The Serenity Thread - For relaxation, positivity, inspiration, and joy
Positive News:

Consumption of green leafy vegetables slows cognitive decline

The primary nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables include vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol.

In a linear mixed model adjusted for age, sex, education, participation in cognitive activities, physical activities, smoking, and seafood and alcohol consumption, consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline; the decline rate for those in the highest quintile of intake (median 1.3 servings/d) was slower by β = 0.05 standardized units (p = 0.0001) or the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age. Higher intakes of each of the nutrients and bioactives except β-carotene were individually associated with slower cognitive decline.



"A Day That Shook The World – 17 December, 1903 – The Wright Brothers First Flight"

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright's first recorded flight was caught exclusively by British Pathé. News came through that two brothers had flown a curious air machine for more than a minute. To the skeptics, this footage proved that it was true.


John Doan – Where Horses Of Faery Hide


The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 7 – "Autumn Mountain"

Positive News:

Saga Vanecek, eight, finds 1,500-year-old sword in Swedish lake

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In Her Own Words:

Every summer, my parents, my six-year-old brother and I go to stay in a cabin by a lake called Vidöstern in Tånnö in southern Sweden, not far from where we live. I like to build sandcastles on the beach, or find rocks to skim across the water and see how many times I can make them bounce. Mamma says she used to play and swim in the lake when she was little, too.

On 15 July this year, I was playing on the beach with my friend, when Daddy told me to get a buoy from the cabin: he said the water level in the lake was very shallow and we had to warn any boats that might come along because it was dangerous. He said it had been the hottest summer for 260 years.

I waded into the water and it was very soft on my skin and refreshing, a little bit cool but not too cold. It was a nice feeling because the sun was shining and I was very hot. Daddy was begging me to rush so he could watch the World Cup final, but I like to take my time about things so I ignored him.

I was crawling along the bottom of the lake on my arms and knees, looking for stones to skim, when my hand and knee felt something long and hard buried in the clay and sand. I pulled it out and saw that it was different from the sticks or rocks I usually find. One end had a point, and the other had a handle, so I pointed it up to the sky, put my other hand on my hip and called out, “Daddy, I’ve found a sword!”

I felt like a warrior, but Daddy said I looked like Pippi Longstocking. The sword felt rough and hard, and I got some sticky, icky brown rust on my hands. It started to bend and Daddy splashed up to me, and said I should let him hold it. It was my sword and now he was taking it away! I gave it to him in the end.

I ran to my Mamma and my Mormor – my Grandma – and some other relatives who were all sitting outside having fika, which is Swedish for having a sit-down with coffee and cookies. I was yelling, “I found a sword, I found a sword!” Daddy went to show it to our neighbors, whose family has lived in the village for more than 100 years, and they said it looked like a Viking sword. Daddy didn’t get to watch the football in the end.

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When he showed it to an archaeologist, she said she had goosebumps and that it was at least 1,000 years old. Actually, they now think it’s 1,500 years old – from before the Vikings. She called it “sensational” and said nothing like this had ever been found in Scandinavia before, and that maybe I had found it because of the low water levels. She made me promise not to tell anyone because she and other archaeologists wanted to see if there was anything else buried in the lake; they didn’t want anyone else to come and take the treasures.

It wasn’t hard to keep the secret. But I did tell one of my best friends, Emmy, and now I know I can trust her because she didn’t tell anybody, except her parents – but they promised not to tell anybody else, so that’s OK.

This month, the archaeologists finally came to search the rest of the lake and they found a brooch that is as old as my sword, and a coin from the 18th century. Then they announced the news and I could finally tell everyone at school. I came back from gym class and the whiteboard said, “Saga’s sword” and there were balloons, and the whole class got to have ice-cream.

I had to give the sword to the local museum – Daddy explained that it’s part of history and important to share it with others. I felt “boo” that it’s gone away, but “yay” that other people will get to see it. I’m going to try to raise some money to make a replica sword that I can keep.

People on the internet are saying I am the queen of Sweden, because in the legend of King Arthur, he was given a sword by a lady in a lake, and that meant he would become king. I am not a lady – I’m only eight – but it’s true I found a sword in the lake. I wouldn’t mind being queen for a day, but when
I grow up I want to be a vet. Or an actor in Paris.

Now, whenever I go swimming in the lake, I will be looking to see what I can find. It feels like that lake might be a little bit magic. On that day I felt a little bit magic, too.


Erik Wøllo – Visions




Giethoorn, Netherlands

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Giethoorn (pronounced like heat horn, with the “G” sounding like an “H” sound, but guttural from the throat and aspirated) is a town in the province of Overijssel, Netherlands with a population of 2,620. It is located in the municipality of Steenwijkerland, about 5 km southwest of Steenwijk.

Giethoorn is often referred to as "Little Venice" or the "Venice of the Netherlands".

In the old part of the village, there are no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport is done by water over one of the many canals.

The lakes in Giethoorn were formed by peat unearthing. Way back in time, peat diggers took peat from the soil, leaving it to dry and to cut later. In two large floods, 1776 and 1825, the vulnerable drying banks were washed away and lakes arose around Giethoorn. To transport the peat, they dug ditches and canals that resulted in the village structure of Giethoorn as seen today.

Peat extraction continued to be of great significance for the region until about 1920. Then, the usable peat ran out and peat extraction was unprofitable. The local population gradually switched to reed and hay management.

The traditional transportation for Giethoorn is the handmade wooden ”Gieterse Punter”. (A small sailing barge). Today, there is also the ‘whisper’ boat, an easy to use, environment-friendly, noiseless electric version. Furthermore, Giethoorn is an excellent starting point for canoe trips through the area. Another possibility to appreciate Giethoorn from the water is by chartering a covered boat.

The village offers a number museums and art galleries and also areas where craftsmen can be seen at work.

In the summer, there are special musical and cultural events.

Giethoorn has over 150 bridges.

The village constitutes the largest continuous fenland (a marsh or area of land covered by shallow water) areas in northern Europe.

Spring, 2013:

Summer, 2016:

Autumn, 2018 (the music ceases after a short while):

Winter, 2013:

Ice Skating, Winter, 2012 (you may want to turn down your volume - the wind noise is sometimes loud):

A Full Boat Tour, Summer, 2017:


Ludovico Einaudi – Oltremare


The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 8 – "Peaceful Valley"

Positive News:

Dutch cameraman Marsel van Oosten wins the prestigious title of 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'

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This atmospheric portrait of two golden snub-nosed monkeys deep in the temperate forests of China’s Qinling Mountains won Dutch cameraman Marsel van Oosten the prestigious title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Titled the Golden Couple, the image shows a splendid male snub-nosed monkey with powder blue face and rusty coat, sitting on a rock and accompanied by his smaller, dowdier mate as they witness an altercation between rival groups of the endangered primates.

Capturing a portrait that has the quality of an Old Master was a challenge for van Oosten who spent days studying the dynamics of the snub-nosed troop so he could find the perfect setting. A low flash ensured he accentuated the the two monkeys’ subtle markings as well as capturing the judges’ praise.

Roz Kidman Cox, chairwoman of the judging panel, said of the photo:

“It is an artwork worthy of hanging in any gallery in the world.”

The winning photograph has been unveiled at London’s Natural History Museum.

NHM Director Sir Michael Dixon also lauded the photograph’s embrace of the natural world, stating:

“In a world which is in thrall to special effects, this image celebrates the majestic and otherworldly presence of nature, and reminds us of our crucial role in protecting it.”


The video below is a beautiful first dance by newlyweds Ania and Jarek at their wedding reception.

The choreography was by a dance instructor from Interclub Academy of Dance in Chicago, Illinois.

The wedding reception was held in the European Crystal Banquet Hall in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

They are dancing to The Second Waltz by Dimitri Shostakovich.



A Passion For Churches (1974)

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This BBC television documentary written and presented by the then Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman offers his personal poetic record of the goings-on taking place throughout the Anglican Diocese of Norwich and its churches in the run-up to Easter Sunday.


Jeff Pearce – The River In Late Autumn


The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 9 - “Seascape”

Positive News:

Man spots a family of mice in his garden so he builds them a miniature village

Simon Dell is a wildlife photographer from Sheffield, United Kingdom. When he came across some mice in his backyard one day, he went above and beyond just snapping a few photos.

“Being a keen wildlife photographer, I am often taking photos of birds on the feeders in the garden,” Simon said. “Then one day I looked down to see a very cute little house mouse standing up in the grass.”

He built a little house in his garden in hopes that the mice would move in. They loved his offering and decided to stay.

The mice enjoy their new home immensely. He affectionately named the family George, Mildred and Mini (their baby).

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Mr. Dell also decorated their home for Christmas.
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At the Orphaned Wildlife Center of Otisville, New York, Maddy the bear loves attention and brushing. Susan at the Center enjoys taking care of Maddy.


If you would like to learn more about the good work of the Orphaned Wildlife Center or to help them, their site address is below:


The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 10 – “Mountain Lake”


That special time of the year is fast approaching and here in The Serenity Thread, we will begin honoring the Holidays as of now.

Soundscape music will be set on pause and from now until after New Year’s Day, only Christian/Christmas films and music will be posted in lieu of those selections.

May the joy and peace of these special days fill your lives.

Happy Holidays!

Let the festivities commence!

Christmas Wallpapers:

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Benjamin Britten - A Ceremony of Carols

Filmed live at Sankt Jacobs Kyrka (Saint James Church), Stockholm, Sweden, January 6, 2014.

Conductor: Mikael Wedar

Harpist: Margareta Nilsson

Singers: Ungdomskör, Sankt Jacobs (Youth Choir, Saint James)

Composed: 1942

1. "Procession" 0:07

2. "Wolcum Yole!" 2:16

3. "There Is No Rose" 3:52

4a. "That Yonge Child" 6:34 (solo: Emma Persson)

4b. "Balulalow" 8:19 (solo Elina Wallinder)

5. "As Dew In Aprille" 9:49

6. "This Little Babe" 11:01

7. "Interlude" 12:42 (solo harp)

8. "In Freezing Winter Night" 16:50 (solo: Jeanette Britan, Hannes Lissenko, Anna Erikssson, Jacob Helldén)

9. "Spring Carol" 20:57 (solo: Jorunn Palmkvist, Jennika Antila)

10. "Deo Gracias" 22:22

Johann Sebastian Bach‭ ‬-‭ ‬Christmas Oratorio,‭ ‬BWV‭ ‬248

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Composed:‭ ‬The Christmas season of‭ ‬1734

Conductor:‭ ‬Nikolaus Harnoncourt‭

Tenor:‭ ‬Peter Schreier‭

Bass:‭ ‬Robert Holl‭

Chorusmaster:‭ ‬Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden‭

Concentus Musicus Wien‭

Soloists of the Tolzer Knabenchor‭

This‭ ‬performance was‭ ‬recorded‭ at Stiftskirche,‭ ‬Waldhausen,‭ ‬Austria in‭ July and November, ‬1981.

Cantatas 1-3:

Cantatas 4-6:

Positive News:‭

Veteran with no family has hundreds‭ ‬who never knew him show up for‭ ‬his‭ ‬funeral in Tennessee‭

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Mourners overflowed from the Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery rotunda on a cold and gloomy Friday morning,‭ ‬many braced with umbrellas and raincoats after the early morning drizzles.‭ ‬And they huddled together to honor a man they never knew.

Leo Stokley died Sunday,‭ ‬Nov.‭ ‬4‭ ‬at the Waters of Cheatham in Ashland City.‭ ‬The Murfreesboro man was‭ ‬69.

According to his obituary posted by Boyd Funeral Home,‭ ‬Stokley was born June‭ ‬5,‭ ‬1949‭ ‬in Greenville,‭ ‬South Carolina.‭ ‬He served in the United States Marine Corps and did a tour in Vietnam. He was buried with military honors Friday morning at the Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Pegram.

That’s about all many people knew of Stokley when they arrived at the cemetery Friday.

Bob Counter of the Cheatham County Veterans Service Office said that as he and his staff filtered through paperwork so Stokley could be buried with military honors,‭ ‬they learned that Stokley is considered an‭ “‬unclaimed‭” ‬veteran.

‭“‬When we found out that he was considered an unclaimed veteran,‭ ‬which means he has no family,‭ ‬we wanted to make sure that he got claimed,‭” ‬Counter explained.

He posted Stokley’s obituary to the Cheatham County Veterans Service office Facebook page,‭ ‬along with a call for‭ “‬Team Cheatham,‭ ‬and especially our veterans‭” ‬to pay their respects to the unclaimed veteran at the cemetery on Friday.

 The post garnered‭ ‬47‭ ‬shares in about two days.‭ ‬Counter said others also posted about Stokley and shared their own calls,‭ ‬and through the‭ “‬power of social media,‭” ‬a crowd of supporters‭ — ‬including fellow military members‭ — ‬arrived at the cemetery.

‭“‬It finally got to where we had this‭ (‬crowd of‭) ‬several hundred people here,‭” ‬Counter said.‭ “‬No one knew Leo,‭ ‬but everyone honored Leo.

‭“‬We wanted to make sure he got his military honors,‭ ‬the recognition he deserves,‭ ‬and that he didn’t die alone.‭”

Cheatham County Commissioner Walter Weakley,‭ ‬who also served in Vietnam,‭ ‬knew when he got a call from Counter this week that he wanted to come pay his respects.‭

“No veteran should ever be laid to rest without somebody being at the funeral,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬And he was a Vietnam veteran,‭ ‬so I feel like he was a brother of mine.‭”

Weakley,‭ ‬who served in the Army,‭ ‬recited Psalm‭ ‬23,‭ ‬highlighting the verse:‭ “'‬though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,‭ ‬I fear no evil‭'…‬No telling the valleys of death we all walked through.‭”

Counter noted the bond between veterans,‭ ‬unshared with any others,‭ ‬and many veterans had the opportunity to reconnect with one another at the cemetery Friday morning.

‭“‬It’s heartwarming,‭ ‬to me,‭ ‬to see people that didn’t know who this guy was and yet they took time from their day to come out and pay their respect,‭” ‬Counter said.‭ “‬Especially around Veteran’s Day,‭ ‬it’s a special meaning to have that many people come out and pay their final respect to Leo.

‭“‬Some good comes‭ (‬from‭) ‬everything.‭ ‬Leo brought a bunch of people together that he never knew,‭ ‬but he never was without family.‭”


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The Joy of Painting

Season‭ ‬1,‭ ‬Episode‭ ‬11‭ – “‬Winter Glow‭”



Never Take No For An Answer‭ (‬1951‭)

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Nine year old war orphan Peppino Arrigo lives in the Italian town of Assisi with his‭ ‬beloved donkey,‭ ‬Violetta.‭ ‬The two are devoted to each other and make a living transporting goods for the locals.‭ ‬One night,‭ ‬Violetta falls seriously ill and Peppino runs for the vet,‭ ‬who,‭ ‬on examining her,‭ ‬tells Peppino that he can do nothing to save her and that she may live for only another week or two.‭ ‬Very worried,‭ ‬Peppino takes Violetta to the church of St.‭ ‬Francis,‭ ‬hoping that the priests will let him take her down into the crypt to be blessed and cured at the shrine of St.‭ ‬Francis,‭ ‬but the priests will not allow it.‭ ‬Only the Holy Father himself could give such permission.‭ ‬So Peppino decides to take the matter to the very top and,‭ ‬leaving Violetta in the loving care of a friend,‭ ‬he sets off alone on an eighty-mile journey to see the Pope in Rome and get that permission.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬when he finally reaches Rome,‭ ‬he finds to his dismay that getting inside the Vatican to see the Pope will be no mean feat.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬Peppino will not take no for an answer.

This beautiful,‭ ‬inspirational film fosters faith,‭ ‬love,‭ ‬courage and respect for life.

It is based on the book‭ ‬The Small Miracle by Paul Gallico.


Josef Rheinberger‭ – ‬The Star of Bethlehem

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Composed:‭ ‬1890

This Recording Released:‭ ‬1969

Conductor:‭ ‬Robert Heger‭

Orchestra:‭ ‬Graunke Symphony Orchestra‭

Choir:‭ ‬Bavarian Radio Chorus

Baritone Vocals:‭ ‬Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau‭

Soprano Vocals:‭ ‬Rita Streich‭

00:00‭ ‬Erwartung‭ ‬(Expectation‭)

08:02‭ ‬Die Hirten,‭ ‬Pastorale‭ (‬The Shepherds‭)

15:35‭ ‬Die Erscheinung des Engels‭ (‬The Appearance of the Angels‭)

18:19‭ ‬Behtlehem‭ (‬Bethlehem‭)

21:19‭ ‬Die Hirten an der Krippe‭ (‬The Shepherds at the Manger‭)

26:22‭ ‬Der Stern‭ (‬The Star‭)

32:52‭ ‬Anbetung der Weisen‭ (‬Adoration of the Wise Men‭)

38:00‭ ‬Maria‭ (‬Mary‭)

43:35‭ ‬Erfüllung‭ ‬(Fulfillment‭)

Please Note:‭ ‬From‭ ‬24:58‭ ‬to‭ ‬26:21,‭ ‬the audio is in the left channel only.‭  

Positive News:

Five-dimensional glass discs can store 360 terabytes of data  for up to 13.8 billion years

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Photographs fade, books rot, and even hard drives eventually fester. When you take the long view, preserving humanity's collective culture isn't a marathon, it's a relay — with successive generations passing on information from one slowly-failing storage medium to the next. However, this could change. Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK have created a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures in glass. A standard-sized disc can store around 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at temperatures of 190°C. That's as old as the Universe, and more than three times the age of the Earth.

The method is called five-dimensional data storage, and was first demonstrated in a paper in 2013. Since then, the scientists behind it say they've more or less perfected their technique, and are now looking to move the technology forward and perhaps even commercialize it.

In order to demonstrate the format's virtues, the team from the University of Southampton have created copies of the King James Bible and Isaac Newton's Opticks (the foundational text of the study of light and lenses).

To understand why these discs can store so much information for such a long time, it's best to compare them to a regular CD. Data is read from a normal CD by shining a laser at a tiny line with bumps in it. Whenever the laser hits a bump. it's reflected back and recorded as a 1; whenever there's no bump, it's recorded as a 0. These are just two "dimensions" of information — on or off — but from them, CDs can store anything: music, books, images, videos, or software. But because this bumpy line is stored on the surface of the CD, it's vulnerable. It can be eroded either by physical scratches and scuffs, or by exposure to oxygen, heat, and humidity.

5D discs, by comparison, store information within their interior using tiny physical structures known as "nanogratings." Much like those bumpy lines in the CDs, these change how light is reflected, but instead of doing so in just two "dimensions," the reflected light encodes five — hence the name. The changes to the light can be read to obtain pieces of information about the nanograting's orientation, the strength of the light it refracts, and its location in space on the x, y, and z axes. These extra dimensions are why 5D discs can store data so densely compared to regular optical discs. A Blu-ray disc can hold up to 128GBs of data, while a 5D disc of the same size could store nearly 3,000 times that: 360 terabytes of information.

These discs can potentially last for so long because glass is a tough material which needs a lot of heat to melt or warp it, and it's chemically stable too. This makes the 5D discs safe up to temperatures of 1,000°C, say the researchers.

5D data storage obviously has potential as an archival format for museums and galleries, but the scientists involved believe it could be also be commercialized in the not-too distant future. Although the expensive lasers needed to fabricate the discs aren't going to move out of the lab any time soon, the discs can be read relatively easily, with the team from Southampton suggesting the equivalent of a DVD player for 5D information could be developed in decades.

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The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 12 - “Snow Fall”


Andy Williams:

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Howard Andrew "Andy" Williams (December 3, 1927 – September 25, 2012) was an American popular music singer. He was born in Wall Lake, Iowa.

He recorded 44 albums in his career, 15 of which have been gold-certified and three of which have been platinum-certified. He was also nominated for six Grammy Awards. He hosted The Andy Williams Show, a television variety show, from 1962 to 1971, and numerous TV specials.

From 1962 to 1973, and then intermittently until the 1990s, Mr. Williams hosted an annual television Christmas special that entered the homes and hearts of Americans.

Silent Night

Andy Williams and The Osmond Brothers - Silver Bells

Ave Maria

O Holy Night

Moonlight In Vermont

The person who uploaded the following video added moving logos on the screen which some viewers may find to be distracting. I am also including an audio-only version of the same performance below it.

Andy Williams and His Brothers – Winter Wonderland

The Skater’s Waltz

You Meet The Nicest People

Positive News:

For 76 years, the Santa Train has delivered Christmas joy to Appalachia

It was pitch black outside as the old rail cars jolted to life with a groan. Then another jolt and a subtle and quickening clack, clack, clack as the Santa Train left the Shelby Yard in Pike County.

It was 5:50 a.m. 

Over the next nine hours, the train would wind its way 110 miles through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and Western Virginia, and into Eastern Tennessee, making stops at coal towns and crossroads to give out toys, food, school supplies and coats.

"This has been the worst year," said Mary Hughett, a single mother who has struggled to pay bills. "We've hit rock bottom.” Without the Santa Train, she couldn't give presents to her son and others who otherwise wouldn't have much of a Christmas, stated Hughett, as she stood, her arms loaded down with a coat, toys and other gifts. 

For many along the route — through impoverished coal fields where money is scarce and jobs are even harder to come by — the only Christmas presents to be had this year will be the ones given them by the jolly old elf on the back of the CSX train and the hundred or so volunteers who help him. 

“It’s a tradition,” said Reanna Adkins, who waited in the dark of Marrowbone, Kentucky, as volunteers waded through the crowd with bags of gifts. Santa stood on the back platform of the West Virginia, the 65-year-old hospital car that serves as his sleigh, and tossed stuffed animals to the crowd. “I’ve done this since I was a little kid, and I wanted to bring my daughter to see it,” said Adkins, who has since moved to Georgetown, Kentucky, three hours away.

It was 6:25 a.m. and Chloe, 3, nestled in her mother’s arms, looked tired and may not have understood what was going on around her as volunteers gave out color-coded backpacks and toys and rolls of wrapping paper.

The Santa Train tradition began in 1943 when Flem Dobyns decided he wanted to thank the folks in the region who traveled through the mountains to buy implements of their life from his hardware store in Kingsport, Tennessee. That year, a group of businessmen boarded the Clinchfield Railroad’s passenger train near Shelbiana and rode it home, tossing candy off the back of the train to kids along the way.

"When the Santa Train started, World War II was raging and the coal industry in Appalachia was booming," said Gurney Norman, a longtime professor in the Appalachian Studies Program at the University of Kentucky. He estimated that there would have been more than 100 coal mines operating in a small sliver of Virginia where the Santa Train runs. "But the coal industry began to decline, and over the years the Santa Train has gone from giving away candy to the kids, to providing the only toys and gifts some of the children will receive," he said. 

Past Dunleary and Cedarville and into Elkhorn City. It was 7:05 a.m. and the sun was coming up. Clack, clack, clack. 

“Lots of good boys and girls in the crowd,” shouted Ted Marquis, who works for City Year, a non-profit group out of Boston, Massachusetts. Marquis was working the train for the ninth year.

Some CSX workers who trailed behind the train would stay and distribute even more toys, food and coats at each stop.

CSX Transportation has carried on the tradition since 1986.

The main sponsors of Santa Train, in addition to CSX, are the Kingsport chamber of commerce, Food City grocery stores, Appalachian Power and Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based non-profit that provides clothing and business opportunities for poor people here and abroad. 

Buddy Teaster, CEO of Soles4Souls, said this year Macy's department stores donated 5,000 coats to the effort. "This is a phenomenal experience," he said. "It really opens your eyes to the need in rural parts of America." 

Past Morefield and Boody to St. Paul, where a huge crowd, the biggest of the day, is waiting.

Becky Slote was there wearing a red Christmas sweatshirt with snowflakes on it. She wasn’t there for gifts or wrapping paper or coats or anything like that. She was just there. “I’m 41 years old, and I don’t have any kids,” she said. “We just come for the tradition of it. ... It’s just a way of life here.”

The manager of crisis and event planning for CSX, Leslie Higgins, said, “The coal industry has stabilized now which suggests the line will remain open at least for now, and Santa's train will continue to help the people of the region. I've been told we would run this train as long as a railroad track runs through here.”

Saint Nick tosses toys from the back of the Santa Train to kids in Haysi, Virginia. Nov. 17, 2018.
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A young girl catches a Santa Claus doll on a stop by the Santa Train in Ft. Blakemore, Virginia. Nov. 17, 2018.
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Santa waves from the back of the train, while on the way to Dante, Virginia. Nov. 17, 2018. Don Royston is a retired CPA. On one Saturday a year, he’s Santa Claus. He has done this for 20 years.
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The Joy of Painting

Season 1, Episode 13 - “Final Reflections”



The Secrets of Nature – “Let It Snow”

Let It Snow takes an in-depth look at snow - how it is produced, different types and the weather conditions that cause it. From howling blizzards to the gentlest and most delicate snowflakes, the program celebrates snow in all its forms. Thanks to CGI and new camera techniques, viewers have the chance to see how snow is formed for the first time and listen in to the unique sounds that snow makes when the tiny crystals touch, roll and settle together. Each snowflake is unique and contains more secrets than researchers first imagined - every bit of extraordinary sound the snow makes influences the kind of crystallization process and the shape of the actual snowflakes.

The documentary is hosted by Andrew Golder.

It was produced by ORF in 2008.


Anonymous 4 – On Yoolis Night

Medieval Carols & Motets

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Anonymous 4: Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Johanna Rose

This Recording Released: 1993

1 Hodie Christus Natus Est
2 O Nobilis Nativitas/O Mira Dei/O Decus Virgineum/Apparuit
3 Lux De Luce
4 Alleluya: A Nywe Werke
5 Verbum Supernum Prodiens
6 Balaam De Quo Vaticinans
7 Ave Maria
8 Gabriel, Fram Heven-King
9 Lullay: I Saw A Swete Semly Syght
10 Prolis Eterne Genitor/Psallat Mater Gracie/[Pes]
11 Vox Clara, Ecce, Intonat
12 De Supernis Sedibus
13 Omnes De Saba
14 Puellare Gremium/Purissima Mater/[Pes]
15 Lullay, Lullay: Als I Lay On Yoolis Night
16 Tria Sunt Munera
17 Orto Sole Serene/Origo Viri/Virga Lesse/[Tenor]
18 Peperit Virgo
19 Ecce Quod Natura
20 A Solis Ortus Cardine
21 Ther Is No Rose Of Swych Vertu
22 Videntes Stellam
23 Nowel: Owt Of Your Slepe Aryse



Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Magnificat

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Composed: 1749 initially, but continually revised as late as 1786

This Recording Released: 1991, 2014 (reissue)

Conductor: Hartmut Haenchen

Chamber Orchestra: Kammerorchester Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Choir: Rundfunkchor Berlin (Berlin Radio Choir)

Soprano: Venceslava Hruba-Freiberger

Contralto: Barbara Bornemann

Tenor: Peter Schreier

Baritone: Olaf Bär

Recorded live at Studio Christuskirche, Berlin, 14 December, 1988

00:00:00 Symphony in G Major, Wq 173: I. Allegro assai
00:02:59 Symphony in G Major, Wq 173: II. Andante
00:05:34 Symphony in G Major, Wq 173: III. Allegretto
00:08:38 Symphony in G Major, Wq 180: I. Allegro di molto
00:12:50 Symphony in G Major, Wq 180: II. Largo
00:17:12 Symphony in G Major, Wq 180: III. Allegro assai
00:20:26 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: I. Magnificat (Chorus)
00:23:18 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: II. Aria. Quia respexit (Soprano)
00:29:35 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: III. Aria. Quia fecit (Tenor)
00:33:40 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: IV. Et misericordia eius (Chorus)
00:41:28 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: V. Aria. Fecit potentiam (Bass)
00:45:14 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: VI. Duet. Deposuit potentes (Contralto, Tenor)
00:51:00 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: VII. Aria. Suscepit Israel (Contralto)
00:56:31 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: VIII. Gloria (Chorus)
00:58:17 Magnificat in D Major, Wq 215: IX. Sicut erat (Chorus)

Positive News:

Texas farmers unite to harvest cotton crop of neighbor battling cancer

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Greg Bishop will never be written down in a history book or applauded onstage at the Oscars. But in the west Texas community where he farms cotton, he is beloved.

He is fighting leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy, and wouldn't think of asking for help, though he would be the first to offer it to someone in need.

His cotton crop, covering 1,200 acres in Floyd County, was nearing harvest time and Bishop was told by his doctors not to do it. 

So his neighbors got together and did it for him, bringing about $12 million worth of farming equipment to Bishop's spread. By 3 p.m. Monday, his crop was on its way to be ginned. 

"He's a very good Christian man. Just a good-hearted man. He's very humble. He's just the best person," Aaron Hendricks, general manager of Floydada Co-Op Gins, told Thursday.

He's known Bishop for 25 years, and is not one to speak publicly, but he's agreed to be interviewed about the harvest because "I want everybody to know what kind of a guy Greg Bishop is, and how much people think of him," he said, his voice breaking.

As harvest time neared, the community knew that Bishop wouldn't be able to bring in his crop because chemo has so weakened his immune system he must stay indoors. So they had a meeting in Hendricks' office. About 35 to 40 people came.

"They all said, 'What can we do? We're ready to help.'"

Hendricks said he helped organize the group harvest by coordinating machinery and inspecting Bishop's fields to determine when the cotton was ripe for picking. Local companies offered to donate fuel for the equipment, but the farmers said no, they wanted to provide it themselves.

"We had people come from 100 miles northwest of us to help," Hendricks said. He spoke to Bishop on the phone Wednesday, for the first time since the harvest.

"He was just overwhelmed by what everybody did," Hendricks said. "He was in tears. He couldn't thank us enough for what we did."

There was no need, he said.

"Nobody wants any thanks," he said. "Everyone is just thankful to be able to do this for him."

Bishop remains in good spirits, his friend said. He is upbeat and cheerful most days. "He's fixing to go to Baylor, in Dallas, for 100 days. He's going to get a bone marrow transplant," Hendricks said. Several people have volunteered to be tested to see if their marrow is a match for Bishop.

"We've started a fund to raise money for him to stay in Dallas," Hendricks said. "Everyone wants to help."


Now that Season 1 of The Joy of Painting has come to a close, I thought it would be interesting and fun for you folks to spend a little time with Bob's painting teacher, Bill Alexander.

For a while, I will only post Bill's programs to give you the viewers some familiarity with his work, then I will return to Bob's programs later with Season 2.

William Alexander, born Wilhelm Alexander on April 2, 1915 in East Prussia, was a German painter, art instructor, and television host. He was the creator and host of The Magic of Oil Painting (1974–82) television series that ran on PBS in the United States. He also hosted another TV series entitled The Art of Bill Alexander & Robert Warren (1984–1992). He taught the television painter Bob Ross the wet-on-wet technique.

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In his early years, he joined the German army at the dawn of World War II. His fellow soldiers discovered his art skills. He was later captured by American forces, who, upon learning of his gift for painting, gave him a studio; there, he would paint portraits of his captors and their loved ones.

He immigrated to Canada in 1952. He dreamed of building a house and making his life as an artist, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t be easy. For decades, he struggled to make ends meet. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bill traveled roved across Canada and the western United States with his wife, Margarete. They used their Volkswagen bus as a home, studio, and gallery. He displayed his canvases in its big picture windows. Cursive hand-painted text on the side of the van stated “The Old Master Painter from the Faraway Hills.”

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To promote his work, he set up his easel in Canadian malls and along California streets, attracting people in droves. They were drawn to his enthusiasm for painting, which he described joyously, in a thick German accent, as an “almighty power” available to anyone. Requests for lessons streamed in, and he happily accepted.

Bill teaching a painting class.
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Bill believed that anyone could paint, and he developed a teaching style that left students with artistic skills, as well as confidence. One of the students whom he attracted was Bob Ross. Recently out of the army, a young Bob was on the hunt for a place to hone the nascent painting skills he’d picked up during his service. He took one of Bill's courses in California and was hooked: “I took one class and I went crazy,” he told the New York Times in 1991. “I knew this was what I wanted to do.” Bill noticed Bob’s inherent skill, and took him on as something of a protégé.

A rare photo of Bill and Bob.
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In the early 1970s, in Los Angeles, Bill dreamed of introducing painting to more people through television. In late 1973, he got his wish. A new public broadcast station, KOCE, based in Huntington Beach, California, invited Bill to record a pilot. Despite his nervousness, he was a natural. He went on to have a nearly 10-year run as the host of his very own painting show. The show, titled The Magic of Oil Painting, was an almost-immediate success. By 1979, Alexander had won an Emmy, becoming the first career painter to receive the famed television award. At the time, it seemed that Alexander’s days as a struggling artist were over. He had a wildly successful show, along with a line of painting supplies and how-to books. He was a household name in America.

Bill had perfected his own individual painting technique based upon the 16th-century technique of alla prima (or “wet-on-wet”), in which layers of wet paint are applied on top of one another in order to blend colors more quickly and easily. He invented shortcuts (brush flicks that could be used to quickly create trees and clouds, for instance), which expedited the process so much that, soon enough, he was completing paintings in a fraction of the time it took his 16th-century predecessors.

He died on January 24, 1997.

Bill and Bob were similar in several ways, not just in the manner in which they painted. They both shared a love for animals and for the beauty of nature. Both of them believed in a healthy, positive outlook, and that through the expression and sharing of beautiful art, the world becomes a better place.

Bill's exuberance for life and for painting comes through in his programs.

"What I do usually, I will say ‘I have an almighty palette’, and ‘Look at that almighty paint’, and ‘Look at that almighty brush’, and when I talk like that, automatically, I boost my inside, I bring myself up to a standard where I can perform better!" - Bill Alexander

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There are not that many episodes of Bill's show on YouTube, but I will post all that are available.

He wrote the following books:

W. Alexander (The Magic of Oil Painting Artist) (1983). The Bill Alexander Story: An Autobiography.
W. Alexander (1989). Secrets to the Magic of Oil Painting.
W. Alexander (1990). The Magic of Oil Painting.
William Alexander (1997). Landscapes: Learn to Paint Step by Step.


The Magic of Oil Painting  - "After The Storm"

Unfortunately, the audio is only in the right channel. However, considering that his programs are so rare, it is good that we have them at all.


Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night)

This program features an unforgettable and moving Christmas concert, performed at the Berlin Schauspielhaus just after the German reunification in December, 1990. Several talented groups and soloists perform traditional Christmas music in a very intimate atmosphere. Pieces are enhanced with beautiful Christmas images. The finale is a moving ensemble performance of Silent Night, Holy Night.

Ludwig Güttler Brass Ensemble

Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Ferdinand Leitner

The Tölz Boys' Choir, conducted by Gerhard Schmidt-Garden

Zagorsk Monastery Choir

Harp: Maria Graf

Organ: Joachim Dahlitz

Tenor: Siegfried Jerusalem

Mezzo-soprano: Doris Stoffel

Baritone: Hermann Prey

Countertenor: Jochen Kowalski

0:00 Freylinghausen/Weissel/Güttler - Mach hoch die Tür, die Tor macht weit
1:24 Prätorius - Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen
4:26 Bach/Gounod/Manfred Nitschke - Ave Maria
7:40 Prätorius/Güttler - Jubilate Domino
10:10 Adolphe Adam - Cantique de Noel
15:00 Prätorius - In dulci jubilo
17:30 J.S. Bach - Weihnachtsoratorium "Herrscher des Himmels"
19:50 Russisch orthodoxe Hymnen und Gebete
29:50 J.S. Bach - Orchestersuite Nr. 3 D-dur "Air"
35:13 J.S. Bach - Weihnachtsoratorium "Bereite dich, Zion"
38:03 Georg F. Händel - Konzert B-dur für Harfe "Andante-Allegro"
44:35 Georg F. Händel - Xerxes "Ombra mai fu"
47:48 Bach-Schemelli - O Jesulein süß
50:20 Worte und Weise aus dem 14. Jhd (bearb. M. Nitschke) - Joseph, lieber Joseph mein
52:55 Georg F. Händel - Tochter Zion, freue dich
55:50 Gruber/Nitschke - Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

A recommended browser add-on/extension to enhance the enjoyment of YouTube videos:

uBlock Origin‭ ‬-‭ ‬This add-on/extension is an ad blocker that is light on CPU and memory resources.‭ ‬In‭ ‬addition to blocking ads,‭ ‬it also has filters to enhance your privacy and security.‭

Please remember to turn‭ ‬the plugin‭ ‬off for The Pirate Bay.‭ ‬When you are on the site,‭ ‬click the uBlock icon in your browser,‭ ‬then click the big blue button that is shown (the blue will turn to grey when clicked).‭ ‬Your changes will be saved automatically and the add-on will turn off whenever you return to the site.

The add-on‭ ‬is supported in the following browsers:‭ ‬Chrome,‭ ‬Opera and Firefox.‭ ‬It will also work in SeaMonkey by installing a legacy version of the add-on‭, ‬found by doing a web search (Seamonkey developers once featured the add-on on their add-ons page, but later removed it).

The add-on will also work in the Firefox clones.

Chrome uBlock Origin Page:

Opera uBlock Origin Page:

Firefox uBlock Origin Page:


Positive News:

A‭ ‬96-year-old self-taught conservationist has committed the last four decades of his life to saving North America's bluebirds

In‭ ‬1978,‭ ‬Alfred Larson was looking for a hobby that would keep him busy after he retired from his job at a sawmill plant near Boise,‭ ‬Idaho.‭ ‬He remembers reading an article in‭ ‬National Geographic that captured his imagination—about crafting wooden nests for bluebirds to save them from dizzying declines.‭ ‬Around this same time,‭ ‬he and his wife Hilda welcomed a new guest to their backyard:‭ ‬a Western Bluebird.

‭“‬We noticed a bluebird going in and out of a cavity of an old,‭ ‬dead snag,‭" ‬Larson says. ‭"‬I thought,‭ ‘‬Gee whiz‭!’ ‬I had heard about bluebird trails out East that Lawrence Zeleny had set up.‭ ‬If I put up boxes on my ranch,‭ ‬I’d have a captive group of birds to take pictures of.‭”

So he got to work,‭ ‬building nest boxes out of pine scraps and board ends from his old sawmill to install around his property.‭ ‬Soon after,‭ ‬he went on a field trip with the Golden Eagle Audubon Society and put up another‭ ‬25‭ ‬boxes in various habitats.‭ ‬And then even more.

Four decades later,‭ ‬at the age of‭ ‬96,‭ ‬Larson is monitoring almost‭ ‬350‭ ‬nest boxes on six different bluebird trails across Southwest Idaho.‭ ‬From the Owyhee Mountains to Lake Cascade,‭ ‬he and his fellow community scientists peek into the rustic abodes every nine days to band any residents and jot down notes on behavior and growth.‭ ‬Larson organizes the data and shares it with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Nestwatch program.

‭“‬I got carried away,‭” ‬the Golden Eagle Audubon charter member says.‭ “‬I settled on a simple design that‭ [‬was‭] ‬easy to build and easy to monitor.‭ ‬I kept adding more boxes on these trails,‭ ‬and these birds responded.‭”

“This year he‘s banded over‭ ‬900‭ ‬birds,‭” ‬says Cathy Eells,‭ ‬a Golden Eagle Audubon member who often drives Larson out to his trails.‭ “‬In‭ ‬40‭ ‬years,‭ ‬think how many homes he’s provided for parents.‭"

Bluebird recovery efforts like Larson’s rose in popularity in the‭ ‬1970s and‭ ‘‬80s when people discovered how easy it was to use homemade nest boxes to attract the beloved birds.‭ ‬As a result, over the past several decades nest box and trail building has become one of the largest grassroots conservation activities in North America. ‭

‬That,‭ ‬in turn,‭ ‬has been good news for bluebirds.‭ ‬Prior to the big nest box craze,‭ ‬all three North American species—Western,‭ ‬Mountain,‭ ‬and Eastern—saw a major dip in population numbers,‭ ‬due to‭ “‬the elimination of dead trees with the invention of gas-powered chainsaws in the‭ ‬1930s,‭ ‬along with the widespread use of pesticides to kill insects,‭” ‬says bluebird photographer and expert Stan Tekiela.‭ ‬Studies in the‭ ‬1970s tied DDT to the death of hundreds of Mountain Bluebird chicks in western Canada.‭

The birds also faced competition from European Starlings and other introduced species that crowded out their natural cavities.‭ ‬These clashes,‭ ‬coupled with the wane of open fire-managed ecosystems,‭ ‬forced Mountain Bluebirds to push beyond their typical territory—putting them in the crosshairs of Eastern Bluebirds.‭

Today,‭ ‬populations for Mountain,‭ ‬Eastern,‭ ‬and Western Bluebirds have stabilized.

For now,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬Larson’s age-old creations are giving bluebirds a much-needed edge in survival.‭ “‬Al Larson and others have helped boost local populations because they provide the species with additional nesting sites,‭” ‬Pearman,‭ ‬the author of‭ ‬Mountain Bluebird Trail Monitoring Guide,‭ ‬says.‭ ‬What’s more,‭ ‬the long-term data sets from his trails are critical to scientists trying to prepare for the future.‭

Conservation icon and documentary star Alfred Larson examines the contents of a nest box in Prairie,‭ ‬Idaho.‭ ‬Since taking up the initiative in retirement,‭ ‬the nonagenarian has installed hundreds of these structures,‭ ‬allowing scientists to study Mountain Bluebirds as the species recovers from historical declines.
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A female Mountain Bluebird scopes out a home Larson set up in the Owyhee Mountains.‭
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Larson takes a break in between checking nest boxes to record his field notes.‭
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Many of Larson’s trail buddies are wary of the day he decides to retire again.‭ ‬Boyd Steele,‭ ‬a volunteer who regularly assists Larson with the nest boxes,‭ ‬says the nonagenarian has been steadily passing down his knowledge.‭ ‬But his devotion to bluebirds will be hard to replace.‭ “‬I don’t think there’s anybody who is as dedicated as Al,‭” ‬Steele says.‭

‬Filmmaker Matthew Podolsky echoes that sentiment.‭ ‬After being introduced to Larson through a graduate advisor at Boise State University,‭ ‬he and his peer Neil Paprocki tracked the local legend with a camera for weeks.‭ ‬The resulting‭ ‬30-minute documentary,‭ ‬titled‭ ‬Bluebird Man,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬went on to be nominated for an Emmy Award in‭ ‬2015.‭

Larson’s connection to bluebirds,‭ ‬as chronicled in the documentary,‭ ‬has been life-affirming for Podolsky.‭ “‬Al is a living example of how much one person can achieve when they set their mind on a task.‭ ‬But he’s also an example of the benefits that a project like this can have for people,‭” ‬Podolsky says.‭ “[‬Bluebirds‭] ‬have given meaning to Al’s life,‭ ‬and they are truly the secret to his longevity.‭”

Bluebird Man‭ – ‬A documentary about Al Larson by Wild Lens


The Magic of Oil Painting‭ – “‬Majestic Mountains And Peaceful Lake‭” (‬My own title‭ ‬-‭ ‬Accurate title of episode unknown‭)


Es ist ein Ros entsprungen‭ ‬(The title is from a popular German Christmas carol, translated as "A Rose Has Sprung Up‭" ‬ ‬or "Lo,‭ ‬How‭ ‬A‭ ‬Rose‭ ‬E'er‭ ‬Blooming‭."

25‭ ‬Advent-‭ ‬und Weihnachtslieder‭ ‬(25‭ ‬Advent and Christmas Songs‭)

This Recording Released:‭ ‬1997

Rundfunk-Jugendchor Wernigerode‭ ‬(Wernigerode Radio Youth Choir‭)

00:00‭ ‬Es ist ein Ros entsprungen‭
‬02:17‭ ‬O Tannenbaum‭
‬03:52‭ ‬Bald nun ist Weihnachtszeit‭
‬04:55‭ ‬Macht hoch die Tür,‭ ‬die Tor macht weit‭
‬06:51‭ ‬Leise rieselt der Schnee‭
‬08:34‭ ‬Tochter Zion,‭ ‬freue dich‭
‬10:55‭ ‬Lasst uns froh und munter sein‭
‬11:56‭ ‬Es ist für uns eine Zeit angekommen‭
‬13:23‭ ‬Morgen,‭ ‬Kinder,‭ ‬wirds was geben‭
‬14:44‭ ‬O du fröhliche‭
‬16:58‭ ‬Süßer die Glocken nie klingen‭
‬19:44‭ ‬Vom Himmel hoch,‭ ‬da komm ich her‭
‬21:21‭ ‬Kommet,‭ ‬ihr Hirten‭
‬22:47‭ ‬Joseph,‭ ‬lieber Joseph mein‭
‬26:27‭ ‬Vom Himmel hoch,‭ ‬o Englein kommt‭ (‬susani,‭ ‬susani‭)
‬28:16‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬still,‭ ‬still‭
‬30:36‭ ‬Gloria in excelsis Deo‭
‬32:47‭ ‬Freu dich,‭ ‬Erd und Sternenzelt‭
‬34:00‭ ‬Ihr Kinderlein,‭ ‬kommet‭
‬36:06‭ ‬Der Christbaum ist der schönste Baum‭
‬38:33‭ ‬Am Weihnachtsbaum die Lichter brennen‭
‬41:00‭ ‬Herbei,‭ ‬o ihr Gläubigen‭ (‬Adeste fideles‭)
‬43:29‭ ‬Lobt Gott,‭ ‬ihr Christen allzugleich‭ (‬a cappella‭)
‬45:21‭ ‬Tausend Sterne sind ein Dom‭
‬47:03‭ ‬Stille Nacht,‭ ‬heilige Nacht‭

Merry Christmas!

Positive News:

Maine boy collects bottles and cans, turns them into gifts for sick children

Sam Rideout of South Portland, Maine is spreading holiday cheer.

The 10-year-old is affectionately called "Sam the Bottle Man" because he collects bottles and cans throughout the year. Rideout then uses the money from the bottles to buy gifts for kids at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.

He donated those gifts on Monday, December 17 and was surprised with a police escort thanks to the South Portland Police Department.

This year, Sam raised more than $6000 from bottles.


The Magic of Oil Painting - "Golden Forest"

Please note: The audio is only in the left channel.


Antonio Caldara - Christmas Cantata

Composed: 1712

This Recording Released: 1966

Alto: Ingeborg Russ

Soprano: Gertraut Stoklassa, Marlee Sabo

Tenor: Georg Jelden

Conducted By: Rudolf Ewerhart

Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, Heilbronn

1. Sinfonia
2. Recitativo Core Umano Bella Pace
3. Arie Core Umano Pace Bella
4. Recitativo Pace O Folle Umano Core
5. Arie Pace Voi Pace Al Core
6. Recitativo Pace-amor Divino Paco Son Io De Giustitiamica
7. Arie Amor Divino Quel Bianco Latte
8. Recitativo Giustitia Che Dici
9. Arie Giustitia D'anemica Uttrice
10. Recitativo Core Umano-giustitia Gravi Tanto L'offese
11. Arie Giustitiasi, Si, Perira
12. Recitativo Core Umano Amor Divino Ohime, Chi Mi Soccorre
13. Arie Core Umano Giustitia
14. Recitativo Pace Giustitia
15. Arie Pace Quel Pargoletto Infante
16. Recitativo Giustitia O Pace
17. Duett Pace - Giustitia I Tuoi Baci Che Prendo
18. Recitativo Core Umano Vedesti, O Core Uman
19. Recitativo Amor Divino - Core Umano Vedesti, O Core Uman
20. Arie Amor Divino No No
21. Recitativo Pace-amor Su Questo Eccelso...
22. Arie Pace La Clemente Amica
23. Recitativo Core Umano - Amor Divino O Fortunato Cor
24. Arie Amor Divino Quanto Dolce


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