DC is so incredibly fortunate to have as many incredible choirs and music organizations as we do. We are host to some of the finest volunteer and professional choirs anywhere in the world, and this is the best time of year to see them perform. Starting this weekend, and going through Christmas Eve, you will have the opportunity to see at least a dozen “Grade A” choirs perform some of the finest sacred and secular music anywhere in the World. While this guide is not a comprehensive listing, I have picked some can’t-miss concerts in the DC Area.
Weekend of December 5th & 6th:
The first weekend has some excellent choices. Chamber Music with a small ensemble is probably my favorite way to spend this holiday season. The choirs on the first weekend of the choral season are mostly small, less than 40 voices, but no less excellent for their size. It’s easy to blend 120 voices. It’s much harder to blend 20. These are finesse groups, expect an intimate concert.
Gretchen Kuhrmann’s Ēchos is in their tenth season, and will be performing a strong program of twentieth century holiday fare, including Tavener, Britten, Lauridsen, Biebl, Mathias, and others. Expect some lush harmonies. As disclosure, I have sung with Ēchos before.
Frank Albinder is most famous for his direction of choir par excellence Chanticleer, and came to the DC area in 2000. His Washington Men’s Camerata is quite good. Expect lush harmonies from the all-men’s group.
Weekend of December 12th & 13th
This is the weekend for DC’s big choruses. Look for overpowering size and magnificence this weekend, it’s the season for extravagance and extra brass.
J. Reilly Lewis is probably one of DC’s finest art treasures. His choral style is sweeping and grand, his organ playing sublime, and his knowledge of the masters and the modern are hard to match. The Cathedral Choral Society will premiere a new Christmas Carol by American Composer Lee Hoiby at their concert, and you can expect the Carillon and the Grand Organ to come into play, as well.
The Cantate Chamber Singers will join the Folger Library’s Consort for a German Christmas Celebration featuring the works of prolific 17th century composer Michael Praetorius. With period instruments, this should be an incredible concert. Praetorius’ most famous pieces will likely be a centerpiece: In Dulci Jubilo and Es ist ein Rose
This isn’t your usual choral concert. It’s more of a theatre production that also includes some pretty awesome music. Built around Renaissance life, look for a 15th Century Italian theme to this year’s Solstice celebration. They’ve invited the Doge of Venice and the Italian Nobility, so get ready for luxe costumes and surrounds. It should be pretty spiff.
Full disclosure, this is where I’ll be this weekend, as I’m a paid performer with Choralis this winter. The program is a mix of old and new, and will start with the traditional Personent Hodie candlelight procession, and will have an audience participation section at the end. This is a great concert, and I hope to see you there.
The Choral Arts Society under the baton of Norman Scribner will present a French Christmas on Monday night followed by their annual Holiday Gala. With almost 200 voices, it’s hard to overstate the size and power of a choir that size. This one’s worth seeing. This is the shorter performance, but they’re back the next weekend.
Weekend of December 19th & 20th
This is the last weekend of the season, and you can expect refinements in the Choral Arts Society and the Cantate Chamber as they go into their last performances. But, as we’ve covered them, it’s on to the others:
The Washington Chorus continues their Christmas spirit at the Kennedy Center on the 19th (and also Monday and Tuesday) before heading to Strathmore for a concert on the 23rd. Look for a large blowout.
I went out to see what GMCW was doing for the Holidays, and as soon as I saw the title, I said to myself: “This is perfect.” They’re doing Snow White and the 175 Fairies. This will absolutely be the gayest thing since gay came to gaytown, and I can promise you that you will love it.
and last but far from least:
Wednesday, 8pm – Messiah Sing-along – Kennedy Center – Free
Yep, you read that right: FREE. Tickets become available at 6pm, and you can bet that there will be a line, but this is one of DC’s most fun events. Bring your own score, or share with your neighbor, but it’s all of Handel’s masterwork. There will be professional soloists, a house choir and the Opera House Orchestra, and it will be a great time. Get there early if you want tickets. I mean early like 3pm or so. I’ve both sung in the choir and the audience, and it’s a truly wonderful experience, and for the price? Nothing better in all the town.