8 great holiday concerts by Twin Cities area classical groups
By Rob Hubbard
Star Tribune | December 8, 2022
From a couple of different renditions of “Messiah” to choirs to “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” there’s something for everyone.
Hallelujah! One of America’s best versions of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” will rise again for the first time since 2019. And Yuletide carols will be sung by many an outstanding choir over the next fortnight. Here are some recommendations of the best ways to have yourself a classical Christmas in the Twin Cities area.
‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’
In the Italy of composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s youth, you didn’t get your Christmas gifts from Santa Claus, but from the three kings who visited Jesus shortly after his birth. In 1951, he wrote this one-act opera about a disabled boy’s encounter with them. Skylark Opera Theatre presents it in Park Square Theatre’s intimate downstairs space. (2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 18; 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; $25-$40; skylark.booktix.com.)
National Lutheran Choir
Consider wrapping yourself in a warm, thick blanket of comforting harmonies when the choir presents its annual 360-degree Christmas concerts at the Basilica of St. Mary. They’re the final ones for conductor David Cherwien, who will retire at season’s end after 21 years. Friday’s 8 p.m. concert is also livestreamed for free at nlca.com. (4:30 and 8 p.m. Dec. 9, 8 p.m. Dec. 10; 1600 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.; free-$33; nlca.com.)
Minnesota Orchestra’s ‘El Mesias’
Conductor Ahmed Anzaldua and his bilingual Border CrosSing choir team up with the Minnesota Orchestra to present this hybrid of Handel’s “Messiah” and Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez’s Christmas cantata “Navidad Nuestra.” Friday’s concert will also be livestreamed online and broadcast on Twin Cities Public Television. (8 p.m. Dec. 9-10, Orchestra Hall, 11th St. and Nicollet Mall, Mpls.; 4 p.m. Dec. 11, Church of the Ascension, 1723 Bryant Av. N., Mpls.; free-$104; 612-371-5656 or minnesotaorchestra.org.)
‘Christmas With Cantus’
Tunes from the eight-man vocal group’s first Christmas album since 2011, “Into the Light,” will be woven into their own take on the English “Nine Lessons and Carols” tradition, featuring poetry curated and read by spoken word artist ShaVunda Brown. The 11 a.m. concert on Dec. 9 will be available for livestreaming through Jan. 3. (Dec. 9-20 at venues in Mpls., Stillwater, Fridley, Edina, St. Paul, Rochester and Minnetrista; $5-$40; 612-435-0046 or cantussings.org.)
VocalEssence’s ‘Welcome Christmas’
Here’s your first opportunity to catch all four of VocalEssence’s choirs on the same stage, as well as a brass and percussion ensemble and the mighty room-filling Northrop organ. Philip Brunelle and G. Phillip Shoultz III conduct a program that includes carols new and old and some of John Rutter’s “Gloria.” (7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 4 p.m. Dec. 11; 84 SE. Church St., Mpls.; $17-$45; 612-624-2345 or vocalessence.org.)
‘Songs for the Season’
The Schubert Club’s popular annual presentation of new carols by Minnesota composers will this year dip into a century’s worth of state-spawned Christmas repertoire with the Copper Street Brass and singers Laura Betinis Healy and Timothy Takach. (Noon and 6 p.m. Dec. 15; Landmark Center Cortile, 75 W. 5th St., St. Paul; free; 651-292-3268 or schubert.org.)
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Messiah’
After a three-year COVID-induced absence, Handel’s oratorio will be presented by that masterful baroque band, the SPCO, this year joined by English conductor Paul McCreesh, four internationally acclaimed vocal soloists and chamber choir the Singers. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Dec. 16, Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls.; 8 p.m. Dec. 17, 2 p.m. Dec. 18, Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington St., St. Paul; $5-$50; 651-291-1144 or thespco.org.)
Bach Society’s ‘Christmas Oratorio’
J.S. Bach’s oratorio was written to be performed over six days, but you’ll get the gist of it when the Bach Society of Minnesota teams up with the Minnesota Chorale for four of its six cantatas, led by conductors Matthias Maute and Kathy Saltzman Romey. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 1079 Summit Av., St. Paul; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Road, Mpls.; $5-$35; bachsocietymn.org.)
Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities-based classical music writer. Reach him at email@example.com.