Like many children I looked forward to the arrival of winter and to happily spend time out in the snow and cold. One year, I directed the snow-plow operator to pile up collected snow in front of my house with the intent of building a snow fort that I had longed for even before the very first flake. As soon as the snow plow left, I threw myself into sculpting my way through with help of an adult cousin who happened to drop by. He was jauntily dressed for an afternoon out on the town in his favorite double breasted jacket with brass buttons, a turtle neck, and snaffle horse-bit adorned loafers. He assisted shoveling the entry way to the fort, and I continued where he left off, to hollow the center. I used some snow to shape seats and added a sky-light for ventilation and auxiliary exit. In the process of construction, my sister and my friends joined in on the fun. We took breaks when our clothes became wet and we gladly swapped snow encrusted colorful knit gloves for instant hot chocolate. We headed back out once warmed up and dried out. Ah, the wonder of childhood, fully living in the present without care…
Now, I’m far from the child who unsentimentally got the snow out of her boots and carried on. I might be hard pressed to get out of bed as I just don’t like winter anymore. This is hardly a practical solution in New England as one does need to get up and going. Indeed it’s a pity we aren’t hibernating animals. We have to go to work, tend to children and catch a train or maybe even a plane. The necessary outdoor wear and heated carseats gratefully keep us warm. The occasional authentic hot chocolate may brighten one’s day, as the instant powdered stuff no longer has any appeal. But how can we get out the door with the same perkiness we do on a warm sunny day? I can’t be the only one out there with these sentiments.
While not a practical solution, one thought is just to escape and stay at an elegantly decorated hotel in an exotic sunny and warm location with a bedroom of cool and crisp white bed linens contrasted by dark woods and the turquoise blue of the water just a splash away. Just the water alone would be enough to lure one up and out of bed. Yet, what can one do in the midst of a Northeast winter?
Listening to classical music is my solution and with that I decided to reach out to classical concert pianist Frederic Chiu for his advice on a winter playlist. Layers of blankets may keep us comfortably tucked in but music takes us throughout our day. Sound changes the space instantly. Music can motivate us, comfort us and encourage the fortitude necessary to carry on.
Frederic started his career in Europe after his studies at Juilliard School in New York and École Normale de Musique de Paris. He tours extensively and performs across the world in preeminent venues such as Lincoln Center, in New York, The Kennedy Center, in Washington, The Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, and at the Mozarteum in Buenos Aires.
Frederic has released over twenty-seven recordings, including works of Prokofiev, Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rossini, Grieg, and Beethoven. He is a regular and favorite on Public Radio across the United States, on such shows as Saint Paul Sunday and Performance Today.
Frederic Chiu and his wife Jeanine Esposito founded Beechwood Art and Innovation in Westport, Connecticut, with an emphasis on the convergence of art, innovation and, transformation. Fittingly, they have a three hundred year old Copper Beech tree in front of their home. Frederic shared a little bit of the folklore of this tree and its association with mythology. It symbolizes ancient knowledge - specifically written knowledge and tradition that is passed down through time and exists deep inside all of us to help us see ways toward the future.
“Music is a great way to pass the seemingly long stretches of time in winter. Music IS time.” (Frederic Chiu)
This playlist is classically - oriented. After all, it is the optimum music for one’s brain. This is a very international playlist for your busy routine. Along with his suggestions, he has shared his beverage of choice and some reading to end the evening.
Waking up, some great rhythmic energy and drive:
Prokofiev’s Piano Music - Romeo and Juliet Opus 75 number 1 Folk Dance
Rossini - Péchés de vieillesse - Un reveil en sursaut
Didier Riey - The Triplets of Belleville
Drink: Fruit smoothie with a banana, frozen pineapple, frozen peaches, greek yogurt and apple cider*
For working, steady and slowly evolving:
Philip Glass – Metamorphoses Five
Gurdjieff/De Hartmann – Sayyid Chants and Dances
A new release of Frederic’s on his CD Hymns & Dervishes
Drink: Korean Ginseng crystal tea
For reconnecting when coming home and preparing meals:
Debussy – Images and Estampes
Gao Ping - Soviet Love Song “Katyusha”
Drink: Frederic suggests to pair this music with a light and colorful match - a crisp Sauvignon
For a Romantic evening by the fire:
Schubert – Schwanengesang, either Hans Hotter singing or the piano transcriptions by Liszt
Schubert – Lebenstürme D. 947 for piano 4 hands
Drink: Hot apple grog with dark rum
To cap the day – a little reading to feed the dream mind:
George Saunders: Pastoralia
Nicholson Baker: The Fermata
Drink: Chamomile-Lemon Grass Tea with honey or a nip of St Germaine Elderflower liqueur.
In some ways the hardship of winter was my metaphor for this article. I wanted to address the futility we feel when we lose hope. Music enhances all of our lives and quite possibly Frederic Chiu’s play list will bring you some personal joy. The Arts at large not only bring us pleasure but also offers us direction. When we take time to quiet our minds, perhaps the wisdom deep inside will come to the surface and offer us ideas for a better tomorrow.