Boston's Chorus Pro Musica under the baton of new artistic director Jamie Kirsch recently commissioned a new work for their 2014-15 season for December 19th at Old South Church, Boston. I am honored to write for this stellar choir with a great history under talented new leadership. I have always been drawn to early American history and Boston, in particular, so I chuckled at the thought of "Puritan Christmas," seeing as early Boston was particularly adverse to holidays, and Christmas, it seemed, was particularly despised. Indeed, the Pilgrims spent their first Christmas building their first civic structure and John Winthrop, the founder and first governor of the Commonwealth, generally declared it a day of fasting and prayer.
As I started to sort through the sordid underground Christmases of early America, I stumbled upon: The EXAMINATION and TRYAL of OLD Father CHRISTMAS, Together with his Clearing by the JURY, At the Assizes held at the Town of Difference, in the County of Discontent by Josiah King (great title!). Granted this is a British text, it successfully pokes fun at the Puritans while emphasizing that, although Christmas is often a time of excess, it is also a time to think of others, cherish your neighbor, and hope for peace both near and afar.