We don't think any music director would program "Oh, Holy Night" and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" back-to-back, but both are part of the vast array of music which contributes to the holiday season. Sacred or profane, traditional or contemporary, profound or ridiculous, Hanukkah or Christmas or Kwanzaa, holiday music offers something for everyone.
Even Lyric Opera of Chicago is ringing the holiday bell, marketing its production of Jules Massenet's Cendrillon ( Cinderella )a Lyric Opera premiereas a spectacular holiday treat ( with early December and then January performance dates ). The following events only scratch the surface of the season's musical riches.
Christmas Mubarak, Silk Road Rising at The Chicago Temple, through Dec. 11Christmas Mubarak is a first-of-its-kind musical featuring texts from the Quran and New Testament that celebrate the birth of Jesus as told by Muslims and Christians. "Mubarak" is the Arabic word meaning blessed, and is commonly used as a greeting during Ramadan, the month-long Islamic sacred observance. The 90-minute show features actors from Silk Road Rising and choir members from the First United Methodist Church at The Chicago Temple. Corey Pond is the adapter/director and Erik Nussbaum is the choir director. Tickets/info: SilkRoadRising.org; $25-$35
The Lakeside Singers, various venues, Nov. 30, Dec. 7-8, 7:30 p.m. ( all concerts )Now 20 years old, the wonderful Lakeside Singers present the holiday mix Oh, What Fun... at venues in Evanston, Chicago and Naperville. The Chicago locale is the impressively pseudo-gothic Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue at Chestnut. The program will offer the type of mélange which is the signature of the group, combining cross-cultural classical music from around the world with choral arrangements of jazz, gospel, rock, folk, R&B and other contemporary genres. The Lakeside Singers are directed by founder Robert Bowker, a renowned musical polymath we first met 40 years ago in the advertising biz, for which Bowker was one of the nation's top jingle singers.
A Doo Wop Christmas Show, McAninch Arts Center ( Glen Ellyn ), Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.The Doo Wop Project, a six-man group dedicated to the deeply rhythmic '50s-'60s doo-wop genre, spins holiday songs in ways you've never heard before. This is just one of several holiday musical performances at "the MAC," as the McAninch Arts Center is called. On Dec. 14 ( 8 p.m. ) Gavin Coyle offers A Celtic Christmas of Irish and American holiday songs, accompanied by guitar, piano, harp and flute. Then, Dec. 31 the New Philharmonic, the MAC's resident orchestra, will usher out the old year with 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. concerts of polkas, arias, light classics and movie music under music director Kirk Muspratt. Tickets/info: AtTheMAC.org; $35-$67 ( depending on the event )
Hanukkah Concert, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Chicago Botanic Garden ( Glencoe ), Dec. 9Call it Jewish jazz, call it Russian Dixieland, call it exotic and oriental ... whatever, everyone begins to sway when the clarinet and violin moan and swing and Klezmer music fills the air! Two one-hour concerts, 11AM and 1 p.m.. Ticket includes admission to the Garden;s Wonderland Express holiday attraction. Tickets/info: ChicagoBotanic.org; $20 ( in advance )-$23 plus parking
Holiday Brass and Choral Concerts, various venues, Dec. 13-16Nothing announces the holiday season better than the stratospherically-high clarion call of a baroque trumpet, or modern version thereof, certain to be heard during the annual seasonal concerts by Music of the Baroque chorus and brass ensemble. The bill includes Gabrieli, Praetorius, Anonymous and other carols, chants and joyful works for brass and voice. Venues are Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest ( Dec. 13, 8 p.m. ); St. Michael Church in Old Town ( Dec. 14, 8 p.m. ) and the Divine Word Chapel, Northbrook ( Dec. 15-16, 3 p.m. ). Tickets/info: Baroque.org; $25-$90
The Messiah and Do-It-Yourself Messiah, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Dec. 15-18, 7 p.m. ( 2 p.m. Dec. 16 )The Big One, the famous oratorio by George Frederick Handel performedas it has been EVERY December since 1879!by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago with orchestra and distinguished soloists. The full, uncut version will be offered Dec. 15-16. Then, on Dec. 17-18 the International Music Foundation takes the stage for its 43rd annual DIY Messiah in which a volunteer orchestra performs the score with professional conductor and soloists and YOU, the audience, as the chorus on such all-time hits as "Hallelujah!" and "For Unto Us." Tickets/info: HarrisTheaterChicago.org; $35-$70 ( Apollo Chorus ); $15 ( Do-It-Yourself ). NOTE: Legit tickets for the Do-It-Yourself Messiah are available ONLY through the Harris Theater. NOTE: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus also performs The Messiah in four concerts at Symphony Center, Dec. 20-23, with tickets starting at $85.
Merry-Achi Christmas Concert, Copernicus Center ( 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. ), Dec. 16, 3 p.m.: The Mariachi Institute of Chicagoyou probably didn't know there was onepresents its third annual holiday concert offering authentic Christmas season Mexican music. The Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuellar is the featured guest ensemble, accompanied by the Ballet FolklÃ"rico de Los Ãngeles. Expect lavish and colorful costumes, violins, trumpets, guitars and more. Tickets/info: CopernicusCenter.org; $40-$75
Holidays on Stage & Screen, Lakeview Orchestra, Athenaeum Theatre, Dec. 18. 7:30 p.m.: Music from The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be performed along with familiar works by Tchaikovsky, Anderson and Bizet. The five-year-old Lakeview Orchestra is an outstanding volunteer ensemble of advanced non-professional players led by musical director Gregory Hughes. Innovative vocal group Vox 3 also will perform. The beautifully -restored Athenaeum Theatre has been part of Lakeview/Lincoln Park cultural life for 107 years. Tickets/info: AthenaeumTheatre.org; $20
Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Studebaker Theater, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.Dubbed ELLAbration ( sic ), the concert will feature the complete 1960 Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn big band version of The Nutcracker Suite, plus vocalist Dee Alexander performing holiday songs favored by Ella Fitzgerald. The Chicago Jazz Orchestra, now 40 years old, is under the leadership of co-founder Jeff Lindberg. The venue, the beautifullyrestored historic Studebaker Theater on Michigan Avenuecould not be lovelier. Tickets: ChicagoJazzOrchestra.org; $35-$45