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This Startup Delivers a Live Orchestra to Your Apartment

Not everyone has the money—or the energy—to dress up and go out to enjoy a night of classical music at the symphony. If you want to listen to a live orchestra without changing out of your pajamas, just order a Groupmuse instead. As WIRED reports, the startup organizes 25- to 60-minute instrumental programs in your living room for a suggested price of $10 per spectator.

Founder Sam Bodkin was inspired to start the company after falling in love with classical music in college. He want to share the experience of listening to it live with people his own age, but realized that coercing them into a symphony hall for a performance would be an uphill battle.

So he decided to bring the music to them. Since it was founded in 2013, Groupmuse has given more than 1200 conservatory students and professional musicians the opportunity to play intimate concerts in someone’s home. Performers interested in signing up send samples of their work to Groupmuse for approval. If the company likes what they hear, they match the musicians with a place that hosts them (soloists play in spaces for 10 people, quartets for up to 50). The first of the two sessions always consists of classical music, and the second is player's choice. Anything from Guns N' Roses to Brazilian choro music could be on the set list.

Bodkin’s plan to turn younger audiences on to live orchestral music seems to be effective: Of the 20 Groupmuse concerts hosted across the country every week, 70 percent of attendants were born in the 1980s and '90s. If you’re looking for some live entertainment to spice up your holiday party, you can sign up to host a performance here. Spectators who don’t mind leaving home to listen to music can RSVP to one of the Groupmuse concerts happening in their neighborhood (which for now, means Boston, New York City, Seattle, and California's Bay Area.)

[h/t WIRED]

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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