Christmas greetings with music and puzzles

12/25/2010 – We wish all our readers and friends, all over the world, a Merry Christmas 2010, wherever they are and in whatever language they speak. The greetings are sent to you from snow-covered Hamburg, in the north of Europe frozen to a standstill, with thousands stranded at airports and train stations, trying desperately to get to their loved ones. Here is something to cheer them up.

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Christmas surprises

The "Hallelujah" chorus by George Frideric Handel, composed in London during the summer of 1741, is one of the most beautiful and popular works in the Western choral literature. Although the work was conceived for secular theatre it was, like almost all music at the time, religiously inspired. Today you can hear it everywhere during the Christmas season The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic has performed it for 157 years in succession, and the Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas, at least once every year for the past 130 years. The oratorio premiered in Dublin, Ireland, on 13 April 1742. On a trip there we found the following original scoresheet in the Christ Church Cathedral.

The above video, which you will notice has been watched by over 25 million visitors, reminds me (Frederic Friedel) of something that happened many years ago – during a Kasparov match and before the age of pocket video cameras and YouTube unfortunately.

I was strolling with my wife around Covent Gardens in London, where there are a number of open-air cafés. We were approached by an inconspicuous young woman in jeans and t-shirt, a student type, who held a hat towards me. I smiled and said “What for?”. She smiled back and did not reply. I followed up with “If you want money from me I need to know what it is for.” In the background there was a music box playing some classical strains. She kept smiling and holding the hat.

Suddenly, cued by the music, she started to sing Carmen’s Habanera, from two feet away, in a breath-taking rich contralto. I believe there is still a puddle in Covent Gardens from the partially melted Fred. I gave her all the money I had, plus my watch, fountain pen and cuff links. She was part of an operatic students group and had given me the most intense musical experience of my life. To get an impression of what it was like watch the following video and imagine Angela Gheorghiu in jeans and a t-shirt, standing in conversational distance from you.

Well, after this interlude on to our yearly Christmas puzzles, for which a lot of readers have been clamouring.

This year the puzzles have been selected and will be presented by the world problem solving champion Dr John Nunn, who will each day between Christmas and New Year show us a variety of challenges, with no two installments being of exactly the same type. There will also be some very nice prizes, which will be announced during the course of the week. Here are the links you will need:


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