The icicle lights are great, and those ubiquitous Salvation Army volunteers are a clear portent of the giving season soon to come. But really, nothing shifts us into holiday cheer mode quicker or more assuredly than the right music. Whether it's the carols, the hymns, the Nutcracker Suite, der Bingle's "White Christmas" or less Christian-centric tunes that melt your icy heart, there is sure to be a concert in the next few weeks that can transform your normally Grinchy tendencies into slobbering sentimentality. Let it happen. Let it flow. Check out the tunes.
& & Holidays a la Ellington & & & &
Duke Ellington is regarded not only as the greatest composer in jazz, but also as one of the greatest American composers of all time, every bit as important to the American musical experience as Gershwin, Berlin and Copland.
As they have done in the past, Spokane's premier jazz ensemble, the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, with director Dan Keberle at the helm, will perform for your holiday listening pleasure, Ellington's famous arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite at The Met on Dec. 2.
"We generally let The Nutcracker be kind of the centerpiece of the concert," explains SJO trumpet player, Craig Volosing. "We also try to research and find a handful of the very best arrangements of some other traditional holiday tunes in the jazz setting. This year, the other big piece we're doing is another Ellington. That's why we're calling this concert 'Holidays ala Ellington.' "
This second piece is Ellington's interpretation of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, which, aside from The Nutcracker, is probably the Duke's most famous "jazzed-up" arrangement of a classical work.
"It will be an exciting premier performance," says Volosing. "This will be the first time that Ellington's Peer Gynt has ever been performed in the Northwest."
In fact, Peer Gynt was arranged and recorded by Ellington and his collaborator Billy Strayhorn almost as an afterthought. After the Nutcracker Suite recording sessions were completed at Columbia studios in 1960, Ellington realized he had three more recording days at his disposal. In those three days, Ellington and Strayhorn worked feverishly to complete a jazz arrangement of five of the eight movements of Peer Gynt (obviously, the classical work had been swimming around in Duke's mind for some time). The result was one of the most richly scored and beautiful pieces the Ellington band would ever perform.
Though his image in the popular mind centers on his talents as bandleader and performer, Ellington's real genius lay in his prowess as composer and interpreter. He was also incredibly prolific, composing new arrangements right up until his death in 1974.
"He wrote over 2,000 tunes," emphasizes Volosing, "let alone the arrangements of these special things. The depth of Ellington is just barely now being realized by the general public."
& & & lt;i & "Holidays ala Ellington" is at The Met on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 8 pm. Tickets: $19.50; $17.50 for students, seniors and members of the military. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Holiday Music in Historic Homes & & & &
Allegro's concerts offer vibrant period music from the baroque, classic and romantic eras and are intimate affairs, featuring Beverly Biggs (on fortepiano) and David Dutton (on oboe) along with an impressive array of guest artists. But with one of Allegro's Music in Historic Homes events, the usual barriers between performers and audience almost completely disappear. These eagerly anticipated events take place in one of several historic Spokane-area homes. This year's holiday music program will be held at the Browne's Addition home of Mary Moltke -- a grand Victorian three-story house at 1923 W. First Avenue -- on Dec. 6 and 7.
"We perform four sittings each day," says Allegro co-Director Beverly Biggs. "Each sitting will begin with the concert and will be followed by a tour of the home and refreshments."
Biggs reports that the first day's performances are already sold out, so those interested in attending the concert should hurry and call for reservations for one of the performances on the seventh.
What should you expect to hear at this year's Allegro holiday concert? Well, the term "Victorian music" is a big clue.
"It's a Victorian home," says Biggs. "It was built in the 19th century. And we'll be doing music that might have been heard during that time in the home during the holiday season. Which is to say, that it might have been written during that time or it might have been an old favorite that would have been included. Just as we would sing 'Silent Night' today, even though it was written long ago."
Joining Biggs and Dutton this time around will be cellist Louise Butler. Butler received training at New York's Eastman School of Music Preparatory Department and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She has spent the vast portion of her nearly 30-year career in music teaching and performing in England.
"Louise is a very exciting new performer in town. She has just recently returned to the United States, and it is our good fortune that she has decided to settle in Spokane."
And what of that beautiful home on West First?
"The home is just a knockout. It's been in the lineup for quite a while, but they wanted to do a little more restoration this year. I saw it about three weeks ago, and it is just stunning."
& & & lt;i & "A Victorian Christmas" is Dec. 6-7 at 3, 4:30, 6 and 7:30 pm at 1923 W. First. Tickets: $15, available only through the Allegro office. Call: 455-6865. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & The Singing Nuns & & & &
Yep, they're back. And this time, it's personal. Up close and personal, that is. With a performance at the intimate Met Theater, is there really any other way? The Sisters of St. Michael's Convent are coming to brighten your existence with traditional Christmas songs and their own special brand of holiday cheer. They perform on Dec. 18 and 19.
Ever since their warmly received Spokane debut at The Met four years ago, the Sisters' annual holiday program has become a tradition for many local residents. The vocal group, under the direction of Sister Mary Bernadette, sees their new show, "Christmas Evermore," as a way to share with their fellow Spokanites the simple, old-fashioned spirit of the season in a devout yet entertaining way. Expect such classics as "O Holy Night," "Carol of the Bells" and "Joy to the World," along with the very popular (and audience participatory) "Jingle Bells."
& & & lt;i & "Christmas Evermore" is Monday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 pm and on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 2 and 7:30 pm at The Met. Tickets: $15; $12 for students and seniors. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Holiday Pops & & & &
Man, those Singing Nuns are in high demand this year. For the first time, the thrilling, trilling blue habit-clad servants of Jesus will also be lending their angelic pipes to the Spokane Symphony's Holiday Pops performances on Dec. 16-17 at the Spokane Opera House.
For many, the countdown to Christmas just couldn't begin without the Symphony's traditional blend of sing-along carols, Nutcracker favorites and holiday nostalgia. The Spokane Area Children's Chorus, the Symphony Chorale and special guest soloists will also join in on the fun.
& & & lt;i & The Spokane Symphony's Holiday Pops show is Saturday, Dec. 16, at 8 pm and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 pm. Tickets: $14-$23; $10 for juniors. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
At St. John's Cathedral on Dec 3-4, the Spokane Youth Orchestra with director Verne Windham and the Spokane Area Children's Chorus, under the guidance of Tamara Schupman, will present A Victorian Holiday Celebration, sponsored by the Cathedral and The Arts organization. Each night's performance begins at 7 pm and the admission is free.
A second holiday music offering from the fine folks at the Cathedral of The Arts will take place at St. John's on Dec. 22-23. The Candlelight Christmas Concert, "Nutcracker Suite Dreams" will feature the Clarion Brass Choir, singers from the Spokane Area Children's Chorus, Angels with Attitude, pianist Linda Siverts and organist Charles C. Bradley Jr. This delightful holiday program will be one of the last before Christmas, with the first show on Friday, Dec. 22, at 8 pm and two more on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 3 and 8 pm. Tickets are $14; $12 for seniors; $7 for kids 12 and under. Call: 325-SEAT.
The Westminster Congregational Church at 411 S. Washington will host the Spokane Youth Symphony Winter Concert featuring the Youth Symphony's Intermediate String and Junior Orchestra on Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 pm. The performance is free, but donations are requested. Call: 624-1366.
Christmas and children -- it's a fitting combination. The Spokane Area Children's Chorus spreads holiday cheer with delightful yuletide favorites and a dusting of new sounds as well, as they present "Hodie! -- A Holiday Concert" at the Westminster Congregational Church on Dec. 8-9 at 7:30 pm each evening. Tickets are $5; $6 reserved. Call: 624-7992.
Gonzaga's Candlelight Christmas Concert with the Gonzaga University Choir will commence at St. Aloysius Church, Boone and Astor, on Dec. 8-9 at 8 pm. Tickets are $10; $7 for seniors and students. Call: 325-SEAT.
The First Presbyterian Church at 318 S. Cedar will host the Wondrous Night Christmas Concert brought to life by the Whitworth Choir, Women's Choir, Chamber Singers, Harp Ensemble and Brass Quintet. The concert -- featuring music from late Baroque to the 20th century, folk songs, carols and songs from Spain, Austria, France and England -- starts on Friday, Dec. 8, at 8 pm and continues with two shows on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 3 and 7 pm. Prelude starts 20 minutes prior to show time. Tickets are $10. Call: 747-1058.
The Whitworth Women's Choir will also perform a Candlelight Service concert at the Whitworth Chapel on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 7 pm. This performance is free. Call: 777-3280.
The Inland Northwest Men's Chorus will take over The Met on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 2:30 pm as they present a "Best of the Season" holiday concert. Tickets: $15; $12 in advance. Call: 325-SEAT.
"Season of Brass" is the name of the new Spokane British Brass Band holiday concert at The Met on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $10; $8 for students and seniors; $9 for KPBX members. Call: 325-SEAT.
The Opera Buffs of Spokane Holiday Program will be held at the Rockwood Retirement Community, 2900 E. 25th. Join harpist Leslie Stratton-Norris and baritone Randall Wagner for this free performance on Monday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 pm. Call: 535-7051.
At the SFCC Music Building Auditorium on Tuesday, Dec 5, three choirs from SFCC will perform folk songs from throughout the ages and songs of the holidays at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $3, but only a buck for students and seniors, and free to SFCC students and staff. Call: 533-3720.
Sounds of the Season Concert at North Idaho College's Schuler Auditorium in Coeur d'Alene will feature selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker performed by the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Todd Snyder. Also on stage will be the NIC Choral Ensembles with Scarlett Hepworth conducting. There will be two performances, the first on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 pm, and the second on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 pm. Tickets: $7; $5 for seniors; $3 for 18 and younger. Call: (208) 769-7780.
Up in Sandpoint at the venerable Panida Theater, the 18-piece swing band, Swing Street presents a wholly swinging, jumping holiday program they're calling The Swing Street Swing Band's Family Christmas Show. The Swing Shift vocal quartet, the Swing Street Combo, the Swing Street Brass Quartet and the 911 Dixie to Go will do their collective best to try to upstage Santa, who is also scheduled to make an appearance. Check it out Dec. 1-2 at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $12; $10 for seniors and students; $5 for kids 12 and younger. Call: (208) 265-5930.
& & & lt;i & WSU's Concert Choir directed by Lori Wiest with the University Singers conducted by Charles Neufeld, and the WSU Symphony Orchestra conducted by L. Keating Johnson offers up the WSU Holiday Concert at Kimbrough Concert Hall in Pullman on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 8 pm. This concert is free. Call: (509) 335-3898. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &