Given that most holiday concerts a year ago were virtual-only presentations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to in-person shows this year merits all the hark, hallelujahs and holly jollies that can be mustered. The following list of select concerts across the country reveals a breadth of seasonal styles and settings, from Hawksley Workman to Molly Johnson, from Andy Kim to Carly Rae Jepsen, and from symphonic Home Alone soundtracks to so many Messiahs.
Jenn Grant’s Christmas Spectacular: Last year the Charlottetown-born indie singer-songwriter Jenn Grant released Forever on Christmas Eve, a celebration of old-fashioned yuletide balladry, sung by the smoke-and-honey vocalist. This year, she’ll be home for Christmas. Dec. 19, Trailside Music Hall (and Dec. 4, Halifax; Dec. 16, Truro, N.S.).
Almost a Full Moon – In Concert: While the rocker and sentimentalist Hawksley Workman performs music from his seasonal Almost a Full Moon album elsewhere (see below), a staged reading and concert presentation of a forthcoming full-blown stage musical based on the album by playwright Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman happens in Alberta without him. Dec. 10 and 11, Citadel Theatre.
The Snowman’s Ball – Christmas with Matt Andersen and Friends: The New Brunswick singer-guitarist does blues and folk music with a scorching intensity and rugged sensibility. His December caravan concentrates on venues in the Maritimes. Dec. 16 and 17, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
Good Lovelies: While many people take time off for the holidays, the three ginger-snapping ladies of Good Lovelies are more likely to hit the road. Records including Under the Mistletoe, Evergreen and Winter’s Calling attest to the harmony trio’s ho-ho-ho infatuation. A 10-town tour of Ontario begins in Kenora and ends in the country’s first capital. Dec. 22, the Spire.
Carly Rae Jepsen: Ten years ago the singer from Mission, B.C., released Call Me Maybe, an immaculate earworm and bubble-gum pop success story of historical proportions. Since then, Jepsen has resisted typical pop-star packaging. Two concerts of Christmas music and her own material at the National Arts Centre Orchestra are in line with Jepsen’s unflashy career choices. Dec. 22 and 23, Southam Hall.
Barra MacNeils: Though they hail from Sydney Mines, N.S., clan band the Barra MacNeils are not in favour of Christmas stocking coal. An extensive tour of Ontario and the Maritimes brings sociable Celtic sounds to places including the Orillia Opera House, the National Arts Centre and a variety of stages closer to home. Dec. 22, Capitol Theatre (final show of the tour).
Molly Johnson: The chanteuse Molly Johnson tours It’s a Snow Globe World, her new album of jazzed-up classics and classy originals. Her winter wonderland walk across Ontario and Quebec includes a stop at one of the country’s grandest mid-size venues. Dec. 15, Corona Theatre.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, Taurey Butler Trio: Every year brings a sleigh full of new Christmastime recordings, but few endure like 1965′s A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. For the seventh consecutive year, the pianist Taurey Butler and accompanists present the grace and charm of an iconic seasonal jazz classic. Dec. 15 and 16, Bourgie Hall.
La poste du paradis, Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Storyteller Fred Pellerin and superstar conductor Kent Nagano deliver a wistful symphonic story about a small Quebec town and the glory days of mail service. Dec. 15, 16 and 18, Montreal Symphony House.
Home Alone, Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Though most remember the 1990 Christmastime comedy for the resourceful antics of an eight-year-old played by Macaulay Culkin, it was John Williams’s charismatic soundtrack that received two Academy Award nominations. Here the music is performed live to picture by the TSO. Dec. 3 and 4, Roy Thomson Hall.
Andy Kim Christmas Show: Andy Kim’s Rock Me Gently was not only a hit single for the Montrealer in 1974, but an apt description of his style. He’s a smooth host, too, as indicated by annual holiday concerts that attract top-notch guests. This year gathers Billy Talent, the Sheepdogs, Ron Sexsmith, Jully Black, Sloan, William Prince, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Pursuit of Happiness and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. Dec. 8, Massey Hall.
*To All a Good Night, Art of Time Ensemble: Christmas isn’t all sleigh bells and popcorn garlands. For their first concert in 22 months, Andrew Burashko and his elegant pop music situation the Art of Time Ensemble investigate the darker side of the cold-weather canon. Expect versions of John Prine’s Christmas In Prison and Tom Waits’s Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis, but not Frosty the Snowman. Guest vocalists include Tom Wilson and Jackie Richardson. Dec. 9, Koerner Hall, Toronto.
The Merry Christmas (I Love You) Show, Hawksley Workman: Perhaps inspired by his musical hero Bruce Cockburn’s winter classic The Coldest Night of the Year, the uncommon singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman issued the album Almost a Full Moon in 2001. Twenty festive seasons later, he revisits songs Learn How to Knit, First Snow of the Year and more. Dec. 14, Danforth Music Hall (and Dec. 22, FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines).
*A Tafelmusik Christmas, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra: This performance of era-specific carols, pastoral sinfonias and choruses from Handel’s Messiah took place in November, but an online presentation reprises the experience. Dec. 16, tafelmusik.org.
*Music for the Winter Solstice: On one of the calendar’s longest nights, a candle-lit concert of art songs and sing-along benedictions from Veda Hille, violinist Chloe Kim and vibraphonist Julia Chien more than pass the time. Dec. 15 and 16, Heritage Hall, Vancouver (in-person); Dec. 18 to Jan. 6 (streamed).
Home Alone, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: John Candy and Catherine O’Hara represent Canada in the 1980 John Hughes film that starred the face-clasping Macaulay Culkin as the endangered little Kevin McCallister. Here the VSO accompanies a pair of screenings. Dec. 16 and 17, Orpheum Theatre.
Christmas With Chor Leoni: In the hands of Chor Leoni, there’s no tide like yuletide. The men’s choir, with guest violinist Cam Wilson, offers We Toast the Days, Deck the Halls, Ding Dong Merrily on High and other holiday standards with unparalleled esprit and fa la la la la. Dec. 17 to 20, St. Andrew’s-Wesley United.
The Snowman (with The Hockey Sweater), Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra: For the kids, an animated holiday presentation includes one story about a magical carrot-nosed fellow and another about a Quebec boy who wears the wrong hockey jersey. Dec. 5, Centennial Concert Hall.
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Richard Eaton Singers: Dec. 3 and 4, Winspear Centre.
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus: Dec. 4 and 5, Jack Singer Concert Hall.
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and CMU Festival Chorus: Dec. 15, Centennial Concert Hall.
*National Arts Centre Orchestra and La Chapelle de Québec: Dec. 15 and 16, Southam Hall.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir: Dec. 17 to 19, Roy Thomson Hall.
*denotes concerts that are also streamed
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