Holiday Arts Guide: Classical music’s carols and melodies bring sense of togetherness
By Sheila Regan
Pioneer Press | November 27, 2021
After the COVID-19 Grinch stole Christmas last year, the festive spirit comes roaring back better than ever. Whether you survived on Classical music Zoom performances to get your holiday fix or forewent concert music at all, it’s going to feel good to gather and enjoy the carols and melodies that bring a warm sense of togetherness.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio
Dec. 3: The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and the Bach Society of Minnesota present Johann Sebastian Bach’s 6 Part Christmas Oratorio. It begins with the birth of Jesus and tells the Christmas story, complete with shepherds and angels, all the way through the wise men visiting the swaddled babe on the Epiphany. Sprinkled with Lutheran hymns and choral music, as well as original tunes composed by Bach himself, the work will get you in a Baroque holiday mood. VocalEssence artistic director and founder of VocalEssence Philip Brunelle teams up with Matthias Maute, conductor of the Bach Society of Minnesota, as they lead their respective ensembles for the experience. 7:30 p.m., Basilica of St. Mary; 612-371-5656 or minnesotaorchestra.org.
And VocalEssence performs its annual “Welcome Christmas” concert on Dec. 12 at Roseville Lutheran Church. (vocalessence.org)
HANDEL: Messiah Sing
Dec. 5: Get in on the action by singing along with the Minnesota Chorale. In “Messiah Sing,” the choral ensemble invites the audience to participate in the annual tradition, which took place online last year. Conducted by Minnesota Chorale artistic director Kathy Saltzman Romey, with guest organist Lynn Trapp, it’s an evening of Handel’s beloved oratorio, filled with familiar choral songs and achingly beautiful recitatives. 6:30 p.m.; St. Olaf Catholic Church, 2901 N. Emerson Ave., Minneapolis; free-will offering; 612-333-4866 or mnchorale.org.
SPCO: Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
Dec. 9-19: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra gets in the holiday spirit with a Johann Sebastian Bach marathon. Performing all six of Bach’s concertos in two different programs, the series takes place over two weeks. While not specifically written as a holiday piece of music, it’s place as one of the most sublime pieces of Baroque music is a worthy addition to your holiday show schedule. SPCO will play Concertos 1, 2 and 3 the first weekend, and 4, 5 and 6 the second weekend, with a special performance and discussion about Concerto 2 with Rob Kapilow on Dec. 16. Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington St., St. Paul; $50-$12; 651-291-1144 or thespco.org.
Songs of the Season — Carols by Minnesota Composers
Dec. 16: Minnesota composers offer their own holiday tunes and carols for this free concert. Composer Abbie Betinis hosts the evening, which is free and has first-come, first-served seating. It’s part of the Courtroom Concert series, named thus because it in the past they have taken place in Courtroom 217 in the Landmark Center, though this concert takes place at Central Presbyterian Church. Noon; Central Presbyterian Church, 500 Cedar St., St. Paul; 651-292-3268 or shubert.org.)
Christmas with Cantus
Dec. 17: The Twin Cities’ angelic men’s vocal ensemble, who delight audiences with their rich harmonies and inspired arrangements, take the stage at the Ordway Concert Hall for their holiday show. The performance weaves together carols and new songs with three different stories, including an original piece, “Dakota and the Snow Phoenix.” Also on the program will be the stories “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.” 7:30 p.m.; The Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington St., St. Paul; 651-224-4222 or ordway.org.
Trans Siberian Orchestra
Dec. 27: Rock music, orchestral sounds and choral music weave together in the splashy Trans-Siberian Orchestra annual tradition. The group got its start back in 1996, when producer and songwriter Paul O’Neill gathered a group of rock and heavy metal musicians to create a Christmas show. “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” follows the journey of a young angel sent to Earth to help human beings. 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Excel Energy Center, 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; $96-$25; 651-265-4800 or xcelenergycenter.com.
Minnesota Orchestra: A New Year’s Celebration
Dec. 31 and Jan. 1: Get a jumpstart on the Minnesota Orchestra’s long awaited Sibelius Concert with this New Year’s Celebration. You’ll hear two Sibelian symphonies led by music director Osmo Vänskä, featuring Finnish soprano Helena Juntunen. The New Year’s Eve performance will include a countdown to midnight and jazz music courtesy Belle Amour, plus a complimentary champagne toast. 8:30 p.m. Dec. 31, 2 p.m. Jan. 1; Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612-371-5600 or mnorchestra.org.