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Programming Notes: December 2015

A time of endings and beginnings

Alright folks, it’s time to take out your twinkle lights, menorahs, and awful (yet hilarious) holiday sweaters, because do we have a month filled with specials to get you into the holiday spirit.

We’re kicking off our awesome line-up on Monday, December 7th at 11AM with Hanukkah Lights. This perennial NPR favorite features Hanukkah stories and memoirs written by Kathryn Blume, Leah Lax, Eric Kimmel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Jonathan SafranFoer as read by NPR's Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz. Then on Tuesday, December 8th at 11AM, we have another celebration of Hanukah, with an exploration of Hanukah foods and traditional activities, and plenty of music on the special Candles Burning Brightly.

Later in the month, on Tuesday, December 22nd at 8PM we will air Paul Winter’s 35th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration. Celebrate the Return of the sun and the warming of the earth with an exuberant feast of sound captured live in the majestic Cathedral of St. John the Divine. WNYC's John Schaefer hosts this all new performance, featuring the Paul Winter Consort with Paul McCandless, gospel singer Theresa Thomason, Danny Rivera --the "National Voice of Puerto Rico”, and Abdel Salaam's Forces of Nature percussion and dance ensemble.

The specials keep on coming on December 24th. At 9AM we’ll hear, Breaking Ground: Lower Income, Higher Ed. College is seen as one of the most important ways for young people to break the cycle of poverty. In 2012, young adults with a bachelor's degree earned 57 percent more than young adult high school grads. In the past few years, the Obama administration, private foundations and education reformers have focused on helping low-income children apply to college and receive financial aid. This, however, is only half the story. Research shows only one in four of these students actually graduate from college. Usually they drop out in their freshmen year. That was the case for Christopher Feaster, a Washington, D.C. teen who graduated near the top of his class despite being homeless. In this latest Breaking Ground documentary, we’ll introduce you to Christopher, explore how his story reflects the broader challenges facing low-income students, and consider potential solutions to the nation’s dismal college completion rates for its most vulnerable students. 

Returning to the holiday festivities, at 10AM, we’ll enjoy the perennial 2-hour live performance of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Hosted by Michael Barone, this live service of spoken-word and music (choral and organ) is broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England.

Noon will bring your daily dose of news from our award winning News Department on Midday Magazine, and that’s followed by Festivo Alt.Latino With Gaby Moreno & Friends at 1PM. Alt.Latino continues its homegrown tradition of celebrating the holidays in song with a special show featuring songwriter/performer Gaby Moreno and her band performing tracks from her popular 2014 album Posada.

Rounding out Christmas Eve day, at 2PM, join Michael Feinstein for an hour of yuletide cheer and music on Song Travels: Home for the Holidays. This edition of Song Travels journeys from Hollywood's vintage silver screen to New York City's iconic Birdland club.

On Christmas Day we have some of our favorite programs and some new ones that will tantalize your taste buds as much as your grandmother’s pecan pie. At 9AM we’ll welcome Christmas with Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs, followed by the two-hour St. Olaf Christmas Festival at 10AM. Noon will bring back our crack team of reporters on Midday Magazine, and The Moth Radio Hour at 1PM. Then closing out our day of specials is Jazz Piano Christmas XXVI, where NPR Music brings you another great concert from Kennedy Center. Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch, and Carmen Staaf perform their favorite holiday songs in this program hosted by Felix Contreras.

Continuing our month of holiday specials, on December 28th at 11AM, we’ll celebrate Kwanzaa with A Season’s Griot. Hosted for nearly 20 years by acclaimed storyteller Madafo Lloyd Wilson, this annual special captures the tales and traditions of African American and African peoples. 

Then celebrate the New Year with us, on Toast of the Nation. Beginning at 9PM on Dec 31st, and all through the night until 5AM January 1st, Toast of the Nation is the perfect audio complement for the occasion. It's jazz that you can party to, all night long with countdowns to midnight in all four continental time zones. Spirited, improvised, grooving and swinging, each segment is a stop in a sequence of celebrations, contributing something new to the musical feast.

After Morning Edition, at 9AM we’ll get a dose of comedy on New Year’s with the PSO. Often compared to Victor Borge and Dudley Moore, Igudesman and Joo are two classical musicians who have taken the world by storm with their unique and hilarious sketches in theatrical shows. Now, they join Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for a whirlwind concert of humor and virtuosity.

11AM we’re live with New Year's Day From Vienna. The Vienna Philharmonic presents its ever popular annual New Year's Day concert from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. You'll hear your favorite waltzes, polkas and more -- a festive way to start off the New Year. It's presented by NPR Music and hosted by WBUR's Lisa Mullins.

Because of the live broadcast, Midday Magazine will begin at 1PM.

Bringing a close to all of our specials, at 2PM our favorite satirists return with The Capitol Steps. It's the Capitol Steps annual year in review special, Politics Takes a Holiday! All your favorite candidates will be there, and some will be emailing about it for years afterwards on their private server. Join Hillary, Bernie, the Donald, Jeb, Marco, Carly, and more Republican candidates than you can shake a stick at!

So, may you enjoy the shows we have lined up for you this month, have a wonderful holiday season, and survive your family gatherings.