This month, for the eighth consecutive year, the Catholic Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen will serenade the Spokane area with a variety of Christmas concerts.
You could say it's become a habit with them.
By now, the blue nuns are accustomed to being asked such what's-under-the-wimple questions as "Do you shave your heads?" and "Do you really have ears?"
But they're also familiar with how to entertain in the Yuletide vein. On Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 pm and on Sunday, Dec. 14, at 2 pm, the sisters will appear at the Opera House with the Spokane Symphony and Symphony Chorale to present versions of "O Holy Night"; "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella"; one of the Latin hymns sung by the nuns in The Sound of Music; and a medley of carols entitled "Kings' Noel." Tickets are $17-$38; call 624-1200.
At the Met, however, on Dec. 15-17, the Singing Nuns will perform those four songs... and 17 others. Glenn Yarbrough will join the sisters for some of his "Forgotten Carols"; each nun will play a different tone chime during "The Holly and the Ivy"; and of course they will reprise both "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night." Performances at the Met will be on Monday-Tuesday at 7:30 pm and on Tuesday-Wednesday at 2 pm; tickets are $20 (for seniors and students, $16). Call 325-SEAT.
After visiting Seattle for two performances, the Whitworth College Choir will present its annual Christmas Festival Concert, "God's Grace Is Forever," on Dec. 12-13. Dr. Marc A. Hafso, Whitworth's new director of choral activities, has selected choral works by such luminaries as Beethoven and Mendelssohn and by lesser lights such as William Mathias, Salvador Brotons and Anders Ohrwall. In addition, Hafso will direct the choir in one of his own compositions. Joining the Whitworth Choir will be the Chamber Singers and the Trouveres (the college's women's chorus), along with wind, brass and percussion ensembles.
Three performances at First Presbyterian Church: Friday, Dec. 12, at 7:50 pm; Saturday, Dec. 13, at 2:50 pm and 6:50 pm. Tickets: $12. Call: 777-3280 or 325-SEAT.
Just another Gonzaga Christmas concert, you say? Consider this: The Gonzaga University Choir has been presenting sacred choral music since 1887. And they've been doing it well enough to have been invited to sing next May in a few French cathedrals you may have heard of: Notre Dame, Chartres and Mont Sant-Michel.
But first things first: Spokane also has a notable church or two, after all. In the beautiful confines of St. Aloysius on the GU campus, the university's 38 choristers will perform on Dec. 5-6.
Music professor and choral director Edward Schaefer has chosen tunes both well-known -- "Greensleeves," Adeste fideles, "Angels We Have Heard on High" -- and less familiar songs and carols extending in chronology from the 12th century to the 20th and in geography from England to the former Czechoslovakia to the United States. The musical offerings will be interspersed with readings from the Gospels.
The Christmas Concerts will be performed on Friday-Saturday, Dec. 5-6 at 8 pm at St. Al's church, 330 E. Boone Ave. Tickets are $8-$12. Call: 323-6733.
If Christmas just isn't the same for you without visions of sugar plum fairies dancing through your head, then you can get your annual Nutcracker fix at the Opera House on Friday-Saturday, Dec. 5-6, at 7:30 pm, and on Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 6-7, at 2 pm. Ballet British Columbia and Spokane-area dancers will join the Alberta Ballet and the Spokane Symphony as brave little Clara journeys to the Land of Sweets.
But even for Nutcracker aficionados, the ballet may yet hold some surprises. Did you know, for example, that after Tchaikovsky premiered it in 1892, it took 66 years for the full-length work to be performed in the United States? Or that the Mouse King and Queen have it in for Herr Drosselmeyer (that masterful maker of mysterious mechanisms) because he once built a better mouse trap that killed off half the royal mice? That Clara's last name is Stahlbaum? Or that back in 1816, E.T.A. Hoffman's original version of the tale -- filled as it was with blackmail, revenge, nightmares, pools of blood and people cursed with repulsive ugliness -- was never intended as a children's tale at all?
This Christmas, just be thankful that the original choreographer had the wisdom to call in a script doctor.
Tickets for the kinder, gentler and more traditional Nutcracker are $17-$34, and $13 for children. Visit www.spokanesymphony.org or call 624-1200. Ballet Idaho also presents The Nutcracker at the Panida in Sandpoint on Dec. 9 at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $20; $8, students 18 and younger. Call: (208) 263-9191