By Melinda Bargreen
Retailers have their Black Friday and their Cyber Monday.
For music groups, it’s the first week in December: that’s when all the holiday-concert action starts, especially on the weekends. Expect the calendar to be chockablock with all kinds of opportunities for festive listening. Here are a few options that sound particularly promising, whether you are looking for a serenely sublime escape or a rousing, high-energy entertainment.
-- Seattle Symphony: The region’s largest concert presenter offers a cornucopia of holiday-related events in Benaroya Hall. Among the highlights: for kids 6-11, there’s the lovely animated classic, “The Snowman,” with the score performed by the orchestra under the baton of Stilian Kirov on Dec. 14 (I’ll bet parents will like this one, too). For fans of the pops, the Seattle Symphony Pops presents a “Home for the Holidays” program Dec. 5-8, led by Pops conductor Jeff Tyzik. Traditionalists will love Handel’s “Messiah,” with Gary Thor Wedow (a Seattle Opera regular) on the podium and an interesting lineup of soloists (Dec. 20-22).
And this year, they’re doing the Beethoven Ninth a little early, starting Dec. 26 (through Jan. 4, though not on New Year’s Eve). The excellent Carlos Kalmar conducts from the harpsichord, certainly a novel approach.
But there’s much more to the holiday concert season. Here are some of the most promising choral concerts:
-- Choral Arts: The winner of national awards for excellence, Choral Arts and their director, Dr. Robert Bode, traditionally perform a lovely and intimate holiday program that offers an uninterrupted hour of immersion into choral beauty. The “collage concert” features accompaniment by classical guitarist Bob McCaffery-Lent; dates are Dec, 14 (Trinity Episcopal Church) and Dec. 15 (St. Joseph Parish).
-- Northwest Boychoir: The popular annual "Lessons and Carols" concerts, based on the traditional English Christmas Eve observance at King's College in Cambridge, will feature the 90-member combined Boychoir and Vocalpoint! Seattle in presentations at eight area churches between Dec. 7 and 22. For the final Dec. 23 performance the young singers will be presented by the Seattle Symphony with the Northwest Sinfonia in Benaroya Hall.
-- Seattle Pro Musica: Karen Thomas’ highly regarded Seattle Pro Musica, also a national prizewinner, celebrates the Britten centenary with his famous “A Ceremony of Carols” and “A Boy Was Born” in two concerts, Dec. 7 in Town Hall and Dec. 14 in Bastyr University Chapel.
-- Seattle Men’s Chorus: The sublime and the ridiculous are always marvelously blended in the highly popular holiday concerts of the Seattle Men’s Chorus. This year, conductor Dennis Coleman leads his singers in seven (yes, seven) Benaroya Hall performances of “Play It Again, Santa,” which has traditional carols, witty production numbers, an audience sing-along, and (for the first two performances only) Tony Award-winning singer/actor Levi Kreis.
-- Northwest Chamber Chorus: Mark Kloepper and the Northwest Chamber Chorus are joined by oboist Ursula Sahagian in two concerts of traditional and new carols, plus songs about winter (including Morten Lauridsen’s “Mid-Winter Songs”) and a carol sing-along, back this year by popular demand. Concerts are Dec. 8 and 14, in Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church.
-- Candlelight Concerts: The third annual Candlelight Concerts will present three festive programs by candlelight: “The Pleasures of Pan” on Dec. 9, “Festive Baroque” on Dec. 22, and “Jazzin’ With the Classics for Christmas” on Dec. 28. Among the performers: pianist Mark Salman, flutist Jeffrey Cohan, violist Roxanna Patterson, violinist Ronald Patterson, and the Sans Souci Ensemble. All three concerts take place in University Christian Church.
-- The Seattle Jewish Chorale: Hanukkah comes early this year, so there’s only one chance left to hear the holiday program by the Seattle Jewish Chorale – Dec. 15 in the Seattle Jewish Community School (12351 8th Ave. NE in Seattle). The 30-voice Chorale, led by Mary Pat Graham, will offer songs of peace and also some jazzy, humorous numbers. The program’s title: “A Feast of Grace and Light.”