December 7th, 2020

The New Yorker

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Andrew Bird’s Cozy Melancholy

The singer-songwriter-whistler-violinist adapts his “Gezelligheid” holiday concerts for the pandemic age.

For the past several holiday seasons, Andrew Bird, the warmly tuneful singer-songwriter-whistler-violinist, has performed a concert series called “Gezelligheid”—meaning “coziness,” or kind of a Dutch hygge—often at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The holiday concerts are “about creating an atmosphere,” Bird said recently. “That’s what seasonal music is to me—how do we get through the dark, cold months?” The Gothic Revival church is made cozier by Bird’s stagecraft, including colored lights and a mesmerizing red-and-white contraption: a two-headed rotating speaker called a Janus Spinning Horn, made by the Chicago luthier Ian Schneller. “It’s like a cross between a flower and a Victrola horn,” Bird said, on a Zoom from a sunny hilltop in Ojai, California. This holiday season, he and his family are staying put in California, and, on December 13th, he will live-stream “Gezelligheid” from Ojai. “I’m going to string up some café lights and do it at sunset,” he said. Otherwise, “it’s probably exactly what you’re looking at”: Oriental rug, Janus Spinning Horn, oak tree, orange groves, Topatopa Mountains. As Bird picked up his violin to play, the Janus Horn began to spin, like an amaryllis sending out an alarm signal.


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