Listen at Christmas: Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss

One of the twin churches of Wexford, Ireland

The Wexford carol dates from the 12th century; this Wexford church from the 19th. The one is probably sung in the other, regardless of the age difference.

Through a strange confluence of circumstances (involving the un-reschedulable vacation reservations of the parents of a co-worker of mine intersecting with our unique ability to drop everything and pack), El Guapo and I have ended up with a few days at a posh resort in Park City. Any one of my sisters living nearby could have gotten more needed R&R out of a getaway like this–they’ve got more kids at home and/or heavier work responsibilities right now–but for precisely those reasons they were, of course, unable to get away. Isn’t that how things so often turn out?

The first night here* I found myself waking often, squinting at the fluzzery numbers on the bedside clock and seeing that the hour had not advanced much from the last time I had looked. During those brief periods of wakefulness, there was always a soundtrack in my head–a tricky section from the choral arrangement of the Wexford Carol that we’re performing next Sunday.

Current sleep research indicates that sleep plays a critical role in consolidating learning and memory formation, but as I woke each time to this music in my head, it didn’t feel like I was witnessing the tidy filing away of something I had learned. It felt instead like I was walking in on a rehearsal in progress: “Okay, let’s hear it again from measure 64, and pay attention to the dynamics.”

All this is to say that the Wexford Carol has not only been on my mind but apparently in my dreams, so I bring you a recording of it here. It’s not the arrangement from my nocturnal mental rehearsals, but it features Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma, and I think you’ll enjoy it.


*I’ve read research about the effect of sleeping in unfamiliar settings. Apparently we have evolved to be vigilant in such circumstances, so the first night in a new place generally means a restless sleep. Animals, too, stay alert in unusual circumstances–I think I remember that ducks can sleep with one eye open. Picture a mallard with one eye peeled, in the middle of a king-size bed (the comforter is not actual down, so it wouldn’t have to be awkward).


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