From medieval Christmas fare to tuba carolers and countless versions of Handel's Messiah, here are some concerts around New York to help you get in the holiday spirit.
Because of the sheer quantity of concerts around town this season, this list is far from complete and we invite you to suggest others in the comments box below.
Messiah ... Refreshed!
Distinguished Concerts International New York
December 1, Avery Fisher Hall, 212-721-6500, www.dciny.org
Forget period-instruments: the producing organization DCINY is putting on a retro version of Handel’s ubiquitous Messiah based on a 1959 re-orchestration jointly credited to the conductors Thomas Beecham and Eugene Gossens. With a massive orchestra and choir on hand, Handel's music should come with the ravishing colors and heft of Berlioz or even Verdi. Artistic director Jonathan Griffith conducts.
Calmus Ensemble Leipzig: Bach Christmas
December 7, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 212-570-3949, metmuseum.org
The Met Museum always embraces the festive bustle of the holiday season, with its Baroque-themed Christmas tree and assortment of musical treats. This year it welcomes the versatile vocal quintet Calmus Ensemble Leipzig for its museum debut, featuring a holiday program that has Bach at its core. Also watch for the ensemble in a WQXR.org Café Concert in the weeks ahead.
What Makes it Great? With Rob Kapilow: Britten’s Ceremony of Carols
December 9, Walter Reade Theater, 212-721-6500, www.lcgreatperformers.org
The commentator Rob Kapilow and the much-admired Brooklyn Youth Chorus team up for a demonstration of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. Kapilow brings his didactic but enthusiastic style to analyze the high points of Britten’s work in the first half; a complete performance follows in the second. Joining the chorus will be the harpist Bridget Kibbey.
Unsilent Night boombox parade
December 14, Washington Square Park, www.unsilentnight.com
Phil Kline leads hundreds of revelers for the 22nd installment of Unsilent Night -- the 45-minute mobile boombox chorus that weaves through the East Village (and also appears in other cities) every holiday season. Watch a video from the 2011 event in which Kline, who is also a Q2 Music host, discusses the piece's origins.
December 15 at 3:30 pm, The Rink at Rockefeller Center, www.tubachristmas.com
Now in its 40th year, Tuba Christmas brings tuba and euphonium players from around the region to the Rockefeller Center skating rink to play carols and holiday songs.
Guggenheim Museum Rotunda Holiday Concert
December 15-16, Guggenheim Museum, 212-423-3587, www.guggenheim.org
The Guggenheim Museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda sets the stage for this program of choral Christmas favorites. The Vox Vocal Ensemble and Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble join forces under the baton of George Steel, who, after a turbulent year at New York City Opera, is perhaps ready for this change of pace.
National Choral Council: 46th Annual Messiah Sing-In
December 16, Avery Fisher Hall, 212-875-5656, lincolncenter.org
If you like your Messiahs big and participatory, this may be the one for you. Martin Josman conducts and the soloists are Jennifer Aylmer, Ryland Angel, Scott Murphree, Matthew Curran.
New York Philharmonic plays Handel’s Messiah
December 17-21, Avery Fisher Hall, 212-875-5656, www.nyphil.org
Amateur or professional? Period-instrument or modern? There’s lots to consider when choosing a Messiah performance to hear this time of year. The New York Philharmonic and New York Choral Artists join together for a full-on expansive sound, but not without some input from an early-music specialist. On the podium is Andrew Manze, the English Baroque violinist and conductor who will surely reign in some of the potential excesses in these performances.
SubCulture Holiday Concerts
December 17-22, SubCulture, 212-533-5470, subculturenewyork.com
Details are sketchy as of yet but this new club at 45 Bleeker Street has shown some flair for programming since opening in September. A house band and an “eclectic group of guest artists” are on the bill in this cozy downstairs space.
Ceremony of Carols (Benjamin Britten) & Dancing Day (John Rutter)
December 19, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, 212-757-7013 www.saintthomaschurch.org
Just steps from the Fifth Avenue holiday bustle, St. Thomas serves up a pair of works for boys' voices in this early evening concert. Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols is a set of nine carols based on texts by anonymous 15th and 16th century writers, while John Rutter's Dancing Day is a cycle of traditional Christmas Carols, also dating back several hundred years. John Scott directs this annual concert.
Lionheart at the Cloisters
December 22, The Cloisters, 212-650-2290, metmuseum.org
This vocal sextet has focused on various medieval Christmas programs over the years, each focusing on a particular country’s hymns, motets and carols. This year’s program (presented twice) features chant-like repertoire and later styles from Italy, culminating in the rich harmonies of the Renaissance composer Innocentius Dammonis. The Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan provides a striking backdrop.
Oratorio Society of New York: Messiah
December 23, Carnegie Hall, 212-247-7800, www.carnegiehall.org
Kent Tritle, host of WQXR’s show The Choral Mix, leads this annual Messiah performance with a fine roster of soloists including soprano Kathryn Louise Lewek, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Ringle, tenor Nicholas Phan and bass-baritone Dashon Burton. According to the Society, they’ve been presenting Messiahs since 1874.