Risky Regencies

Christmas music

Aaargh! It’s almost upon us, roughly slouching…

But while I am trying to ignore the Christmas Beast, at this time of year there’s one very important thing to do in preparation for the holidays and that’s to book tickets to a Christmas performance. I know we’ll all be playing our favorite Christmas CDs (or listening to the BBC’s live satellite broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols) but I urge you to get out to a real, live performance. (And by the way, the performing arts enhance the economic and social wellbeing of the community, do all sorts of good things for kids and adults, and live performance does something for you that DVDs or CDs can’t. Check out this list of reports from the Cultural Alliance of Washington, D.C. You’ll need to scroll down to Reports and Studies. Some are local, some national. And it costs about the same as a ballgame, sometimes less, to go to the opera or ballet.)

Check out what’s going on in your area. If you’re interested in traditional music and folklore, you might want to catch a performance by the Christmas Revels.

Or how about the Nutcracker? Gorgeous music and costumes, wonderful dancing, and an erectile Christmas tree!

My favorite Christmas music is Handel’s Messiah and I have fond memories of performances in England with a thumping big local choir and imported soloists (preferably with a Welsh bass). One of my most memorable Messiahs was performed in York Minster. It was freezing cold–literally. I don’t know how the orchestra kept their instruments tuned. The entire audience wore coats, hats, gloves, and scarves. The conductor announced extra cuts that would be made so we didn’t freeze to death, and at intermission we all shot out to the pub for something to keep us warm (ginger wine for me, thanks). But it was a fabulous performance in a breathtakingly beautiful setting, a memory I’ll treasure all my life.

The Messiah has been performed continuously ever since its Dublin premiere in 1742, although it was associated earlier on with Easter more than Christmas. George II started the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. Here’s some more to read about the Messiah.

Do you have a holiday tradition that involves attending, or taking part in a live performance? Have you sung in a chorus, or danced in the Nutcracker, or been a ballet mom? What music do you like to listen to over the holidays?


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16 years ago

There really are no live performances where I live but possibly could be some if we chose to drive 3-4 hrs. one way. I would love to see the Nutcracker in person(dreaming here). I collect the ‘nutcracker’ dolls or statutes.

16 years ago

I attended a performance of The Nutcracker which was memorable.

16 years ago

Christmas music started yesterday at work. Just seems to early.

BUT, yes I have seen the nutcracker live while living in Chartlotte NC, but never performed in it, ungraceful klutz that I am. I have, however, taken part in live nativity scenes and Christmans Chorus’s and/or chorals both in school and in church … if that counts!

16 years ago

I enjoy all the live performances especially The Nutcracker which was fab.

Susan Wilbanks
16 years ago

I sing in my church’s choir, though our church has a fairly rigid policy of focusing on Advent themes until Christmas Eve–when I’m never there, because both my and my husband’s families are from out-of-state and we therefore have to travel every Christmas.

As a result I’ve been feeling a bit carol-deprived since moving to Seattle, and this year I’ve vowed to plan ahead. I’ve already found a Messiah sing-along and a Lessons and Carols service/concert, so this year I’ll get my singing in!

Terry Z McDermid
16 years ago

I’m singing in this year’s cantata at our church. A fun change for me. . . and I won’t have any solos! Singing from the heart (and following the notes of my seatmate).

We have a wonderful Nativity play that’s performed near us in a small town. They’ve been putting on the show for more than 50 years now, I think. You sit in your car and listen to a recording of the Bible story. Live actors, including a camel, donkey, and cows perform in front of you. The boys love the star that moves on a wire across the ‘stage’ and one year, a cow escaped and took off between the cars. The entire community is involved.

16 years ago

I just saw Trans siberian Orchestra live for the first time last night. What an experience! The music is a blend of traditional holiday, classical, and hard rock – there’s lots of screaming guitars and headbanging. It’s just surreal – they even have a guy that looks like Alice Cooper, playing an electric violin.
And the laser/lights and pyrotechnics are outta this world. Coolest Christmas concert I’ve ever been too – there was stuff from Beethoven, Pachelbel’s canon, Carmina Burana, etc. too.

This is going to be my new holiday tradition – It’s a very energizing way to kick off the season!

Judy T
Judy T
16 years ago

My sister and I went to the Nutcracker a couple of years in a row, and I loved it. I thought it absolutely enchanting. We missed a few years, but when we went back the choreographer had changed. I didn’t know that happened. I was terribly disappointed as I wanted to see what I remembered! I tried going again several years ago and experienced that same profound feeling of the loss of something magical.

I’ve sung bits and pieces of Messiah in high school and church choirs. High school was the first time I’d attended a performance of the piece and was very confused when people stood. Now, I start to cry as soon as people start to stand.

The local radio station plays nonstop carols starting the day after Thanksgiving. I listen for a few favorites, but there comes a time when the ads and some definite non-favorites begin to grate on the nerves, then the CDs get played.

ASU gives a free holiday concert, featuring the music department. This year it’s on the 3rd, and I’m thinking about attending.

Jennifer Y.
16 years ago

I used to sing in a children’s choir at church and in chorus in Elementary school where we would sing Christmas music…but haven’t since then.

I have never seen the Nutcracker.

I like listening to Christmas music. I love “Mary Did You Know?” it is a more modern Christmas song. I also love Silent Night and Away in a Manger.

Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

Since I used to work at a classical music radio station, and now work for the Philharmonic, I think music isone of the best (if not THE best!) holiday tradition. 🙂 It’s one I really love, and I listen to variety of styles (though not “Elvis Sings the Christmas Classics”, which my father was strangely fond of until my mother hid it from him).

One Christmas when I was about 7, I got to dance in “The Nutcracker”. I think I was a piece of marzipan, or something like that, but I had a gorgeous pink tutu and thought I was Anna Pavlova. 🙂

Great post, Janet!

16 years ago

I saw the Nutcracker years ago and loved it! I also attended concerts or recitals with several singers and/or chorus, etc and those were great too. Live performances are really special, perfect for the Holidays.

Lately, these performance always coincide with those events you need to go, so I have missed them for some years.

Patricia Rice
16 years ago

Timely question. We just learned the Russian ballet will be performing the Nutcracker in St Louis, one day only, and of course that day is the one we have tickets to Musical. I love the Nutcracker music but so far, the performances I’ve seen haven’t been as entrancing. But the Russian Ballet? Dilemma time—

Cara King
16 years ago

When I was in elementary school, I was in the school chorus, and the nicest thing was that I learned pretty much every Christmas song ever — and certainly every Chanukah song. (There aren’t nearly as many, of course!) Then when I moved to England, I could tell which songs had different tunes than the ones I was used to!



16 years ago

The Nutcracker had an effect upon me when I saw it as a child and I still love it.

16 years ago

There is a Christmas program at the local college that I have attended several times. It is called “Hanging of the Green.”
I love Christmas music. One of my favorite cds is of the Vienna Boys Choir.

16 years ago

I never saw a live performance or been in any. . . you know, unless you count grammar school. . . LOL 🙂

And to what I listen to and like, as a whole to begin with most of the music I like is instrumentals, soundtracks. . . so I have a a lot of that type for Christmas. The only person I actually have more than one album of is two Kenny G’s.

The songs that I do really like are Ruldolph and Little Drummer Boy. It’s their messages. One, he’s a reindeer that others pick on and then turns out to save the day and the other, it’s a simple gift that is appreciated. 🙂


Megan Frampton
16 years ago

I am so lame. I don’t go see any live music, but my husband makes a Christmas mix CD (and has for 17 years now, I think) that I listen to constantly.

My favorite Christmas song is “This Christmas” by Donnie Hathaway.

Margaret Evans Porter
16 years ago

Used to attend an annual performance of the Nutcracker. In recent years, it’s been an excellent production of Messiah, held in a very large church. Afterwards, there’s always a “sing along” of the Hallelujah chorus, which is good fun.

In the UK there’s no Thanksgiving, so things go all Christmas-y much earlier than in the States. Earlier every year, it seems. Even so, the Christmas music concerts seldom begin before Advent.

We also treat ourselves to a traditional Panto whenever we get the chance. Ian McKellen has been doing some popular turns as the Widow Twankey the last few seasons. Haven’t yet seen him doing it, but I want to!

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

I saw Barishnikov dance in the Nutcracker! How cool is that!

I love the music of Christmas. When my daughter was born in a November (several years ago)I discovered that Away in a Manger makes a lovely lullaby.

Thank to all of you for blogging. We are delighted to see you here!

16 years ago

I grew up in Boston, so every year we not only went to the Revels, we also went to the Handel and Hayden Society’s Christmas concert. We also attended the Nutcracker every year, and went to a church production of the Messiah. Then the Boston Armenian Society held “Armenian Night at the Pops” which was usually in early November. Not so much holiday music in that one, but still a concert. And there was the school celebration complete with the headmaster donning a bearskin (!) and thundering out in his baritone, “The BOAR’S head as I underSTAND is the FAIRest dish in all the LAND!”

I somehow thought that five to seven concerts was the norm growing up.

Now I’m struggling to get my three kids to a California Revels concert. Sigh.

16 years ago

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do celebrate Yule. One of my traditions is that every year we go to Ocean City in late December. It’s just me and my sweetie, and it feels like we have the whole town to ourselves. I always do a lot of walking on the beach (the ocean in winter is one of my favorite, favorite sights) and we drive around and look at all the lights – something we do at home, too!

Also, the night before Yule I stay up all night and greet the sun in the morning. Sometimes I get a chance to do that with friends, but it’s usually just me. I wrap up really warm and watch the sunrise.

I also adore the snow, though we don’t seem to get much here anymore – darn global warming 🙁 When it’s snowy out I love snowball fights and making snow angels.

Elena Greene
16 years ago

I usually get out to see a local, semi-professional (only the lead roles are paid) performance of the Nutcracker. The past few years it’s been fun to take the kids.

Last year a friend who plays harp did a holiday recital, which I loved, but she isn’t making it an annual event. Sigh.

But mostly I rely on CDs. One of my favorites, really soothing and atmospheric, is Anonymous 4’s On Yoolis Night.

Elena, having fun picturing Amanda as a 7 year old in a pink tutu 🙂

Keira Soleore
16 years ago

I used to sing in choirs and take voice lessons till repeat sinus infections and migraines put paid to that fun. However, I was lucky enough to get one last hurrah in at our main symphony concert hall singing Mahler.

I would like to go to a Messiah sing-a-long some day.

My latest acquisition is Christimas Songs & Carols: Sung by Children for Children.

Saturday mornings are chauffering time for ballet and music lessons. That’s when I get a lot of uninterrupted time to read. Yay!

Amanda, you’ve got to post a photo of yourself as a delicious pink marzipan.

16 years ago

I love The Nutcracker–I’ve seen it several times. And we went to a candlelight performance of Handel’s Messiah at St.-Martin’s-in-the-Fields one time, which was lovely. (Though the candlelight was a bit disappointing, because it was rather dimmer than the lights of the emergency exits. The price of safety! And the pews got a bit uncomfortable after a while.)

One of the most fun holiday experiences I’ve had is when we were living in Princeton, NJ. To discourage people drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve, they organized alcohol-free events all over town: choirs singing carols, people showing silent movies, arts and crafts lessons and demonstrations, and a lot more. Finally a bagpiper piped us all to a square, where we counted down to midnight and sang Auld Lang Syne. It was a lot of fun! But sadly, the next year they discontinued it. Community things like that so often depend on the willingness and energy of volunteers…


Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

I also wore that pink tutu to school a few times, much to my mom’s irritation. 🙂 And On Yoolis Night is also one of my favorite CDs, Elena!

Pat, go for the Russian Ballet!

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