During the five-plus weeks of preparation for Christmas, the sheer mass of holiday parties and events can get a little overwhelming. In the big brightness of it all, it’s the simple rituals that really stand out. The New Music Collective’s production of Unsilent Night, now in its fourth year, has quickly become one of our favorite holiday traditions.

Equal parts holiday magic and roving sound sculpture, composer Phil Kline’s piece uses as many boomboxes and other portable sound-playing devices as you can gather to play the slowly shifting mix of humming drones, twinkling chimes, and wordless voices. There’s no melody to it, but the gorgeous piece’s 45 minutes manage to evoke the feelings of Christmas better than any carol we know.

There were about twice as many people this past Saturday evening compared to last year — no doubt due, in part, to heavier media coverage — but there seemed to be some confusion amongst newcomers about whether there would be singing of actual Christmas carols. As a result, the boombox-to-people ratio was lower, but that didn’t dampen the good feelings a bit.

We left the City Gallery a little after 5:30 and processed our way up East Bay, over Market, and continued up King. Right on schedule — despite a few unscheduled pauses for window shopping — the tail end arrived at the Christmas tree in Marion Square in time to catch the last few minutes of music while basking in the glow of the pretty lights. Judging by the genial mood of the crowd, those newcomers will be back next year. Let’s hope they bring a friend — and another boombox.

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