As a friend and I walked past St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church this week, he noted that one of the things he genuinely loves about this time of year is going to see performances of great works of classical music written for Christmas. Coming from someone who doesn’t attend church and wasn’t raised in religion, this seemed surprising.
But the truth of the matter is that from Mendelssohn’s Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Vivaldi’s Winter to Handel’s epic the Messiah, some of the best melodies over the ages were penned with the season in mind and they are still sung today for a reason. We’re talking about earworms across the centuries.
There are also those who would prefer their holiday melodies to be secular, current and coming at tradition with an eye for something different. Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody, Band Aid 1984s Do They Know It’s Christmas and Kurtis Blow’s Christmas Rappin’ are classics for all-ages now. Who knows, perhaps Kanye West’s Jesus Is King will gain in stature with the passing of time?
Many will prefer Eric Idle’s unprintable Christmas ode, with its outpouring of seasonal good cheer and razor-sharp observations. In other words, rounding up a list of five great seasonal shows to see isn’t obvious. After some study, here are five winners we’ve found coming to a venue near you to get holly and jolly at. By date:
When: Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Orpheum, 601 Smithe
Tickets and info: From $28 at ticketmaster.ca
It’s big, it’s Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach, that is. Hear his Weihnachts-Oratorium, BMW 248 performed in all of its glory with the Vancouver Chamber Choir accompanied by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra under conductor Kari Turunen with evangelist Owen McCausland bringing the faith. The three festive cantatas from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio will be played on period pieces as they would have sounded in the composer’s day. Owing to the range of these period instruments, the show tends to be a bit softer, gentler and pensive. Perfect for the darker days of Winter.
Vancouver Welsh Choir: Christmas Traditions from Around the World
When: Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Main Stage, Surrey Arts Centre, 13750 – 88th Ave., Surrey.
Tickets and info: From $24 at tickets.surrey.ca or 604-501-5566.
When the 100 or so voices in this choir combine, it’s huge. For over three decades this mixed member group — no, they aren’t all Welsh — has been performing songs full of seasonal cheer to smiling crowds. This program includes material from Catalonia to the Caribbean and Celtic favourites too. No word on whether anyone will be reciting any Dylan Thomas. Either way, this is a family event for any who love to hear chiming, clear pure vocal music.
A Cowboy Christmas.
When: Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chilliwack Cultural Centre, 9201 Corbould Street, Chilliwack
Tickets and info: From $30 at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or (604) 391-7469
Rob Dinwoodie and Open Range present a take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a full-on Western twist. With poetry, swinging music and staging, journey back to the 1800s to meet cranky cowboy Jeb as he prepares to go on a life-changing journey. Combined with poems and stories of past Christmases courtesy of historian, author and cowboy poet Ken Mather and twanging arrangements of classics from Dinwoodie and Open Range, this is not your typical take on the tale.
The Funk Hunters: Fun the Halls
When: Dec. 20, 21, 9 p.m.
Where: Commodore Ballroom, 868 Granville
Tickets and info: From $35 at livenation.com
This annual blowout comes courtesy of Vancouver’s groove-generators, the Funk Hunters. For the past five years, Nick Middleton and Duncan Smith have turned the knobs up at the ballroom to make it into a manger of musical mayhem for dance-happy elves to get happy in. The group’s official remix of U2s Love Is Bigger hit the top of the Billboard Dance Club Chart last year and there’s plenty more where that comes from.
CONTACT Winter Music Festival
When: Dec. 27, 28, various times
Where: B.C. Place, 777 Pacific Blvd.
Tickets and info: From $189 at contact-fesitval.com
Two days of top-shelf EDM coming courtesy of global superstars such as Major Lazer, Tiësto, Rezz, Kaskade and rising titans such as Young Bombs and Tails. This annual winter electronic music event has packed the biggest arena in the province every year since 2012 and just keeps on getting bigger. Imagine turning B.C. Place into a giant dance club, complete with state-of-the-art lighting and effects, sound and more combined with the kinds of amenities you want if you are going to be go-go’ing for hours and hours. Be on the lookout for flashing red noses and flying reindeer.