By Madison Lotenschtein
It’s official: The most wonderful, stressful, and happiest time of the year has enveloped the general public. For avid music listeners, the bright red bow atop the holiday season is the release of shiny new Christmas albums. Lindsey Stirling released her first Christmas album, Warmer in the Winter, in October, and she will bring her tour to the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids tonight.
Over the past few years, the violinist has generated a whirlwind of pop/classical music that perks up ears of all ages. The title itself brings meaning to the holiday spirit, because the holidays are a time to be with the people you love with hearts that are lightened and warmed among family and friends.
Along with three of her original songs, Stirling incorporated her unique twist on the classic Christmas carols. Stirling has long written her own music, but she is very collaborative in the production of her albums as well.
“To me, a song has so many different forms of life,” Stirling said. “What’s it going to say? What’s it going to make you feel? What will it look like on stage? I get to fall in love with the music.”
Unlike a Christmas album, a fully original album takes eight to 10 months to produce. Having produced the album in four months, Stirling’s ideas and music sprung to life in nearly a heartbeat. The performance is a very theatrical experience and contains occasional costume changes.
A past Stirling show would have consisted of rocker looks from right to left, but the Warmer in the Winter tour scrapes off that edge, making the performance a little softer.
Stirling has mastered producing a quality sound from the four-string instrument. Because there are no frets on the violin, the beginning years in learning to play are difficult for most musicians. Playing in tune and creating the crystalline soaring of the violin are challenges in themselves. With such a lovely sound, most would say that the years of practice are worth it.
“The violin really is a beautiful instrument,” said Elizabeth Oakes, a UI professor of string chamber music. “I think people are drawn to its singing quality and the many colors and sounds it can make. Louisa May Alcott described the violin as ‘the most human of all instruments.’ ”
Violin, an instrument that has been associated by some as only “a classical music” instrument, has been played outside that box for many decades, if not hundreds of years. Stirling practiced on classical music but eventually became bored with it and began writing music similar to the music she listened to.
“Musicians in the 21st century are addressing many issues in order to attract larger audiences and make a living,” UI viola Professor Christine Rutledge-Russell said. “This has forced all of us to look at what we do in many challenging and creative ways, which I think is great for music. What Lindsey and other musicians like her are doing is thinking outside of the box and making music at a high level that is accessible and entertaining.”