Admittedly, I've become a bit jaded when it comes to holiday-themed music. I have, after all, spent every early December listening intently to and reviewing the latest of such releases for the past 11 years, and it doesn't get any easier. But usually, there's at least one stunning new addition to the Christmas music canon each year. In 2004 it's Kitka's Wintersongs (Diaphonica).
Composed of eight uncommonly gifted singers, Kitka capture the tradition, intrigue and spirituality of music of Eastern European origin that commemorates the Christmas season and, in the case of the melodies that predate Christianity, the corresponding winter solstice. Far removed from the mind-numbing holiday music courtesy of Bing Crosby and every other long-dead crooner and contemporary country music artist known to mankind, Kitka's Macedonian-based music aims straight for the soul and hits its mark without exception. Consisting of ancient village chants to eerily complex harmonic arrangements, the group's repertoire sounds timeless with a unique urgency. Accompaniment is generally sparse and rooted in traditional Slavic instrumentation, affording the music with a calm that's synonymous with winters that are long, dark and cold.
Kitka, while reliant mostly on the rich harmonies and harmonic overtones created by the unison of human voices, are far from your average chorale. With their minor-key musings and complex polyrhythms, they're able to convey lush joy and deep reverence in ways you never thought possible.
Albuquerque is one of just eight cities blessed with the opportunity to host Kitka on their 2004 American tour. Make this holiday season truly one to remember.
Kitka perform Friday, Dec. 17, at Popejoy Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29, $26 and $19. Call 925-5858 for reservations.