Wherever we may find ourselves over the holiday season, making merry simply wouldn’t be the same without a musical backdrop. A familiar carol heard in the distance, the strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker welling up, a haunting Baroque composition sung a cappella … these are the beautiful sounds that accompany the distinctive quality of a holiday spent in Santa Fe.
It’s our festive good fortune that talented performers of all stripes have chosen to make the City Different their permanent home. And the fact that guest artists from all over the world welcome an opportunity to perform here is an additional blessing, particularly at the holidays, when Santa Fe sparkles with color, excitement, and music.
Hallelujah for Handel
We know the holidays have well and truly begun when the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus treat us to the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. As always, this festive holiday tradition takes place at the Lensic on November 24, under the baton of conductor Tom Hall, with an informative preview talk taking place before the performance. I love that the program always includes the words so I can follow, and I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t like to hum along to the Hallelujah chorus!
The 30th season of the Symphony takes the holiday spirit to towering heights, with a glittering performance of Christmas Treasures at the fully bedecked Lensic. This concert of choral favorites, conducted by Joseph Young, includes holiday favorites from the Middle Ages all the way to the 20th century, with standards like Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and a suite from the movie Polar Express – there’s one for the kiddos! Be sure to mark this December 15th performance on your musical calendar. This all-ages performance is a sure bet for bringing a melodious close to the afternoon, and you can close out a magical day with a festive Sunday dinner downtown.
It’s a BIG Sing, and You’re Invited to Sing Along
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, in its 31st season of choral concordance in Santa Fe, has become one of our most beloved musical groups, and they pay back the love with a return of The Big Sing, a local hit when it was inaugurated in 2012. This concert of song features performers of all ages, with appearances by the University of New Mexico Concert Choir and the UNM Children’s Chorus, in addition to the Desert Chorale led by its esteemed director, Joshua Habermann. Each of the three choral groups performing collected its own set of seasonal selections to infuse our hearts with holiday spirit. The Santa Fe ambiance of the venue, Cristo Rey Church on Canyon Road, adds to the flavor of this one-day only performance on December 15. And throughout the concert, the audience will be invited to sing along – I don’t know about you, but I am always ready to bust out some Silver Bells!
Not content with just a community sing-along, the Desert Chorale also brings their annual Carols and Lullabies concerts to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis for five stirring performances in December — and there’s a truly spiritual uplift on hearing an ancient lullaby echo through the rafters of our beautiful Cathedral. For those of you looking to lighten the holiday mood up a bit, here’s just the ticket: The Lighter Side of Christmas benefit concert for the Chorale on December 17 at Lewallen Gallery in the Railyard. This fa la la la laugh-inducing evening culminates in a silent auction famous for offering enticing treats on which to bid. The Chorale then winds up the year with sass and swing with a special New Year’s Weekend Concert December 28-31 by Voasis, the Chorale’s new contemporary a cappella ensemble, produced by Deke Sharon of NBC’s The Sing-Off. And if you’re really looking to step out for New Year’s, Warehouse 21 is a super-stylin’ venue for sassy selections with which to usher on 2014.
Nutty for the Nutcracker? Me Too!
I’ve seen The Nutcracker more than once, and I’ll see it again and again, because it’s simply part of my holiday tradition. And it only gets better every year, as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet grows in stature and competence. Tchaikovsky’s memorable music forms a luscious backdrop for sugarplums and Russian dancers, snowflakes, and an epic battle between the King of the Rats and the stalwart Nutcracker, who fortunately wins every time. It’s always a delight to see the students of ASFB’s ballet school learn to face an audience and take their bows – that’s an artistic community in action. Two performances each day December 21-22 leave plenty of room for other holiday activities, so be sure to get the balletomanes in your family on board.
Going for Baroque
The Loretto Chapel, famous for its miraculous staircase, offers the perfect architecture and ambiance for a concert of baroque music and Santa Fe Pro Musica takes full advantage of the backdrop for A Baroque Christmas. This beloved chamber orchestra has been delighting Santa Fe audiences for over 30 years, and the holiday concerts are a highly anticipated part of our holiday tradition. From Friday, December 20 straight through to Christmas Eve, Pro Musica offers two concerts nightly, alternating between a pair of fabulous mezzo-sopranos, Deborah Domanski and Dianna Grabowski. The program includes works by Baroque masters Bach, Telemann, and Handel, along with a selection of traditional carols guaranteed to bring old memories to new life. A very important heads up: Since the Loretto Chapel is an intimate (read: limited seating) venue, these concerts will definitely sell out to those whose holiday décor includes beautiful music.
Concerts to Cherish from Christmas to New Year’s and Beyond
I am so thankful that the Santa Fe Concert Association has been treating music-lovers like me to world-class talent for an astonishing 76 years, and this year’s slate of performances is no exception. The Association kicks off the winter season with A Celtic Holiday Concert at the Lensic on December 2, when The Leahy Family, eight Canadian brothers and sisters who’ve have been playing together all their lives, will set feet to tapping and hands to clapping with joyous and accomplished musicianship. Even when there’s a hint of a mournful minor key, Celtic music just makes me feel happy.
I’m totally psyched to hear The King’s Singers, the renowned ensemble of masculine voices, in their one-night-only performance at the Cathedral Basilica December 6. Their musicality melds in a medley of anything and everything from Mozart to Henry Mancini — guess we’ll just have to wait and see — I mean, hear — what’s on the music stands.
SFCA celebrates Christmas Eve with a festive concert at the Lensic, when conductor Joseph Illick leads the SFCA Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and welcomes soloist Caroline Goulding to perform a Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Concert Association’s holiday spirit toasts New Year’s Eve at a Lensic concert December 31, with guest soloist Claire Huangci, said to have “the fastest fingers in the world” joining Mr. Illick to perform Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, and a rendition of Brahms’ Second Symphony.
A Gala New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance are in the works too, with fun and friends, drinks, dinner, and dancing to tunes by local favorite Soulstice — stay tuned to the SFCA website to hear more!
And if holiday music keeps you at home this year, the Concert Association still has something up the conductor’s sleeve when 2014 rolls round. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is on the boards for January 10-12 in the stunning setting of the historic Scottish Rite Center. How often do you get to see a real Masonic temple so lovingly and vibrantly re-purposed? And best of all, these opera performances are free, yes, free!
Harmonious Holidays Happen in Santa Fe Are you hearing a delightful ditty already? Feel your feet tapping to a festive tune? Then make tracks to Santa Fe to compose magical musical memories for playback all year long. As J.K. Rowling says in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, "Ah, music ... a magic beyond all we do here!" Santa Fe is tuned to the enchantment of holiday harmonies, and the more who join our party, the merrier it will be.