not just focus on alternatives to typical holiday music. Vocalist Lindsay Clark sang a medley of "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas," "Chestnut Roasting on an Open Fire," and "We Need A Little Christmas."
Clark's voice was a reminder that Christmas classics are not bad, it's how they are typically sung. She filled the theater with warmth and her voice lent the songs a touching sense of nostalgia.
Friday evening's "Spirit of the Season," was a reminder of how great holiday music can be, and a preview, perhaps, of what to expect from the Dec. 14 and 15 production of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah."