For Twin Cities classical music fans, it’s a holiday season of streaming greetings
By Rob Hubbard | Star Tribune
PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 3, 2020 — 4:09PM
Our guide to virtual holiday concerts for classical fans.
HAVIN’ A BLAST EVENTS
Yet one more loss to mourn this year is that of the holiday concert. Whether your December destination is Orchestra Hall, the Ordway or a local church, COVID-19 precludes us from gathering to experience the music in person.
However, that doesn’t mean that our classical music organizations aren’t reaching out to offer comfort and exhilaration via cyberspace.
So hang out the holly, clutch a warming elixir and hook up your best speakers for these concert programs by Twin Cities ensembles. And, even if they’re free, consider expressing your gratitude through a donation.
The Singers’ “What Sweeter Music”: The streaming version of this excellent chamber choir’s annual December concerts is something of a greatest hits compilation of past programming, interspersed with composer conversations. Included on the musical buffet are works by Benjamin Britten, Stephen Paulus and composer-in-residence Timothy Takach. (9 a.m. Fridays-9 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 4-6 and 11-13; $16; singersmca.org)
VocalEssence’s “Welcome Christmas”: Streaming live Sunday afternoon and available on demand thereafter, the venerable choral organization’s concert features contemporary arrangements of familiar carols, performed by the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers. Gather your pod for some singalongs, too. VocalEssence also has a “Story & Song” program for younger audiences premiering on Dec. 12. (4 p.m. Sunday, $15, vocalessence.org)
“Season’s Greetings” from Skylark Opera Theatre: The local presenter of adventurous takes on opera and musical theater has created a series of holiday-flavored music videos on Skylark’s Facebook page. The first one features Skylark regulars Jennifer Eckes, Vicki Fingalson and Andrew Wilkowske singing a carol and songs from the film “White Christmas.”
Border CrosSing’s “El Mesias”: The bilingual choir presents a mashup of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” with Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez’s cantata “Navidad Nuestra.” It’s also a hybrid of live performance, recordings from past years, and a collaboration with the Minnesota Orchestra. (8 p.m. Dec. 11, free, Border CrosSing’s YouTube channel.
Minnesota Orchestra’s “Midwinter Gathering”: If you miss Orchestra Hall, this livestreamed concert will take you there, employing various locales within the venue for carols and Christmas songs, storytelling from Kevin Kling, JuCoby Johnson, Ifrah Mansour and Kao Kalia Yang, and a collaboration with Border CrosSing. (8 p.m. Dec. 18, free, minnesotaorchestra.org, TPT-MN, Ch. 2.2 and MPR Classical 99.5 FM)
The National Lutheran Choir Christmas Festival: You don’t have to be Lutheran to immerse yourself in the warm bath of harmony that this outstanding choir creates. When in search of soothing fare, it’s one of the most reliable groups. David Cherwien conducts. (8 p.m. Dec. 11, free, nlca.com)
“Lessons and Carols for Our Time” by Cantus: This eight-man vocal group puts its own spin on the King’s College “Nine Lessons and Carols” tradition, with a different 50-minute concert streamed each weekend (taped at Ordway Concert Hall). Part one, streaming next weekend, features Cantus’ arrangements of traditional carols, while the following weekend includes works from such local composers as Jocelyn Hagen and Abbie Betinis and the group’s signature song, Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria.” (Available 7:30 p.m. Fridays-7:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 11-13 and 18-20, $15, cantussings.org)
Minnesota Opera’s “Holiday Special”: The opera long has developed young operatic talent through its Resident Artist Program and its youth troupe, Project Opera. Four alumni — soprano Liv Redpath, mezzo Zoie Reams, tenor Daniel Montenegro and baritone Thomas Glass — return for a recital of seasonal songs from musicals and singer-songwriters, streaming from Ordway Concert Hall. (Live at 7 p.m. Dec. 13, available through Dec. 27, $10-$15, mnopera.org)
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s “Messiah”: Among the most memorable of recent local takes on Handel’s oratorio came when Jeannette Sorrell took the podium in December 2018. The leader of Cleveland baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire led the SPCO, the Singers and four outstanding vocal soloists in a series of thrilling performances that will be reprised via streaming. (8 p.m. Dec. 19, 2 p.m. Dec. 20, free, thespco.org)
The Apollo Club’s “Fireside Christmas”: While the Schubert Club (established 1882) is the Twin Cities’ oldest classical music organization, the Apollo Club men’s chorus isn’t far behind. Its 125-year tradition of annual caroling concerts will be interrupted for the first time, but it does have a nice playlist of past performances on the Apollo Club YouTube channel.
Minnesota Orchestra’s New Year’s Celebration: At long last, Osmo. Not least among our COVID-related losses has been the opportunity to experience the charismatic conducting of Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä and the spirited sounds he and the group create together. The wait will be over on New Year’s Eve when he leads an as-yet-to-be-announced program from Orchestra Hall. (8 p.m. Dec. 31, free, minnesotaorchestra.org and TPT-MN, Ch. 2.2)