Without a doubt, it's the most wonderful time of the year to be a choral geek.
Christmas is fast approaching - and all around the Lower Mainland, choirs are putting together concerts to share the warmth and joy of the season.
As has become my tradition, I've decided to devote a blog post to my top picks for choral music this Christmas - and believe you me, there was a wealth of music out there to choose from when I put together this list. Here, in more-or-less chronological order, is my list of the top Christmas choral happenings in YVR and area.
Elektra Women's Choir: First out of the gate for the holidays is Chez Nous: Christmas With Elektra, happening this Saturday, Nov. 29. It runs at 2 p.m. at Queens Avenue United Church in New West and 7:30 p.m. at Ryerson United Church at 2195 West 45th Ave. in Vancouver. Guest artists are A Touch of Brass and the Eric Hamber Women's Chorale. Tickets are $28 regular, $22 for seniors or $15 for students with ID.
VanDeca: This self-directed ensemble is singing a holiday concert to benefit L'Arche Greater Vancouver on Sunday, Nov. 30. The 3 p.m. concert will include Christmas and holiday songs, along with some VanDeca favourites and a couple of songs that will be featured in the choir's upcoming concert in January. The concert is free, but donations will be accepted for L'Arche - an organization that works with people with developmental disabilities. The concert is being held at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, 7155 Sherbrooke St. in Vancouver.
Vancouver Men's Chorus: The men's chorus is bringing its perennially popular Making Spirits Bright concert to the stage several times, so you have no excuse for missing it! You can catch 8 p.m. shows on Dec. 4, 6 7 and 12, or 3 p.m. matinees on Dec. 7 and 13. The fun is all happening at St. Paul's Anglican Church, 1130 Jervis St. Tickets are $35.
Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir: Another holiday favourite is Christmas with the Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir, and once again you have several opportunities to catch them in action: Dec. 4 at Christ Church Cathedral, Dec. 6 at White Rock Baptist Church, Dec. 9 at the Surrey Arts Centre, Dec. 12 at Centennial Theatre and Dec. 13 at Shaughnessy Heights. For New Westminster residents, their special concert at the Massey Theatre on Dec. 7 is all the more special because it's a joint production with the acclaimed Winter Harp ensemble - it just doesn't get any more Christmassy than that.
Coastal Sound: Coastal Sound is back to share its popular holiday offerings with local audiences. The Coastal Sound Youth Choir takes to the stage on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral for a Christmas show, with a special guest appearance by the Coastal Sound Children's Choir. On Sunday, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m., you can enjoy Comfort and Joy - featuring Coastal Sound singers of all ages, Con Brio, Con Bella, the Children's Choir and DeCoro, at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, 1205 Pinetreee Way in Coquitlam.
Laudate Singers: Laudate is offering up Christma With Bach, featuring Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, with special guests including a baroque orchestra playing period instruments, plus countertenor Mark Donnelly and tenor Mark De Silva. It's on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew's United Church, 1044 St. Georges Ave. in North Vancouver.
Vancouver Bach Choir: You're invited to join in Christmas with the Bach Choir on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. The concert showcases the whole entire Bach Choir family, from the tiny five-year-old Piccolos to the renowned adult choir. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus and Youth Choirs program, which will be celebrated with a special guest appearance by founding music director Bruce Pullan and a world premiere performance of a newly commissioned work. Tickets are $25 to $59.
Handel's Messiah: The Vancouver Chamber Choir and Vancouver Chamber Orchestra join the Pacifica Singers and four soloists in this presentation of the Christmas masterpiece on Friday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum theatre in downtown Vancouver. Let's face it, it's not Christmas until you've heard the Hallelujah chorus at least once!
Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir: The choir hosts a joyful evening of holiday song in Making Spirits Bright - Dec. 12 and 13 at Christ Church Cathedral, and Dec. 14 at Fraserview MB Church at 11295 Mellis Dr. in Richmond. Tickets are $25 regular, $20 for students and seniors, and $10 for children. Buy through www.brownpapertickets.com.
musica intima: Choral fans will be well acquainted with this acclaimed, self-directed ensemble that wins the hearts of fans and critics alike. The ensemble is bringing a christmas story to the stage for several performances, combining Yuletide stories and texts with song in a Vinyl Café-inspired narrative. It's on Dec. 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Langley Community Music School; Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Knox Presbyterian Church in New Westminster (hurray!); Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Ryerson United Church in Vancouver; Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Vancouver; and Dec. 20 at St. David's United Church in West Vancouver.
Amabilis Singers: New Westminster's own Amabilis Singers (shameless self-promotion alert: I am among the altos!) joins forces with the Shaughnessy Heights United Church Choir to offer up O Nata Lux on Saturday, Dec. 13 at New Westminster Christian Reformed Church, 8255 13th Ave. in Burnaby. It's also on Sunday, Dec. 14 at 7:0 p.m. at Shaughnessy Heights United Church, 1550 West 33rd Ave. in Vancouver. Tickets are $20, or free for children under 11. Call 604-503-2074.
Universal Gospel Choir: The Universal Gospel Choir brings Hallelujah! Celebrating Yule 2014 to the stage on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. at Canadian Memorial Church, 16th and Burrard in Vancouver. Tickets are $25 adults, $22 students and seniors, $15 for children seven to 12 and free for kids under seven.
Vancouver Children's Choir: The children's choir is holding its Christmas concert, Light, on Sunday, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard St. in Vancouver. Tickets are available through Eventbrite or at the door - $20, or $10 for children 12 and under.
Chor Leoni: The perennially popular men's choir is back with All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, a fully staged theatrical production that marks the 100th anniversary of the moment when, on the Western Front during the First World War, a German soldier stepped into No Man's Land to sing Stille Nacht - and, for one night, the war stopped. It's on Friday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 20 and Sunday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 to $37, or $15 for students.
Vancouver Chamber Choir: The Vancouver Chamber Choir returns with two Christmas offerings. On Friday, Dec. 19, you can enjoy a Dylan Thomas Christmas, featuring reader Russell Roberts, at 8 p.m. at Ryerson United Church in Vancouver. On Sunday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m., the choir is joined by theVancouver Youth Choir for A Charlie Brown Christmas - which also features guest actors and a jazz duo. That's also happening at Ryerson United Church, 2205 West 45th Ave.
Vancouver Cantata Singers: The Cantata Singers return with Christmas Reprise XII, the 2014 edition of their annual sold-out Christmas concert. It's happening on Saturday, Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. at Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St. in downtown Vancouver. Tickets are $20.
Phoenix Chamber Choir: Phoenix offers up its traditional Christmas concert on Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Shaughnessy Heights United Church, 1550 West 33rd Ave. in Vancouver. Tickets are $25 regular, $20 for seniors or $10 for post-secondary students. Tickets for students in elementary and high school are free. Join the choir after the concert for cider and treats. (And p.s., yes, I used to sing with Phoenix. I don't anymore, but they're still totally awesome, so you should really go. And say hi for me. I'd go, but I'll be on a plane at the time.)
Early Music Vancouver: Early Music Vancouver presents J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio - Cantatas 1,3 and 6, on Sunday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. at the Chan Centre at UBC. Four soloists join a 28-piece baroque orchestra and the Early Music Vancouver Vocal Ensemble. Tickets start at $36 and are available at www.ticketmaster.ca.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get your tickets and fill up your calendar, because this marvellous music is just waiting to be enjoyed.
And hey, if you go to any of the above concerts, drop me a line and let me know what you thought. You can comment here or find me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/JulieLMacLellan, or Twitter, @juliemaclellan.
Although it pains me to let the words cross my lips in November, I can't finish without it, can I?