The Paul Winter Consort has brought the world to New York City for thirty-two years. His legendary concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine combine jazz with influences from cultures around the world and a love of the planet that incorporates wolf howls, cellos that make whale sounds and a huge world globe that descends to the stage.
But what kind of music is it? The greats are said to create their own genre, and that is what Paul Winter has done. He started out as a jazz musician, but cobbled together a sound that features cellos, guitars, horns and exotic percussion to create his own world of music. The experience of listening to the Paul Winter Consort is probably what most people seek when they turn to classical music–intelligent, thoughtful, even introspective at times, but with a warmth and humanity that comes from Winter’s unabashed love of people and the planet.
The result has been six Grammy awards and accolades from the United Nations for his ability to cross cultures and unite influences from around the world.
The Paul Winter Consort has played his winter and summer solstice concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for thirty-two years, making him a son of New York while being a world citizen. In a recent interview with this Examiner, he revealed that he initially turned down the request to play the cathedral several times, feeling he needed bigger music to fill the cavernous space.
Thirty-two years later, he is something of an institution. Yet despite his worldwide recognition and awards, he routinely walks down off the stage and mills with the crowd during intermissions. The audience improvises a polite line, and people simply chat with him.
That sums up his music: huge but intimate. This article is an introduction to what will be a series of articles on Paul Winter, based on an interview with him and a thirty-year retrospective of his work. To put it simply, if you don’t know about the Paul Winter Consort, you are missing an essential contribution to the vitality of modern music.
The series begins shortly with the Paul Winter interview. Expect to laugh, love and wonder. Talking with Winter is a gentle, enlightening experience that grows you as a human being. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of speaking to him, he will gladly speak to you–with his saxophone. Begin listening here, and come with me on a journey through a series of profiles of this unique man and his music that has traveled world cultures but always comes home to New York.