This year’s festive line-up of concerts at Symphony Hall is not all that it appears. Certainly there is the usual sequence of programme of events specially targeted for those in the Christmas spirit, but there are some treasures within which perhaps will come as quite a surprise.
Festive Favourites with Hugh Dennis
December 19 (7.30pm), 21 (3pm and 7.30pm) and 22 (7.30pm)
The CBSO kicks things off with its perennially popular Festive Favourites concerts, Simon Halsey conducting the orchestra and its famous family of choruses in a programme of favourite tunes and carols, sing-alongs, and humorous readings. Presenter this year is Hugh Dennis, escaping from the nightmare of his Outnumbered television family.
December 20 (2.30pm)
The first of several concerts from the London Concert Orchestra, this features the City of Birmingham Choir under their music director Adrian Lucas, and starring Elizabeth Atherton as soprano soloist in Handel’s glittering Let the Bright Seraphim and Mozart’s equally virtuosic Alleluia from Exsultate Jubilate (originally written for a castrato). Festive readings are supplied by special guest, Brian Blessed – almost Father Christmas in his own right.
Carols by Candlelight
December 20 (7.30pm)
The Mozart Festival Orchestra will be in full costume bringing Carols by Candlelight with the help of Canzonetta and the amazing soprano Rachel Nicholls.
Nicholls shot to international stardom as a stunning Brunnhilde in the complete Ring cycle staged during Wagner’s bicentenary year at Longborough Festival Opera, where she will shortly return to sing Isolde. Birmingham audiences will get the chance to marvel at her talents as she sings Mozart’s sublime Laudate Dominum.
Christmas Carol Singalong and Christmas Eve for Glory of Christmas
December 22 (2.30pm) and December 24 (2.30pm)
London Concert Orchestra returns with its own Chorus for this Christmas Carol Singalong. After a day off for Christmas shopping (perhaps at the departing Frankfurt Christmas market?) it will return on the afternoon of Christmas Eve for Glory of Christmas.
Birmingham Choral Union and the Staffordshire Children’s Choir collaborate in what is actually quite a substantial programme of goodies, among which is the sparkling finale of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, popular Crispin Steele-Perkins the soloist.
Birmingham audiences might remember this afternoon’s conductor, John Pryce-Jones, who did such a marvellous job as music director of the newly-revamped D’Oyly Carte light opera company when it was based at the Alexandra Theatre. What a pity the plug was pulled on that enterprise.
The Last Night of the Christmas Proms
December 27 (7.30pm)
Here we get all the usual suspects from the Royal Albert Hall jollifications, preceded by lollipops of real quality, among them O soave Fanciulla from Puccini’s La Boheme. Nicky Spence (who made such an impression in his recital during Tardebigge’s Celebrating English Song series earlier this year) is the tenor soloist.
Glorious Handel by Candlelight
December 28 (2.30pm)
Here we see the return of the full-costumed Mozart Festival Orchestra and Chorus, plus Crispin Steele-Perkins. Steven Devine directs from the harpsichord.
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
December 30 (7.30pm)
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra breezes in for what has become its traditional performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Christopher Warren-Green. Members of the City of Birmingham Choir and Birmingham Choral Union combine to form the choral contingent.
Preceding the symphony comes Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, in which Cordelia Williams is soloist. Many will remember her musicianly account of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the CBSO in the finals of the Dudley International Piano Competition in October 2011.
New Year’s Eve (9.30pm)
This late-night concert will see Anthony Inglis conduct the LCO in another attractive programme, and one which brings a further chance to indulge in Last Night favourites – perhaps appropriate, as this is the last night of the old year.
Johann Strauss Gala
New Years Day (2.30pm)
The afternoon kicks off with the Johann Strauss Orchestra in full costume backing the Johann Strauss Dancers, and the irrepressible showman Rainer Hersch both presenter and conductor.
The Magic of Vienna
January 4 (3pm)
The CBSO began this run-down and ends it as well with soprano Kate Royal. In addition to the favourite Johann Strauss fare we can also relish Mozart arias and, a rare treat, the Moonlight Music from Richard Strauss’ Capriccio. Duncan Ward, a name to watch, conducts.
*All details on 0121 780 3333 or www.thsh.co.uk