Small ensembles dominate classical holiday landscape

Holiday season in Atlanta ushers in a bevy of seasonal concerts. While the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s offerings are perhaps the most recognized, smaller ensembles fill the season with classical joy and cheer. These intimate ensembles offer standard seasonal tunes that might be less familiar to the caroling public, and though they offer holiday concerts year after year, directors vary the program a bit while still making room for cherished classics. Feel free to bring the entire family to any of this year’s top nine holiday concerts, but keep in mind there are one or two specially programmed for children.

Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus

Dubbed the chorus’s gift to metro Atlanta, this year’s version of the long-running holiday concert marks AGMC Artistic Director Kevin Robison’s final concert. Robison has conducted the choir, arranged the repertory and put together the group’s concerts for the past decade, so this final show is a chance to hear how he’s put his mark on this 37-year-old group. The concert, titled “Bells, Babs and Beyond,” will feature, among other things, arrangements of Barbra Streisand Christmas songs.

8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 9. $15-$50. The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta.

Christmas with the Johns Creek Chorale

Nathan Frank started the 70-person Johns Creek Chorale in 2015 to fill a musical gap — the city lacked a civic chorus, and he wanted to bring together a group of musicians that could create a series of high-level performances for the surrounding community. For this year’s holiday show, the Kazanetti String Quartet, artists in residence at Georgia College, will join the chorale. The group bills the concert as a “fun and festive evening of modern Christmas carols.”

7 p.m. Dec. 9. $15. Wesleyan School Chapel, 5405 Spalding Drive, Peachtree Corners.

RELATED: Atlanta Christmas concerts 2017: Brian Setzer, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Robin Meade and more

Christmas with the Atlanta Master Chorale

Pledging a concert that allows listeners “to once again experience the beauty of Christmas,” the Atlanta Master Chorale, under the direction of Eric Nelson, will perform well-trod holiday favorites and standard repertory. Nelson has been leading the choir, which started life in 1985 as the Gwinnett Festival Singers, since 1999, shepherding the performers through five concerts each year. Adding to the choir’s list of plaudits, the chorale was chosen to perform during the American Choral Directors Association’s latest gathering.

8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 4 p.m. Dec. 10. $35. Schwartz Center, Emory University, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta.

Christmas With the ASO

It’s best not to mess with the hits, and the annual Christmas With the ASO concert has proved to be the centerpiece of the classical holiday season in Atlanta. During this multi-ensemble blowout, Director of Choruses Norman Mackenzie oversees all the action with the Morehouse College Glee Club, the Gwinnett Young Singers and the ASO orchestra and chorus. The groups present separate holiday tunes — such as the perennial Morehouse favorite, “Betelehemu” — and also come together for ensemble numbers. There are three performances to choose from, including matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 3 p.m. Dec. 10. $20-$79. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta.

Santa’s Favorite Chamber Music

As part of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta’s family music series, the Vega Quartet will join pianist William Ransom to ring in the season at the Carlos Museum on the campus of Emory University. Santa Claus will be on hand to introduce the music.

4 p.m. Dec. 10. Free. Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, 571 S. Kilgo Circle NE, Atlanta.

Christmas with the Georgia Boy Choir

For this annual celebration, the choir promises carols, sacred songs and lighter holiday fare accompanied by the sounds of an orchestra and the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church organ. The Boy Choir is incredibly busy during the holiday season — the choir calendar is packed with tree lightings, parades and other holiday activities — but the Christmas concert, which includes all five levels of the ensemble, is undoubtedly the highlight.

7 p.m. Dec 15-16. $15-$40. Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, 3180 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta.

RELATED: Life with Gracie: DeKalb businessman Tom Stokes a ‘paragon’ to Georgia Boy Choir

Atlanta Young Singers

For 42 years, the Atlanta Young Singers ensemble has been bringing conservative arrangements of traditional holiday music to Atlanta audiences. Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church is the setting for the 43rd concert in the series, a two-day spectacular that will see the singers joined by AYS alumni during the Dec. 16 concert. The group will perform works by Judith Shatin, a former participant in the AYS Composer Next Door program, which connects choir members with professional composers to foster collaboration and education.

8 p.m. Dec. 15-16. $10-$20. Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 2855 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta.

Coro Vocati

Coro Vocati is still a relative newcomer on the Atlanta chamber scene, but its seasons have been filled with solid repertory choices and engaging holiday concerts. This year should prove to be no exception. During the holiday concert, Coro Vocati is slated to perform Chilcott’s “The Shepherds Carol,” Mathias’ “A Babe Is Born,” “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” by Bloesch and additional works by Britten, Colman and Wachner. The 24-voice professional group, led by Louisiana State University Choral Director John Dickson, includes a few faces that may be familiar to frequent attendees of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus concerts.

3 p.m. Dec. 17. $30. All Saints Episcopal Church, 634 W. Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta.

New Trinity Baroque

The early-music ensemble New Trinity Baroque, armed with period instruments and the performance attitudes of yesteryear, will perform a candlelight concert of cantatas and Christmas concertos. The ensemble will be joined by organist Shannon Gallier, chiming in on the church’s Rosales organ.

8 p.m. Dec. 23. $9-$49. St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 1790 Lavista Road, Atlanta.


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