A snowy neighborhood street with bare trees and glowing streetlights.

WSF’s Winter Playlist 2021

A year ago we posted a Holiday Playlist (still available!), six months ago, a Summer Solstice Playlist. Here is our WSF Winter Playlist, 18 winter-brightening songs and performances.

Song #1

Tori Amos, “Winter,” from her debut studio album, Little Earthquakes (1992). The first line: “Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens.”


Song #2

Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, co-wrote and performed “Winter Song.” It appeared on the 2008 album, with songs by many women, The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs. The first lines: “This is my winter song to you. The storm is coming soon.”


Song #3

Patricia Barber, “Winter,” from the 1998 album, Modern Cool. First lines: “Downright tired in this winter white, though my best sleep is dressed in black.”


Song #4

Judith Bingham, “The Darkness Is No Darkness,” a fantasy for four-voice choir on Wesley’s “Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace,” performed by voces8, on their album Winter(2016). First lines: “The darkness is no darkness with Thee, But the night is as clear as the day.”


Song #5

Margaret Bonds, “Of the Three Wise Men,” The Ballad of the Brown King, no. 1 (1954). Words by Langston Hughes written for Margaret Bonds. Recorded by The Dessoff Choirs (2019). First lines: “Of the three wise men Who came to the King, / One was a brown man, So they sing.”


Song #6

Nadia Boulanger, “Soir d’hiver (1914-1915)” (Winter Evening), from 1916. Performed by Melinda Paulsen, mezzo-soprano, and Angela Gassenhuber, piano. A woman waits for her husband to come home from the First World War. Translation of the first lines: “A young woman rocks her child. / She’s alone, she weeps, but she sings.”


Song #7

Ina Boyle, “Winter Song,” from Three Ancient Irish Poems, no. 3 (1958). Words translated from the Irish by Kuno Meyer. Performed by Anaïs Bertrand, mezzo-soprano, Léa Hennino, viola, and Constance Luzzati, harp. First lines: “My tidings for you; the stag bells, Winter snows, summer is gone.”


Song #8

Kate Bush, “December Will Be Magic Again,” recorded in 1979, released in 1980. First lines: “December will be magic again. Take a husky to the ice.”


Song #9

Muriel Herbert,“Most Holy Night” (1926), with words by Hilaire Belloc. Performed by James Gilchrist, tenor, and David Owen Norris, piano. First lines: “Most Holy Night, that still dost keep / The keys of all the doors of sleep.”


Song #10

Thea Musgrave, “I Am My Mammy’s Ae Bairn,” from Songs for a Winter’s Evening, no. 1. Words by Robert Burns. Performed by Lisa Milne, soprano, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Osmo Vänskä. The first lines: “I am my mammy’s ae bairn, Wi’ unco folk I weary.”


Song #11

Yoko Ono, “Walking on Thin Ice” (1981). She and John Lennon finished recording this song on the evening of 8 December 1980, a few hours before he was murdered. As he was shot, he was holding the master tape of this song. First lines: “Walking on thin ice / I’m paying the price.”


Song #12

Yshani Perinpanayagam, “In Bethlehem Above” (2020). Written for four voices, it is sung by Siglo de Oro, directed by Patrick Allies.


Song #13

Florence Price, “Song for Snow” (1957), words by Elizabeth Coatsworth. This was recorded in 2010 by VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, conductor, Philip Brunelle. First line: “The earth is lighter than the sky, the world is wilder than in spring.”


Song #14

Franz Schubert, “Der Lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree), Winterreise, no. 5. Performed by Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano. This cycle has most often been performed by men. First lines: “By the well, before the gate, stands a linden tree.”


Song #15

Nina Simone, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (1969). A song by Sandy Denny, that has also been recorded by Judy Collins, Nana Mouskouri, Barbara Dickson, Sinéad O’Connor, and Eva Cassidy, among many others. First lines: “Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving / But how can they know it’s time for them to go?”


Song #16

Irma Thomas, “Two Winters Long” (1962). From the Queen of New Orleans Soul, one of her earliest records. The first lines: “You know it’s been so long, since you been gone. I waited till I got tired.”


Song #17

Finally, to honor Stephen Sondheim (d. 26 Nov. 2021), we include two performances of “Send in the Clowns,” from A Little Night Music (1973), with words by Hugh Wheeler. Since Glynnis Johns first sang it, this song has been recorded by more than 100 women, including Shirley Bassey, Rosemary Clooney, Grace Jones, Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters, and Cleo Lane. The first we offer is one of many performances available by Judi Dench, from the 1998 Royal Charity Gala Concert, Hey, Mr. Producer!


Song #18

With a very different interpretation, here is Sarah Vaughan, taped from a BBC4 program, Saturday Night at the Mill, that aired during the show’s final season in 1981.


The banner photo is by Peter Mercer-Taylor and is of Folwell Avenue in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. It was taken on 15 Dec. 2021.

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