'Tis the season to wear outrageously gaudy sweaters, drink spiked eggnog, graciously accept inedible fruitcake gifts, and most importantly, listen to Christmas carols and holiday music. If that sentence put your teeth on edge, read no further. But if you're as excited as Buddy was to see Santa in the movie Elf, gather 'round for your guide to this week's Christmas concerts.
We can trace popular Christmas music to the 13th century, when under the influence of Francis of Assisi, carols were written in the vernacular instead of the traditional Latin chants and hymns heard in churches. Since then, the Christmas concert has become a tradition for many families ... and the bane of Grinches everywhere. (Are you still here? I told you to stop reading, grumpy pants.)
One annual local concert now celebrating its 15th year is the Winterdance Christmas Celebration, which features seasonal music from Celtic and Nordic lands played by the New World String Project with champion Irish dancers Marisa Gilman and Cameron Carlson-Riddle.
Presented by local NPR affiliate KCBX 90.1FM, the concert is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 19, in the Milking Parlor at SLO's Octagon Barn (doors at 3:30 p.m., music starting at 4 p.m.; $30 general admission presale or $35 at the door; kids 13 and under $20 presale and $25 at the door at eventbrite.com). Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours will be required at the door. Masking is optional but encouraged.
- Photo Courtsey Of The New World String Project
- EXOTIC INSTRUMENTS The masterful New World String Project will present traditional music from Celtic and Nordic lands at the 15th annual Winterdance Christmas Celebration on Dec. 19, in SLO's Octagon Barn.
The New World String Project features members of famed Celtic band Molly's Revenge—Stuart Mason (guizouki, guitar) and John Weed (fiddles)—as well as longtime music partners Aryeh Frankfurter (nyckelharpa, harp) and Lisa Lynne (cittern, harp).
"This year's music will include Celtic seasonal favorites from previous years as well as new music with a decidedly Nordic twist," organizers said, which makes sense since the nyckelharpa is a Swedish-keyed fiddle. You'll also hear cajon and octave mandolin.
So if exotic instruments played by master musicians, together creating a tapestry of traditional music, and punctuated by airborne dancers sounds like your jam, this promises to be an amazing show in a charming venue.
"The result is something new and uniquely their own—a sound rooted in the older traditions of Scandinavia, Appalachia, and the Celtic lands, yet shimmering with modern influences as well," organizers said.
Kerry Irish Productions Inc. and Arroyo Grande's Clark Center have two holiday shows cooked up for you this week. On Friday, Dec. 17, experience Christmas from a Celtic Table (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $35 to $55 at clarkcenter.org).
- Photo Courtsey Of Kerry Irish Productions
- IRISH DANCE An Irish Christmas on Dec. 18 at Arroyo Grande's Clark Center will dazzle you with principal dancers from Riverdance as well as carols from the Kerry Voice Squad and music from the Kerry Traditional Orchestra.
The evening will take attendees on a journey through an Irish Christmas with storytelling, dancing, singing, and authentic Irish traditional music. Irish actor Sheelagh Cullen and an award-winning cast of Irish dancers and singers will conjure up some holiday magic.
"Join an award-winning cast of Riverdance principals and world champion dancers in a celebration of the great traditions of Christmas in Ireland: butter-making, chasing the wren on St. Stephen's Day, drawing down the half door, and more!" organizers said. "Come enjoy spectacular dance, the singing of traditional Christmas carols from the Kerry Voice Squad, and superb music from the Kerry Traditional Orchestra in a celebration of the international spirit of the holiday season."
Can you think of music more associated with Christmas and the Advent season than George Frederick Handel's "Messiah"? Well, guess what? The famed English-language oratorio was originally performed during Easter and only became a Christmas mainstay after the composer's death in 1759.
- Photo Courtsey Of The SLO Master Chorale
- VOX TRADITION The SLO Master Chorale will present the glorious choruses of Handel's "Messiah" at SLO's Performing Arts Center on Dec. 18, in addition to classic Christmas carols.
With a structure that resembles an opera, "Messiah's" three parts begin with the prophecies of Isaiah and the annunciations to the shepherds; on to the Passion and "Hallelujah" chorus; finishing with the resurrection and Christ's glorification in heaven. But that's not all.
"Enjoy famous choruses from Handel's 'Messiah,' followed by music for brass, choir, and the Forbes pipe organ," organizers said. "Featuring the Westwood Brass Quintet, attendees can expect to hear 'A Christmas Festival' composed by Leroy Anderson, as well as traditional carol arrangements from Mark Hayes and Mack Wilberg."
Don't be a Grinch. Get your Christmas cheer on! Δ
Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at email@example.com.