The frost is on the pumpkin, the turkey is in the oven, and music lovers' thoughts turn to … Christmas concerts? Yes, it's that time of year already, and you will shortly be hearing the sounds of the holidays emanating from (ahem!) your favorite classical radio station on our Christmas Channel.
And there are live concerts, too -- are there ever! Instead of trying to list them all (an almost impossible process), we're focusing on a few top recommendations for especially interesting holiday musical events. So it's time to make your concert list, and check it twice, and hit the box office in quest of tickets to your favorites. Happy listening!
-- "Messiah," The Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Chorale
, Benaroya Hall, Dec. 18-20: This year the orchestra offers a different take on Handel's classic oratorio, with guest conductor who also will be the tenor soloist: Paul Agnew, Joint Music Director (alongside William Christie) of the famous ensemble "Les Arts Florissants." Agnew will be joined by soprano Anna Devin, countertenor Benno Schlachtner, and bass Matthew Burns.
-- "Messiah," Pacific MusicWorks
, Dec. 10-13. Edmonds United Methodist Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church of Mercer Island, and (on Dec. 12-13) Meany Theater: Music director and conductor Stephen Stubbs promises "a revolutionary approach, as practiced by Handel, of embedding the soloists in the choir." Those soloists include Teresa Wakim, soprano; Reginald Mobley, counter-tenor; Zachary Wilder; and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone. With the University of Washington Chamber Singers and Pacific MusicWorks Orchestra.
-- Northwest Boychoir: A Festival of Lessons and Carols
, Dec. 11-22 (churches from downtown to Lynnwood; and Benaroya Hall on Dec. 22): For many music lovers, it wouldn't be Christmas without the 90-minute traditional English program (traditional in Seattle, too) of scripture readings and carols. Joseph Crnko conducts.
-- Seattle Pro Musica presents Northern Lights
, music of the Baltics and Scandinavia; Dec. 12, 19, Seattle First Baptist Church and Bastyr University in Kenmore: The centerpiece of artistic director Karen P. Thomas's holiday program is "Northern Lights," by Estonian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. This work employs choir, handchimes, and tuned water glasses to evoke the aurora borealis. (There's also the traditional Family Christmas Concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 12 in Seattle First Baptist Church.)
-- Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, Music for the Feast of Saint Nicholas
, Dec. 6, St. James Cathedral: Loren Pontén leads the resident ensembles/musicians of St. James, including Opus 7, orchestra, organist Paul Thornock, and children's choirs in Britten's festive cantata, "Saint Nicolas."
-- Seattle Men's Chorus: "Home for the Holidays"
, Nov. 28-29, , Dec. 5, 6, 13, 20, 21, Benaroya Hall (also Dec. 3 in Tacoma's Pantages Theater, and Dec. 19 in the Everett Civic Auditorium: This is the last season for the SMC's great founding conductor Dennis Coleman, and these shows – with their joyful mixture of the sublime and the moderately outrageous -- are likely to sell even faster than usual.
-- Seattle Symphony presents "The Snowman,"
Dec. 5, Benaroya Hall: The charming animated film tells the story of a young boy's friendship with a magical snowman who comes to life. The Seattle Symphony performs Howard Blake's award-winning soundtrack, including the famous song "Walking in the Air," sung by the Seattle Opera Youth Chorus. (For kids of all ages, but especially ages 6 to 11.)
-- Seattle Choral Company: Peace on Earth
, Dec. 11-12, St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle: Freddie Coleman's chorus presents holiday music by Rutter, Finzi, Pärt, and that famous composer "Traditional," for choir, strings, harp, and guest soloists. (The annual carol sing-along with the Flentrop pipe organ will take place before the concert.)
-- Carol of the Angels: A Choral Arts Christmas
, Dec. 12 and 14, St. Joseph Parish, Seattle, and Dec. 13, Trinity Parish Episcopal Church, Seattle: This now-famous holiday program, pioneered by conductor Robert Bode, varies from year to year, but always offers an uninterrupted hour-plus of serene choral beauty in a frazzled time.
-- Bellevue Chamber Chorus, "Season of Wonder,"
Dec. 12, 19, 20, in Bothell United Methodist Church, St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Bellevue, and Prospect United Church of Christ in Seattle, respectively: Guitarist Michael Nicolella joins artistic director Fredrick Lokken and his chorus for a varied program including Alf Houkum's gorgeous "The Rune of Hospitality" and Jeffrey Van's "O Be Joyful."