There is nothing better than live holiday music, especially when the concert is right in the center of Middleburg and it’s Christmas time. The Middleburg Concert Series will present Home for Christmas, on Sunday December 18th at 4 PM at Middleburg Methodist Church. The program will feature the prominent tenor Michael Forest, soprano Aime Sposato, pianist Dudley Oakes, and organist Steven Cooksey. In addition, local favorites Alan Saucedo, Cynthia Saucedo, and Karen Chase will be in the program. Expect some of your favorite Christmas tunes, along with some fine Christmas classical pieces. I have become a big fan of the Concert Series thanks to the great variety of music they bring to the community four times a year. I was blown away by the Latin American show earlier in the Fall, and got to see one of my mandolins played like I could never play it. The program is free, and donations will be accepted to help support more great concerts like this one.
I have a few suggestions for musical gifts this Christmas, including some music and equipment to help you enjoy your music better.
Zonkey, Umphrey’s McGee—A mashup is a blending of multiple songs to create a new composition. Umphrey’s McGee just released Zonkey, and it is a great gift for the music lover in the family. The band has played mashups at their live shows for years now, but this time Zonkey has them in the studio crafting twelve new songs that you have probably heard before, except you haven’t. Take Life During Exodus, which combines four tunes, Life During Wartime (Talking Heads) + Exodus (Bob Marley) + City of Tiny Lites (Frank Zappa) + 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago)—the result is a perfect fusion of the best of all four songs. When I need to really wake up, I play Sad Clint Eastwood, which mashes up the Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood and Metallica’s Sad but True.
Get it at ITunes, or from UMlive.net and enjoy \mm/ .
Acoustic Christmas, David Grisman—Released in 1983, Acoustic Christmas is my favorite Christmas Album. It features some awesome arrangements of the classics, combined with a great lineup of musicians, including Bela Fleck, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Rob Wasserman, and the Dawg—David Grisman, whose mandolin anchors every tune. You will love this record. Get it on Itunes, or order from the Acoustic Disc website at www.dawgnet.com.
Schiit Modi II DAC ($99) — Despite it’s unfortunate brand name, the Schiit DAC is your best bet to better fidelity off your computer. I use my Modi II to interface my Imac with an Onkyo receiver and some good studio monitor speakers. The result is the audio richness of analog with the convenience of digital music. The Modi II simply makes all music sound better, and for $99, the price is right. Check it out at schiit.com.
Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones ($149) Now that the IPhone 7 has been released without an audio port, it is a sign that Bluetooth earphones will soon be the new norm. There are tons of headphones out there, many not meeting my requirements for quality and excellent sound. The Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones simply offer the very best sound and great battery life without the annoyance of tangled wires. They come with a case and a retainer lanyard. Get them at Amazon or your favorite audio store.
Streaming Services ($11.99 or so/month) Consider the gift of streaming music. There are lots of streaming services out there today, including the big boys like Spotify, Apple, and Amazon, and more boutique services like nugs.net. It really is cool that you can access in an instant pretty much any song or album you would like to listen to for a little more than ten bucks a month. We’ll be on road trips and talk about a favorite old album and immediately bring it up and listen to it. Thirty years ago you could not even conceive this. While Apple Music has a slightly bigger range of music than the other services, including one of my favorite labels, ECM, I am still sticking with Spotify and recommend it now. I like Spotify’s easy to use interface, which is intuitive and looks good, and am fully satisfied with the huge selection of tunes. Amazon Music is pretty new, and I just got a free 30 days to check it out, but my first impression is it is a copy of Spotify except they are trying to pair it with their superfluous gadget, the Amazon Echo.
This month’s playlist is a Holiday a mix of 50 tunes, get it here: http://spoti.fi/2gDPifE. From Unison, I wish you the very best holiday season.