Tis the season for Handel’s Messiah. The tradition of performing this particular oratorio has become as synonymous with the holidays as the Nutcracker and a Charlie Brown Christmas. If you have never seen a Messiah before, here are a few that might pique your interest, performed by some of Toronto’s best. If you’re a Messiah veteran, why not check out Tafelmusik’s sing-along version–don’t forget to bring your score–I’ll be there on Sunday singing along with the soprano soloist. If you fall into the category of people who have no interest in seeing Handel’s yuletide opus, or if you’ve heard enough Messiah’s that you want to scream, there are a few alternative events on this MASSIVE list that should provide for some spirited, anti-entertainment from the likes of Unsilent Night, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Opera pop supernova, Naria.
Hallelujah for the Messiah:
TAFELMUSIK SING-ALONG MESSIAH
It’s the 25th anniversary of Tafelmusik’s Sing-Along Messiah. Talk about a holiday tradition. This production is so big and so popular that Handel himself will be in attendance. Yes, it’s the Choir Director Ivars Taurins dressed up as Maestro Handel, but suspend disbelief I say, and you can call it a Christmas miracle. This festive event will be conducted by Maestro Handel, and features the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Orchestra. Get ready to be blown away by singing along with a massive choir of 2,700 people. I’m already excited. Bring your own score, or purchase one at Massey Hall. Seating is general admission, by voice part, and non-singers are always welcome. It’s a great outing for the whole family! Featuring: Karina Gauvin, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Rufus Müller, tenor; Brett Polegato, baritone; Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Orchestra. Sunday December 18, 2:00pm at Massey Hall.
In case you don’t like singing with 2,700 other choristers (see Sing-Along Messiah above), you can sit back and let the beauty of Handel’s score be performed for you on period instruments. Featuring: Karina Gauvin, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Rufus Müller, tenor; Brett Polegato, baritone; Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Orchestra. Friday December 16 and Saturday December 17. 7:30pm. Koerner Hall.
ONTARIO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA MESSIAH
The world tradition of Messiah continues with the Ontario Philharmonic. Exceptional artists on stage including a luxury vocal quartet with Les Miserables “what an awesome show, please bring it back to Toronto” superstar Michael Burgess and the Toronto Chamber Choir all under the direction of Marco Parisotto. Handel’s Messiah with Michael Burgess. Inga Filippova-Williams, soprano; Christina Stelmacovich, mezzo; Michael Burgess, tenor; Andrew Tees, bass-baritone; Toronto Chamber Choir; Marco Parisotto, conductor. Saturday, December 17, 2011, 8:00pm. Christ Church Deer Park. There are two additional performances happening on Thursday and Friday in Oshawa. Check their site for details.
THE DUBLIN MESSIAH
Dublin? Why is it called the Dublin Messiah you ask? Will leprechauns be serving green beer and gold coin chocolates? Well, maybe, but probably not. The Dublin part is referring to the original version of the score that premiered in Dublin the 13th of April 1742, about a year before it’s London premiere. The score is slightly different, as Handel adjusted his work to the singers that were performing. This is a good opportunity to hear the score as Handel had originally intended it. We can always go out for an Irish stout after the concert. Aradia Ensemble. The Dublin Messiah. Virginia Hatfield, soprano; Maria Soulis, mezzo; Joseph Schnurr, tenor; Giles Tomkins, bass; Kevin Mallon, conductor. Saturday, December 17, 8:00pm. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.
JOY TO THE WORLD. GREATER TORONTO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
They’re doing excerpts from the Messiah. That means this still counts as another Messiah to catch. Plus the group is amazing and founded by a group of dynamic musicians under the age of thirty. Can I get a Hallelujah for young people having classical music success? Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra. Joy to the World. Shari: Carol of the Bells; Reed: Greensleeves; MacMillan: Christmas Carols; Handel: Messiah (excerpts). Guest: Masterworks of Oakville Choir, Jean-Michel Malouf, conductor. Saturday December 17, 8:00pm. Calvin Presbyterian Church, 26 Delisle Ave.
Don’t like singers? Miffed with Handel? Maybe the season’s classic visual spectacle, The Nutcracker, is more your style.
THE NUTCRACKER. NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA
I’ve included National Ballet’s description completely as written from their website because it’s too amazing to exclude: The Nutcracker. James Kudelka’s 1995 version of this evergreen seasonal classic is a perfect gem of a ballet, affectionate and reflective, at once cheerily traditional yet freshly attuned to the rhythms and accents of the contemporary. Rarely have the dreamscapes and wonder of childhood fantasy, the allure of spectacle and the mood of reverie been integrated in such a seamless blend of dazzling stagecraft, virtuosic choreography and ravishing design. Kudelka’s gentle re-shaping of the narrative releases the story (based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Christmas tale) into new thematic territory. Follow the quarrelling siblings Misha, and Marie as they move not just through marvellous and extraordinary experiences but through surprising phases of understanding as they prepare to leave childhood behind and enter the very different world of adolescence. The costumes and sets by Santo Loquasto themselves cast a spell, evoking an enchanted, rustic world of long-gone Imperial Russia, a place where folk rituals and the cycles of nature make way for the magical, ice-coated world of the Snow Queen and the spectacular beauty of the golden palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The entire production, underscored by Tchaikovsky’s glorious, timeless music, is like rediscovering a beloved heirloom and seeing it as though for the first time. Until January 3, 2012. Four seasons Centre for the performing arts.
Now for the rest of this week’s non-Messiah holiday performances:
CREOLE CHRISTMAS. PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND
Founded in 1961, the much-loved The Preservation Hall Jazz Band travels worldwide spreading their mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. Named after the French Quarter building where the original group met and played, the ensemble has taken its smoky southern jazz sound as far afield as Carnegie Hall. Put some joy into Christmas, Creole-style, with the always delightful and inspiring Preservation Hall Jazz Band. These multi-generational players are some of the greatest and most historic musicians touring the globe today. They’re New Orleans’ gift to the world – back by popular demand. Thursday December 15, 2011. 8:00pm. Roy Thomson Hall.
CRITICS CHOICE. AMICI CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
I love this concept. Let the critics program your concert. It’s brilliant because it can either go really well or really bad, depending on whether your critics like you. They’re also featuring a student written, competition winning work by a student from my alma mater, Earl Haig S.S. Check out the post I wrote about the concert here. Amici Chamber Ensemble. Critics Choice: What do they really want to hear?Beethoven: Trio Op.11 for piano, clarinet and cello; Poulenc: Sonata for clarinet and piano; Elgar: Piano Quintet; Earl Haig Secondary School winning student composition for clarinet, cello and piano. Guests: Yehonatan Berick, violin; Min-Jeong Koh, violin; Barry Shiffman, viola; John Vandriel, Colin Eatock and John Terauds, critics. Friday, December 16, 8:00pm. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.
A CHORUS CHRISTMAS. TORONTO CHILDREN’S CHORUS
Who doesn’t love hearing an angelic chorus of children’s voices. Come on, what are you a Scrooge? Toronto Children’s Chorus. A Chorus Christmas: Mysteries of the Season. Works by Debussy, Holman, Mathias, Rutter and others. With TCC Alumni Choir. Saturday, December 17. 2:00pm. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.
The opera pop supernova are taking over the Glenn Gould Studio. See them before they become huge stars. Naria. Opera and pop vocal music with chamber orchestra. Guests: Lanor Children’s Choir; Vasyl Popadiuk, violin; Dima Graziani, percussion; Elita Yordanov, conductor. Sunday December 18. 2:30pm. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.
SOUNDS OF THE SEASON. AMADEUS CHOIR
These pros will show you how it’s done, holiday style. Amadeus Choir. Glorious Sounds of the Season. Winning composition of the Seasonal Song Writing Competition and other holiday favourites. Eleanor Daley, piano; Shawn Grenke, piano; Lydia Adams, conductor; guest: Bach Children’s Chorus, Linda Beaupré, conductor. Saturday December 17, 2011. 7:30pm. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St.
GOSPEL CHRISTMAS PROJECT
Andrew Craig returns with his celebrated Gospel Christmas Project, an awe-inspiring transformation of traditional holiday classics into joyous Gospel masterpieces. Gospel Christmas Project began as a special concert created by Craig for CBC Radio in 2006, evolved into a CBC television special, and has since been performed at Massey Hall (2007), and for several sold-out concerts at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (2008 & 2009). Each year, Andrew Craig invites a diverse group of Canadian vocalists and musicians to perform new renditions of familiar tunes, including jazz legend Jackie Richardson, soul vocalist and actor Alana Bridgewater, Juno and Gemini-nominated singer-songwriter Kellylee Evans, gospel powerhouse Chris Lowe, and R&B star Toya Alexis, soloing alongside Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale. 3 performances, Saturday through Sunday December 18. Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Young Centre for the Performing Arts
Feel like doing something really non traditional this year? Well, this cult holiday event has been around since 1992, so I would consider it a tradition at this point, but wait! It’s the first time the event is taking place in Toronto, so… Unsilent night gives you the opportunity to be part of an outdoor sound installation. Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night is a free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs, and MP3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December. People bring their own boomboxes and drift peacefully through a cloud of sound that is different from every listener’s perspective. Join us this year for Toronto’s very first Unsilent Night! Don’t have a sound blaster of any kind? Come anyway and be a part of the fun! * Join us for post-event drinks and further merriment at Imperial Pub (54 Dundas St E)! This event is FREE for all ages and will take place rain, snow, or shine. Starting time: 7PM Meeting place: Royal Ontario Museum, under the Michael Lee-Chin crystal (ending at Yonge-Dundas Square) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/290694057628746/