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GUIDE | A Ludwig Van Guide To Holiday Concerts

By Anya Wassenberg on December 2, 2019

Ludwig Van's guide to holiday concerts in Toronto.
Ludwig Van’s guide to holiday concerts in Toronto.

Holiday concerts help you escape the bad weather, and those tacky versions of Christmas carols that blast through every store, with great music that just happens to celebrate the season too. Luckily, Toronto’s arts organizations offer many different expressions of the season, from period and traditional renditions of old favourites, to newly re-imagined works written for modern ears.

Here’s our picks for Christmas season 2019.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir: Festival of Carols | December 3 & 4, 2019, 7:30 p.m. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.
David Fallis conducts the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, with pianist Gergely Szokolay, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and their conductor Simon Rivard, in this celebration of Christmas carols. The program features compositions by John Rutter, including Christmas Lullaby, with his orchestral arrangements of other carols, along with “L’adieu des bergers”, from L’enfance du Christ by Hector Berlioz, “Nowell” from Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams, among other selections — including sing-along favourites like O come all ye faithful to join in the fun. Details

Tafelmusik: O Come, Shepherds & Manfredini: Christmas Concerto | December 4, 2019, 7 p.m., December 5 to 7, 8 p.m., December 8, 3:30 p.m. Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre & December 10, 8 p.m. George Weston Recital Hall, Meridian Arts Centre.
The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra collaborate with the Vesuvius Ensemble, with special guest Tommaso Sollazzo on the zampogna, an Italian Baroque instrument, in this celebration of the season. The program combines Baroque Christmas concertos and the traditional music of Southern Italy, using period instrument such as the ciaramella and mandolin, along with the orchestra. There is a pre-concert chat one hour before each performance with lutenist Lucas Harris. Details

Church of the Holy Trinity: The Christmas Story | December 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22, 2019, various times, Church Of the Holy Trinity.
This will be the 80th season of The Christmas Story at the historic Church of the Holy Trinity. The church organ and an unseen choir provide the music as the traditional story of the Nativity unfolds in a series of narrated scenes. The story is drawn from the Gospel passages from the King James Version of the Bible. The cast is all-volunteer, including the babies who take turns in the role of Jesus. There is no set fee, with a suggested donation, and the church is wheelchair accessible. Details

Soundstreams Electric Messiah
Soundstreams Electric Messiah (Photo courtesy of Soundstreams)

Soundstreams: Electric Messiah | December 10 to 12, 2019, 8 p.m., Drake Underground.
Soundstreams reimagines Handel’s masterpiece for contemporary Toronto audiences in a performance that includes a band, turntables, and dance, and a range of musical styles. Soloists include soprano Lindsay McIntyre, alto Chloe Charles, tenor Jonathan MacArthur, and bass Andrew Adridge, with dancer Lybido, and music by SlowPitchSound. It takes place in the atmospheric Drake Underground, and is a seated event. Note that the venue is accessible only via a fight of stairs. Details

National Ballet of Canada: The Nutcracker | December 12, 2019 to January 4, 2020, times vary.
With dazzling costumes and sets by Santo Loquasto, and a cast of talented dancers drawn from the company, the National Ballet’s presentation of Tchaikovsky’s well known ballet never disappoints. James Kudelka’s choreography sets the story of siblings Misha and Marie, (rather than the Clara of the original story,) and the magic Nutcracker’s adventures, in 19th century Russia. It’s a sweet coming of age story as the quarrelling siblings learn to work together to defeat the Mouse Tsar. Music is performed by the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra with VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, and the performance is 2 hours with one intermission. Details

Toronto Consort: Schütz’s Christmas Story | December 13 &14, 8 p.m. & December 15, 3:30 p.m., Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.
This concert spotlights an often overlooked musical gem of the Christmas season. Dating from the early Baroque in Germany, Heinrich Schütz’s The Christmas Story stars English tenor Charles Daniels in the role of the Evangelist. The music is performed by an ensemble of period instruments, including recorders, cornetti, sackbuts, violins, violas da gamba, keyboards and theorbos. The performance also includes the music of Schein, Scheidt and Hassler. Details 

Royal Conservatory of Music: Holly Cole — Happy Holidays with Holly Cole | December 14, 2019, 8 p.m., Koerner Hall.
Part of the Quiet Please, There’s a Lady Onstage series, Toronto chanteuse Holly Cole puts a jazzy spin on Christmas, backed up by John Johnson on horns and reeds, Aaron Davis on piano, George Koller on bass, and Davide Direnzo on drums. Cole’s sophisticated sense of style and originality sets her apart from the crowd, and she’s got two Christmas recordings in her catalog to draw from. The program includes classic standards like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in an eclectic selection of songs. Details

Pax Christi Chorale: A Baroque Celebration | December 15, 2019, 3 p.m., St. Andrew’s Church.
The splendour of the Baroque era seems to blend perfectly with the season. Pax Christi Chorale specializes in dramatic interpretations of oratorios, and in this program, they cover Francesco Durante’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and J.S. Bach’s Magnificat, accompanied by the Toronto Mozart Players. Guest soloists include Megan Miceli and Elizabeth Polese, (soprano), Georgia Burashko (mezzo-soprano), Daevyd Pepper (tenor), Bradley Christensen (baritone). Details 

Orpheus Choir of Toronto: ‘Tis Winter Now | December 17, 2019, 7:30 p.m. Grace Church on-the-Hill.
The Orpheus Choir presents an evening of carols and stories in the atmospheric Grace Church on-the-Hill. Guest artist Benedict Campbell, a veteran of the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, serves as the narrator. The Orpheus Choir was founded in 1964 with the aim of showcasing choral works outside the usual repertoire. Their Artistic Director is Robert Cooper, one of Canada’s leading choral musician. Details

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Handel’s Messiah | December 17, 18, 20, 21, 8 p.m. December 22, 3 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall.
The TSO offers Handel’s well-loved Messiah on a grand scale, with conductor Alexander Shelley, (Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra), and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Soloists include baritone Russell Braun, soprano Jane Archibald, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, and tenor Isaiah Bell. Mozart’s orchestration brings the celebrated work to life. The performance is approximately 3 hours long, with a 20-minute intermission. Details

Tafelmusik: Handel’s Messiah | December 17 to 20, 2019, 7:30 p.m., Koerner Hall.
Tafelmusik performs Handel’s Messiah much as the composer would have heard it, with the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir directed by Ivars Taurins, along with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and soloists Margot Rood (soprano), Lucile Richardot (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Hobbs (tenor) and Peter Harvey (baritone). It’s a more intimate version of the Messiah in the Baroque style, with an emphasis on Handel’s universal message of peace and goodwill to all. There will be a pre-concert chat an hour before each concert with soprano Ann Monoyios. Details

Toronto Amadeus Choir
Toronto Amadeus Choir (Photo courtesy of Amadeus Choir)

Amadeus Choir: Mystic Light — Solace in the Darkest Days | December 21, 2019, 7:30 p.m. Eglinton St. George’s United Church.
This musical celebration of the Winter Solstice begins in candlelight with meditative music. The musical journey ends with upbeat carols, including audience sing-along selections. This year’s program features the work of women composers in an evening of music that evokes the return of the light as the days begin to get longer once again. The program includes works by Canadians Christine Donkin, Jenny Trites, Ramona Luengen, and Sarah Quartel, among others. Details

BRAVISSIMO! 2019 Opera’s Greatest Hits | December 31, 2019, 7 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall
The lavish, star studded opera recital returns for an earlystart to New Year’s Eve celebrations. Details of the soloists are unavailable at press time, but the yearly production is known for bringing international opera stars to Roy Thomson Hall’s stage, together with the Opera Canada Symphony and Chorus. The program features a selection of beloved arias, choruses, and duets from well known operas like Tosca, La bohème, and Carmen, among others. The concert ends at 10 p.m., leaving plenty of time for the midnight countdown. It’s one of the more glamorous NYE options in the city. Details 

Salute to Vienna | January 1, 2020, 2 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall.
Conductor Michael Zehetner is known for his dynamic style and sophisticated wit, and he’ll be at the helm of the Strauss Symphony of Canada for this salute to the golden era of Viennese music. The Neujahrskonzert, or New Year’s concert, is a tradition in Vienna, and Toronto’s version features soprano Micaëla Oeste and tenor Tilmann Unger, along with dancers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and International Champion Ballroom Dancers. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, the program includes selections from operettas, overtures, and ballet. VIP tickets include a private post-concert autograph event. Artists and repertoire subject to change. Cameras welcome. Details

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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
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