This is a busy time of year in the musical world, with a host of special concerts from which to choose. That’s particularly true for the classical field, where a lot of stops are pulled out for the holidays. For the high quality and sheer quantity of its holiday programs, with Powell Symphony Hall adorned for the season, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the logical place to start, but there are other performances, by groups large and small, to entertain all season long. Here are some highlights coming up from now to the end of the year.
By Sarah Bryan Miller, Post-Dispatch classical music critic
Ambassadors of Harmony
The four-time championship-winning Ambassadors of Harmony offer a combination of barbershop harmonies and clever choreography in their popular annual holiday concert, “Sounds of the Season.” Led by co-directors Jim Henry and Jonny Moroni, the concerts also feature the St. Louis Children’s Choirs, soloist Brian Owens and Vocal Spectrum, the 2006 BHS International gold medalist quartet.
When 8 p.m. Dec. 13; 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 15 • Where Touhill Performing Arts Center, 1 University Boulevard • How much $28-$41 • More info 314-516-4949; aoh.org
American Chamber Chorale and Salem Chamber Orchestra
The American Chamber Chorale and Salem Chamber Orchestra, led by Stephen Morton, want you to feel warm inside this season with “Home for Christmas.” Among the offerings are traditional favorites that have been heard in assorted movies.
When 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 • Where Salem United Methodist Church, 1200 South Lindbergh Boulevard • How much Free • More info 314-638-0793; americanchamberchorale.com
The annual “Christmas Candlelight Concert,” led by artistic director A. Dennis Sparger, returns to Powell Hall. The centerpiece for the Bach Society Chorus and Orchestra will be Francis Poulenc’s setting of the Gloria with soprano soloist Michele Kennedy. There’s also the traditional candlelight processional and “The 12 Days of Christmas” with the St. Louis Children’s Choirs and Webster University Chamber Singers.
When 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 • Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • How much $30-$75 • More info 314-652-2224; bachsociety.org
The sailor-suited singing boys from Vienna return to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for an early Christmas concert. The program hasn’t been announced, but we can guess that the Vienna Boys Choir Holiday Concert will include plenty of seasonal favorites, including “Stille Nacht.”
When 2:30 p.m. Nov. 29 • Where Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Boulevard • How much $24-$49 • More info 314-533-7662; cathedralconcerts.org
Christmas at the Cathedral
The 15th annual Christmas at the Cathedral program at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis features the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah,” as well as other holiday music, performed by the Archdiocesan Adult Choir, Children’s Choir, Handbell Choir and Orchestra.
When 8 p.m. Dec. 7, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 • Where Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Boulevard • How much $19-$49 • More info 314-533-7662; cathedralconcerts.org
Compton Heights Concert Band
For its 21st annual “Holiday Pops Spectacular,” the 60-piece Compton Heights Concert Band will be joined by several guest artists: sopranos Gina Galati and Beverly Stewart-Anderson, tenor Hugh Smith, baritone Bob Ellison and the Abbey Road Warriors, a quartet specializing in Beatles tunes. The two-hour concert, led by Edward Dolbashian, will include everything from holiday classics to Broadway to some opera, ending with a sing-along version of the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.”
When 3 p.m. Dec. 22 • Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • How much $35-$70 • More info 314-534-1700; slso.org
Gateway Men’s Chorus
The Gateway Men’s Chorus will perform its annual holiday concert, “Home & Hearth.” New artistic director Jon Garrett leads a wide-ranging, fun program of festive music, good humor and Yuletide cheer.
When 8 p.m. Dec. 13-14 • Where St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church, 1413 North 20th Street • How much $20-$25 • More info 314-289-4169; gmcstl.org
Masterworks Chorale and Children’s Choruses
The Masterworks Chorale, Children’s Choruses and Orchestra will celebrate “A Masterworks Christmas” under the direction of Stephen Mager. The program features the traditional candlelight processional and a selection of favorite and contemporary carols.
When 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 • Where St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 1411 Cross Street, O’Fallon, Ill. • How much $10-$25 • More info 618-304-9094; singmasterworks.org
St. Louis Chamber Chorus
Christmas is a summer holiday in Australia and New Zealand; Philip Barnes and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus will warm up the season with “bush” carols by William James, as well as new versions of familiar carols by composers from the Antipodes, including Clare Maclean, Malcolm Williamson, Peter Sculthorpe and Owen Elsley. The fresh arrangements in “Christmas Down Under” will be heard in one of St. Louis’ most original buildings, sung with the a cappella choir’s accustomed accomplished professionalism.
When 3 p.m. Dec. 22 • Where St. Louis Abbey, 500 South Mason Road • How much $40 • More info 636-458-4343; chamberchorus.org
St. Louis Children’s Choirs
Six choirs, made up of 433 young voices ages 6 to 18, will perform in the annual holiday concert by the St. Louis Children’s Choirs. On the program is choral music of the season, both old and new. Guest star Eli Magic will premiere his composition “A Magic Christmas” and perform John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the Concert Choir ensemble.
When 1 p.m. Dec. 7 • Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • How much $14-$56 • More info 314-534-1700; slccsing.org
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
The SLSO begins with three performances of Tchaikovsky’s complete music for “The Nutcracker” ballet on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 30-Dec. 1; $15-$87.50), conducted by Andrew Grams in his SLSO debut. The St. Louis Children’s Choirs will perform, and Luke Kritzeck will contribute special lighting designs.
Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra return for “Big Band Holidays” (Dec. 4; $45-$115). Richard Egarr conducts from the harpsichord for “Baroque Fireworks” (Dec. 6-8; $15-$67.50); violinists Kristin Ahlstrom and Angie Smart and flutist Andrea Kaplan are soloists in selections by Bach and Handel that include Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” and Egarr’s own compilation of the “Water Music.”
There are six chances to attend one of the most beloved traditions in St. Louis, the Mercy Holiday Celebration (Dec. 13-15; $30-$68). Stuart Malina will conduct the SLSO, vocalist Rachel Potter and the Holiday Festival Chorus. Santa Claus will make an appearance before each performance and at intermission; tell him your wish list, and pose for photos.
“A Gospel Christmas” is back for two performances (Dec. 18-19; $34-$65). Kevin McBeth conducts this year’s soloist, the young Kennedy Holmes (“The Voice”) of Florissant, the In Unison Chorus and the SLSO in gospel renditions of holiday favorites.
Joshua Gersen conducts the SLSO in the live score for the 1990 hit “Home Alone” (Dec. 20-21; $38-$65) while the movie plays on the big screen above. The Webster University Chorale, directed by Trent A. Patterson, will contribute vocals.
After Christmas, the SLSO performs the score for Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” (Dec. 27-28; $35-$65), while the movie plays overhead. The film won the Oscar in 1992 for best original score. Norman Huynh conducts.
This year’s BMO Wealth Management New Year’s Eve Celebration (Dec. 31; $45-$125) will be led by SLSO music director Stéphane Denève, who’s planning to maintain the tradition of great music, fun surprises and a little comedy. By design, the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and ends early, so patrons can go on to other functions. Don’t delay; this concert always sells out quickly.
Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • More info 314-534-1700; slso.org