Guide to Choral Christmastide

Among the many magical and mindboggling parts of the Christmas story is Santa Claus’ ability to travel the world in a single night. Well, you may need a fleet of reindeer and some pixie dust, too, if you’re going to take full advantage of the local choral Christmas offerings.

From time-honored rituals to new endeavors, there’s probably some joyful noise in your vicinity.

Timeless Tradition:

In the gorgeous setting of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Kirkwood Hall, Kansas City Chorale starts its full holiday season with its annual Wintersong Dec. 5. Then, they have a production of English works based on ancient sources, with Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols,” accompanied by harp, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” Dec. 10, 13 and 15 at several area churches.

Friends of Chamber Music brings the popular Tallis Scholars back for a Christmas concert that features music of the Renaissance as well as 20th-century masters Dec. 12.

Musica Vocale and Kansas City Chamber Orchestra continue their annual holiday collaboration with “Magnificent Holidays,” featuring J.S. Bach’s “Magnificat” and Baroque works for orchestra Dec. 10.

“Candlelight, Carols & Cathedrals,” the annual concert from The William Baker Festival Singers, has inspired awe for more than 20 years. This year on Dec. 15 and 20, they include soloists (soprano and organ), children’s choir and the Kansas City Bronze, a new handbell ensemble, in its inaugural season.

Kantorei KC presents its particular blend of serenity and contemplation with “Carols of Darkness and Light,” a concert of carols, songs and motets, Dec. 21 and 22.

Magnificent Messiahs:

Of course, we have multiple versions of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah,” 277 years old and beloved by devoted followers.

Led by guest conductor Julian Wachner, Kansas City Symphony and Chorus perform hundreds strong for their annual Handel’s Messiah, a favorite holiday treat featuring nationally known soloists, at the Kauffman Center Dec. 6 – 8.

Spire Chamber Ensemble has also established a Messiah tradition, performed this year in KC and Overland Park, Dec. 21 and 22 with baroque instruments and a more intimate chorus.

Sometimes, though, listening alone is not enough to soak in that holiday spirit. “Messiah” is such a winner that singalongs abound throughout the country. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral hosts its long-running annual Messiah Singalong on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 4 p.m. They provide the professional soloists; you bring your voice and score (or purchase one when you get there). Check the cathedral website for rehearsal schedule.

Festive Fêtes:

There are two chances to catch the lighthearted family fare of the Kansas City Chorale Dec. 14. In the afternoon, they host the annual Chorale Family Christmas, a one-hour event with 200 high school choristers. That evening, they continue the party with “Holiday Pops,” featuring chorus favorites, including “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus is “Making Spirits Bright” in their seasonal concert at the Folly Theater Dec. 7 and 8.

The Christmas Festival at the Kauffman Center features the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus for a family-friendly display of holiday classics Dec. 20 – 23.

New Noels:

Te Deum had been holding out on doing a Christmas show, but after last year’s successful foray the group is back with concerts Dec. 8 and 9 of “Peace and Joy,” with Arnold Schoenberg’s exquisite Friede Auf Erden (Peace on Earth) and world premieres by Kansas City composers Geoff Wilcken and Ed Frazier Davis.

KC VITAs doesn’t do a big holiday show each season, but they present an annual festive fundraiser to share and promote the creation of new works for choir Dec. 5.

The Kansas City Chamber Choir is one of the newer groups to join Kansas City’s wide-ranging scene. They came together as the Kansas City African American Carolers but realized they wanted a wider reach, transitioning to the Kansas City Multicultural Chamber Choir. Now in their third year, they remain committed to diversity and inclusion. An octet from the ensemble performs “Winter Soulstice” at Pilgrim Chapel Dec. 7.

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. She maintains the culture bog "Proust Eats a Sandwich."

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