Have yourself a classical Christmas: 14 holiday concerts light up the season

Have yourself a classical Christmas: 14 holiday concerts light up the season

Attending a concert is an excellent way to warm up and cheer up with friends and family during the last month of the year. Portland is fortunate to offer a lot of performances of sacred and secular music that embraces the holiday season. Here are 14 gems that may entice you to get out of the house. Keep in mind that masking requirements may vary for each concert. So be sure to check with each organization’s website.

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The Portland Symphonic Choir kicks off the holiday classical music season with “Wintersong” on Dec. 3-4.Photo by Samuel Hobbs

Wintersong – Portland Symphonic Choir

A warm mixture of seasonal works will elevate your spirits when this choir, under the direction of its artistic leader Alissa Deeter, sings it annual holiday concert. You will hear “Ring Out, Wild Bells” by Jonathan Dove and a medley of traditional tunes in ‘Christmas Day’ by Gustav Holst. The choir will also sing the Ukrainian New Year’s carol “Shchedryk” (commonly known as “Carol of the Bells”), “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming,” “Noel” by Portland composer Naomi LaViolette, and “Maoz Tsur” by Shlomo Farber. Be sure to clear your throats to sing-along with “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Hanukkah,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Choirs from Franklin High School and Southridge High School will also participate.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 3, Rose City Park United Methodist Church. 5830 N.E. Alameda St.; 4 p.m. Dec. 4, Cedar Mill Christ United Methodist Church, 12755 N.W. Dogwood St.; $40; pschoir.org or 503-223-1217.

Glory of Christmas – Oregon Repertory Singers

Ethan Sperry directs this festive celebration with seasonal favorites that encompass traditional carols like “Sing We Now of Christmas” and “What Child is This” and sacred pieces like Morten Lauridsen’s “Chanson des Roses,” Eric Whitacre’s “Sainte Chapelle, Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria.” You will also enjoy Ola Gjeilo’s “Northern Lights” and Portland composer Naomi LaViolette inviting arrangements of “Love is Love” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” The program includes two world premieres: “LaViolette’s “Winter Solstice” and Ethan Sperry’s “7 x 7.” The ORS youth choirs will combine with the adults to sing LaViolette’s “Noel,” which sets the old carol “The First Noel,” with a new melody and harmonic structure.

Dec. 4, 10, 11, First United Methodist Church, 1838 S.W. Jefferson St.; $25-$45; orsingers.org or 503-230-0652.

Comfort & Joy – Oregon Symphony

Associate conductor Deanna Tham and the orchestra will open the concert with Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival,” which contains a brilliant medley of carols. The kid in all of us will smile along with the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” and “Spirit of the Season” from the movie Polar Express. “Joyful Day” from Nigerian composer Fela Sowande has an infectious rhythm. The musicians will accompany the Oregon Chorale to carol you with traditional favorites, such as “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “White Christmas.” Following the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” you will be treated the equally rousing “Gospel Hallelujah” of Quincy Jones.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway; $25-$59; orsymphony.org or 503-229-1353.

Yuletide: A Christmas Carol – Choral Arts Ensemble

Imagine weaving the story of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” with traditional carols and a few new ones to create a powerful and poignant event. That’s exactly with the Choral Arts Ensemble, under the direction of David De Lyser will do with its presentation of Benedict’ Sheehan’s “A Christmas Carol” in its West Coast premiere. Portland’s own Susannah Mars will provide narration, accompanied by the choir and soloists, to tell the story of the wealthy and self-centered Scrooge, who repents the wrongdoings of his past and wakes up on Christmas morning with a new mission in life to bring joy to the impoverished Cratchit family and especially Tiny Tim.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 3 p.m. Dec. 11, St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, 2408 S.E. 16th Ave.; $22 advance, $30 at the door; portlandschoir.org or 503-488-3834.

Members of the Northwest Community Gospel Chorus, under the direction of Charles Floyd, bring the annual Gospel Christmas concert with the Oregon Symphony to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Dec. 10 and 11.Photo courtesy of the Oregon Symphony

Gospel Christmas – Oregon Symphony

Charles Floyd leads the orchestra, the Northwest Community Gospel Chorus, and soloists in this annual concert that brings glorious, full-throated gospel sounds to the Schnitz. Vocalists Alonzo Chadwick Sr. and Saeeda Wright-Amartey will help to power you upward and onward. Chadwick opens the concert with Isaiah Smith’s “All Praise” and closes it with Myron Williams’ “King of Kings.” Wright-Amartey will deliver “Great Big God” by Lisa Knowles Smith. They are just two of the many soloists involved in this upbeat concert that will take you from “Go Tell it on the Mountain” into “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Be ready for the call and response style that is guaranteed to get you warmed up and clapping along.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 4 p.m. Dec. 11, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway; $25-$115; orsymphony.org or 503-229-1353.

Conductor Gabriel Crouch will lead the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Cappella Romana vocal ensemble, and soloist in performances of Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 9-11.Photo courtesy of Portland Baroque Orchestra

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ – Portland Baroque Orchestra

Handel’s “Messiah” is a three-hour musical feast based on passages from the Old and New Testaments. Split into three parts, this oratorio tells of the coming of Christ to redeem the world, His ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. Terrific recitatives, arias, and choruses, including the “Hallelujah Chorus” have combined to make the “Messiah” one of the most popular pieces ever written. Conductor Gabriel Crouch will lead the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Cappella Romana vocal ensemble, and soprano Maya Kherani, mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis, tenor Thomas Cooley, and bass-baritone Douglas Williams. Crouch teaches at Princeton University and is the musical director of the British early music ensemble Gallicantus, which has released six acclaimed recordings.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 9-10, 3 p.m. Dec. 11, First Baptist Church, 1110 S.W. Taylor St.; $38-$78; pbo.org or 503-226-6000.

Members of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus put plenty of energy into their annual holiday show, which will be performed Dec. 9-11 at the Newmark Theatre.

Light the Way Home – Gay Men’s Chorus

The 100-voice choir will perform sacred and secular pieces with chamber orchestra and percussion. From the late medieval period, the men will sing an arrangement of “Gaudete.” A medley of Christmas carols will sparkle in Chad Weirick ‘s “The Lights Have Been Strung.” Arrangements of “Betelehemu,” a Nigerian Christmas carol by Olatunji and Wendell Whalum, the Hanukkah song “One Light,” Carol Hall’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” and Sara Bareilles’ “Love is Christmas” will add flavor to the concert. The chorus’ new artistic director, Braeden Ayres, will conduct. Ayres previously led the Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus, which, in light of recent tragic events, makes this concert about peace and joy especially significant.

8 p.m. Dec. 9-10, 3 p.m. Dec. 11, Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway; $20-$56, pdxgmc.org or 503-226-2588.

Cello Nutcracker – 45th Parallel Universe

Tchaikovsky extracted several of the most well-known numbers from his ballet “The Nutcracker,” to create “The Nutcracker Suite.” It is in this form that the ballet gained world-wide popularity, and that has led to a variety of arrangements, including one by David Gwyn Seymour, which shows off the versatility of six cellos. Portland’s own North Pole Cello Sextet (Seth Biagini, Pansy Chang, Trevor Fitzpatrick, Antoinette Gan, Kevin Kunkel, and Marilyn de Oliveira) will deliver the goods. You will hear the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance and the Russian, Arabian, Chinese, and Reed Flute dances. The elegant and grand “Waltz of the Flowers” will probably cause any children in attendance to get up and twirl in the aisle. Also on tap are a few movements from Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” and Karl Jenkins “Benedictus.”

7 p.m. Dec. 14, The Old Madeleine Church, 3123 N.E. 24th Ave.; $30; 45thparallelpdx.org or 503-446-4227.

J.S. Bach Christmas Oratorio – Trinity Music and Portland Baroque

The Trinity Choir, accompanied by the Portland Baroque Orchestra, will present J. S. Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” which consists of six separate cantatas for specific days during Christmas and Epiphany. The first three cantatas will be performed on Dec. 16 and the second set on Dec. 17. Featured soloists are soprano Evelyn Johnson Zamudio, countertenor Daniel Moody, tenor Nils Neubert, and bass Daniel Pickens-Jones. The entire ensemble will be conducted by Avi Stein, associate organist and chorus master at Trinity Wall Street. Each concert will be followed by Trinity’s Wassail Party. The merrymaking is included with the ticket purchase.

7 p.m. Dec. 16-17, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 N.W. 19th Ave.; $22-$60; trinity-episcopal.org or 503-222-9811.

Baroque Holiday Concert – Bach Cantata Choir

The 40-voice choir, conducted by artistic director Ralph Nelson, uncorks works of the Baroque period, beginning with three German carols by Michael Praetorius that includes “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming.” Heinrich Schutz’s “Hodie Christus Natus Est” (Today Christ is Born) vocally reflects a brass ensemble. Handel’s first music teacher, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, wrote the soothing cantata “Uns ist ein Kind geboren” (To us a child is born). Bach’s Cantata No. 122, “Das neugeborne Kindelein” (The newborn child) was written for the Sunday after Christmas in honor of Christ’s birth. The big number on the concert program is Bach’s “Magnificat,” a festive work with colorful instrumentation that uses brass and tympani.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, 1907 N.E. 45th Ave.; $30; bachcantatachoir.org or 503-702-1973.

A Rose in Midwinter – In Mulieibus

Works spanning from medieval times to the brand-new pieces will be sung by this outstanding all-female ensemble. You can hear rarely performed songs by Pérotin, who was associated with the Notre Dame school of polyphony in the 1200s and other “anonymous” composers from the Early Music era. Contemporary pieces will feature Ivan Moody’s “Cum natus esset Iesus” (When Jesus was born) and the music of Nicola LeFanu and Portland composer John Vergin. The sirens in this concert, led by Anna Song, are sopranos Catherine van der Salm, Henriët Fourie, Kari Ferguson, Ann Wetherell, Amanda Jane Kelley, and mezzos Sue Hale and Hannah Penn. Be ready to bliss out!

7 p.m. Dec. 20, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1716 N.W. Davis St., 7 p.m. Dec. 21, St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, 2408 S.E. 16th Ave.; $30-$40; inmulieribus.org or 503-283-2913.

Holiday Brass – Oregon Symphony

The orchestra’s stellar brass section will strut their stuff under the direction of associate conductor Deanna Tham. Composer Anthony DiLorenzo, who has won an Emmy and has been nominated for a Grammy, is represented in the program with his arrangements of “Joy to the World”, “Twas’ the Night before Christmas,” and “Christmas ‘Toons.” Composer Sean O’Loughlin will mellow things out with “Peaceful Sleep” before stirring things up with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Denis Bédard’s “Toccata sur Il est né, le divin Enfant” (He is born, the divine Child} and Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas Medley” will feature organist Jeff Wood.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway; $20-$49; orsymphony.org or 503-229-1353.

Members of The Portland Youth Philharmonic will perform a concert that features a world premiere as well as Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” on Dec. 26.Photo by Zachary C. Person

Concert at Christmas – Portland Youth Philharmonic

Since 1961, this annual event has lifted concertgoers’ spirits and this year’s program continues that tradition under the moniker of “Up in the Air.” The Portland Youth Philharmonic, under David Hattner, will achieve lift off with Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to “La gazza ladra” (The Thieving Magpie). They will also play the world premiere of Kenji Bunch’s “she flies with her own wings” and John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in honor of its 125th anniversary. The PYP Alumni Orchestra will follow with Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” The concert also includes performances by the Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra under Lawrence Johnson, the Portland Youth Wind Ensemble under Giancarlo Castro D’Addona, and the Portland Youth String Ensemble under Inés Voglar Belgique.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 26, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway; $15-$65; portlandyouthphil.org or 503-223-5939.

Members of the Oregon Symphony will perform Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” along with “Carmen Suite” at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Dec. 30.Photo courtesy of the Oregon Symphony

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Oregon Symphony

A wonderful way to ring in the new year with Vivaldi’s ever-popular “Four Seasons.” Led by associate conductor Deanna Tham, the orchestra and featured violinist SooBeen Lee will take you on a journey through the calendar year. Vivaldi’s inventive melodies are accented with birdcalls, sunshine, thunderstorms, barking dogs, lullabies, and other enchanting sounds that have made this piece so well loved. The orchestra will also play Rodion Shchedrin’s “Carmen Suite,” which consists of memorable tunes from Georges Bizet’s famous opera.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 30, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway; $29-$109; orsymphony.org or 503-229-1353.

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