Today, Radio Riel features the “A Winter’s Solstice” series from Windham Hill Records. The Windham Hill label started small when it began twenty-five years ago. This label represented music that crossed many instrumental genres such as folk, classical and jazz, and eventually came to be known as “New Age” music. The label really took off with the “A Winter’s Solstice” series and began to achieve extraordinary sales that culminated with the series going platinum.
Windham Hill released the first album in the series in 1985. It mixes folk, classical, and jazz into a unique and relaxing holiday blend. It has a very “acoustic” flavor, concentrating on solo instruments and small ensembles. The use of rare instruments, such as harp, harpsichord and oboe, and of non-traditional songs make this album a welcome change from the same old holiday songs that you hear year in and year out. Each song on the album is an instrumental. This album was so successful that it eventually inspired the five sequel recordings, as well as a reunion album.
Windham Hill realized it had a huge success with the first “Winter’s Solstice” album. They decided to continue a good thing with the release of “A Winter’s Solstice II” in 1988. This album is very similar to the first one with its use of acoustic, instrumental recordings. The songs range from modern to medieval, and again are not the same trite holiday tunes that everyone constantly plays. This album also contains several Celtic tunes, which were not as big then as they are today.
Windham Hill released the third album in 1990, the fourth in 1993, the fifth in 1995 and the sixth in 1997. One distinct change that one finds with these albums is that they contain some of the more traditionally known holiday songs, such as “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Veni Emmanuel”, “Carol of the Bells” and “Silent Night”. The albums also make a departure from the previous albums and contain songs with lyrics and vocalists. Even with these changes, the albums still retain their eclectic sound and personal feeling.
After so many successful releases in the series, Windham Hill decided that it was time to end the run. There is an “A Winter’s Solstice Reunion” album that reunites many of the artists from the series reprising their songs. Windham Hill was no longer a small upstart label and they turned their attention to building new series, such as “The Carols of Christmas” collection. However, the “A Winter’s Solstice” series will always be the one that started it all.
Radio Riel produces this program in conjunction with the Caledon Library in Second Life. Today’s music originates from the music library of Gabrielle Riel.
For more information on the Caledon Library, current exhibits and the work of Second Life reference libraries in general, please visit the Caledon Library Web site, or one of their locations in-world.
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