How do you reconcile holiday cheer, societal anger and consumer frenzy? I’m not sure.
December serves up a murky platter of expectations, larded with real-time events that are difficult to understand let alone absorb. How can one stroll downtown on Noel Night or go to a holiday concert without profound misgivings?
This particular winter demonstrates what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. We’ve already imbibed a particularly deadly cocktail: one part religious fervor, two parts confusion, five parts fake cheer, six parts anger and 10 parts devout capitalism.
I’m dizzy already.
Wandering into holiday events, I try to focus on the matter or music at hand. Meanwhile, I’m juggling all the other ghosts in the air, not unlike Scrooge in his Christmas Eve delirium.
Last week, I was in Denver for personal reasons and to see major art exhibits and theater. Protests over events in Ferguson and Staten Island took place in the streets. News came out about the death of the American hostage, Luke Somers, in Yemen. Many people I talked with commented on their conflicting emotions in the midst of forced holiday cheerfulness.
At the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, I attended a spectacular production of “A Christmas Carol.” The Dickens classic, on which this new interpretation is based, has its share of societal ills – poverty, cruelty, illness and death. But, of course, everything comes right after the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future take Scrooge on a reflective nighttime journey. When he wakes up, the world is a better place.
On Dec. 25 or 26, I don’t think Americans will wake up thinking events in Missouri, New York or the Middle East have been resolved. Nor will we recover instantly from the madness compulsive shopping injects into our happy-face consumer society.
With that in mind, I also visited the Denver Art Museum to see “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century.” I anticipated being overwhelmed by luxury goods and a tale of the human pursuit – not of happiness – but status.
I got all of that and far more. In fact, embedded in this huge exhibition of 250 objects is the story of a business that has survived multiple wars, global depression and changing social values. The quest for status was illustrated through photographs, films and documents that provided a historical context for human desire. In short, “Brilliant” was beautiful and smart.
When I got back to Durango on Friday night, I hurriedly went to the Fort Lewis College Holiday Concert. Four choirs, the symphonic band and the string orchestra mixed sacred music and some standard holiday tunes with tongue-in-cheek fare like “A Christmas Can-Can.” Director Charissa Chiaravalloti added one totally unrelated work: Sydney Guillaume’s “Twa Tanbou,” an energetic, highly complex Haitian composition. The choir had been struggling to master it since September, and it was finally performance ready.
I’m not sure how we reconcile the big issues, but music gets us through the night.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, art historian and arts journalist.