Speaking for his arena-rock peers everywhere, the Who’s Pete Townshend bitterly complained that his entire catalogue of songs had been whittled by FM radio down to nine or 12 ceremonial classic-rock staples that he simply had to perform every time out. Well, he could have played big theaters, instead of huge stadiums, and thereby performed whatever he wanted: unfinished rock operas, album tracks from The Who by Numbers, “A Man in a Purple Dress,” even Entwistle’s tunes. It would have cost him not a million, but a million more. The point is that, with arena shows, the stakes are high and the stakeholders many, powerful, vested and likely coked-up. You play the hits, or perhaps someone takes you upstate. And would you smash a guitar for my nephew?
Man, this is a vastly inappropriate way to begin a roundup of seasonal Yuletide concerts, but I serve the Muse. Christmas music often gets whittled down to the hits, too – the signature melodies that signify. The feeder streams of Yuletide music are many: church music, of course, but within that many subsets. Protestant hymns account for the bulk of the singalong repertoire, with most people able to sing at least into the first lines of verse two, though no one knows a single word of the catastrophically awkward third verses, in which “forfend,” by miracle of melisma, becomes a five-syllable word, and “overthrow” becomes two. But the season is swaddled in Latin chorale as well. We may not know the tunes per se, but the sound transports.
The American songbook – standards, and musical theater – is a rich stream of Christmas staples as well. The Xmas-novelty pop industry shows no signs of slowing. Pop melody of every kind is always a quarry for jazz interpretation and extrapolation, but jazz’s only original contribution to the canon is likely the indescribably evocative piano musings of Vince Guaraldi, whose trio, for people of several generations, is the music most intimately associated with the feelings of Christmas. And if a rock star or modern country megastar knocks out a quick Christmas original or even a rocking cover, it stands a decent chance of cracking the seasonal rotation and becoming a low-risk, high-reward cash mill for years to come.
Am I missing anything? Mark Rosen is the man to ask, but he’s not here right now. It’s just me, the agile ghost of a cat who died here nine years ago, and this sprawling list of local concerts of Yule. For while my kind will argue into the winter night about whether the mid-Hudson Valley finally enjoys a stable freestanding music scene (meaning a rock or pop music scene), the truth has always been that, with Bard, Ars Choralis, Kairos, the Symphony and innumerable pro-grade chamber music ensembles and series, we have a classical music scene that is, in volume and in quality, wildly disproportionate to our census data. And the season is its bread and butter. Hark the herald, dude. Do it.
Cécile McLorin Salvant at Bard’s Fisher Center
An endorsement from Wynton Marsalis is cultural gold, and check out this one: “You get a singer like this once in a generation or two.” The ensconced curator of the jazz canon was describing the internationally fêted jazz phenom Cécile McLorin Salvant, who, with Sullivan Fortner on piano, will be headlining a special holiday concert at Bard’s Sosnoff Theater on Sunday, December 17 at 3 p.m.
Bard Holiday Concert Event with Cécile McLorin Salvant, Sunday, December 17, $25-$65, Bard Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater, Annandale; http://fishercenter.bard.edu.
Service of carols at Vassar
The annual Advent service at Vassar combines readings and congregational carols with an especially high grade of choral music provided by the Vassar College Choir, Madrigal Singers, the Women’s Chorus and the Capella Festiva Chamber and Treble Choir, conducted by Christine Howlett, Drew Minter and Matt Zydel. The service takes place at the Chapel on the campus of Vassar College on Sunday, December 3 at 7 p.m.
Vassar Advent Service, Sunday, December 3, 7 p.m., Vassar Chapel, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie; https://music.vassar.edu/concerts.
Darlene Love and Horton’s Holiday Hayride at Colony in Woodstock
Colony in Woodstock doubles down on irreverent holiday cheer. Darlene Love began her conquest of the pop charts as a backup singer for a handful of little-known inveterate troubadours like the Righteous Brothers, Dionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. In no time, she broke through as a headliner with such hits as “He’s A Rebel” and “The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.” Colony presents Darlene Love: In Love for the Holidays on Tuesday, December 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $40 and $45.
Christmas takes a decided turn toward the dark one’s side a mere three night later when, on December 8, Colony presents Horton’s Holiday Hayride with the Reverend Horton Heat and Junior Brown, plus special guests the Blasters and Big Sandy. A mainstay of the roots/rock scene for as long as I can remember, and arguably the father of “psychobilly,” Reverend Heat knows what is expected of him every time out and does not disappoint. Tickets cost $50.
Darlene Love: In Love for the Holidays, Tuesday, December 5, 8 p.m., $40/$45; Horton’s Holiday Hayride with Reverend Horton Heat & Junior Brown, the Blasters & Big Sandy, Friday, December 8, 7 p.m., $50; Colony, 22 Rock City Road, Woodstock, www.colonywoodstock.com.
Handel’s Messiah at Bardavon in Poughkeepsie and Hudson Hall
We’ve got two excellent opportunities to be in the presence of Handel’s astounding Messiah. On Saturday, December 16 at 2 p.m. at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic teams with Capella Festiva and guest conductor Christine Howlett to perform Handel’s masterpiece.
Hudson Hall at the Hudson Opera House presents its Messiah Sing on Sunday, December 17 at 4 p.m. The Bard Conservatory’s Tecchler Quartet accompanies soloists from the Bard Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program in a smaller-scale, but fine-tuned performance of same. “We are delighted to present this thoroughly enjoyable event for Messiah-lovers. Gwen weaves a magical spell with her conducting, and I look forward to a marvelous full-house chorus,” said Eugenia Zukerman, artistic director of Classics on Hudson.
Handel’s Messiah, Saturday, December 16, 2 p.m., $20-$57, Bardavon, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; www.bardavon.org.
Messiah Sing, Sunday, December 17, 4 p.m., $10 advance/$15 door, Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street, Hudson; http://hudsonhall.org.
Winter Songfest at Bard
The Bard Conservatory and the Bard Music Program (not the same thing) team up to present the Symphonic Chorus, featuring musicians from the Conservatory Orchestra, The Orchestra Now and the Graduate Vocal Arts program. Under the direction of conductor James Bagwell, the Symphony Chorus presents a Winter Songfest on Saturday, December 16 at 8 p.m. The program includes selections from The Nutcracker, Holst, Berlioz, traditionals and many others. Tickets cost $10, and all proceeds benefit the Conservatory Mellon Match.
Winter Songfest, Saturday, December 16, 8 p.m., $10; Bard College Fisher Center, Sosnoff Theater, Annandale; http://fishercenter.bard.edu.
The Nutcracker at the Bardavon
An essential seasonal rite, The Nutcracker will be performed by the New Paltz Ballet Theater at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on Saturday, December 9 at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, December 10 at 3 p.m. Co-directed by Peter and Lisa Naumann, featuring dancers from the New York City Ballet and the work of professional designers and technicians, this Nutcracker is a visual delight.
The Nutcracker, Saturday, December 9, 2 & 7:30 p.m., Sunday, December 10, 3 p.m., $27-$32, Bardavon, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; www.bardavon.org.
Tuba Christmas at SUNY-Ulster
One of the region’s most timbrally distinctive holiday celebrations, SUNY-Ulster’s annual Tuba Christmas takes place on Wednesday, December 13 in Clinton Hall. Tuba and euphonium players of all ages perform Christmas music from around the world. Participants register at 5 p.m., rehearse at 6 p.m. and perform the free concert beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Tuba Christmas, Wednesday, December 13, 7:30 p.m., free, SUNY-Ulster, Clinton Hall, Stone Ridge; (845) 688-1949.
Holidelic holiday funk spectacular at Helsinki Hudson
Part dance party, part funk concert, part comedy show, the holiday funk spectacular Holidelic features original holiday songs as well as loose, funk-infused adaptations of Tchaikovsky, “Frosty the Snowman,” “Little Drummer Boy” and more seasonal favorites transformed by the funk arts. Holidelic features outrageous costumes and an extravagant stage show, and it happens at Club Helsinki in Hudson on Friday, December 22 at 9 p.m.
Holidelic, Friday, December 22, 9 p.m., 21+, $25-$30, Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia Street, Hudson; www.helsinkihudson.com.
Lúnasa & Ashley Davis’ Celtic Christmas, Slambovian Circus of Dreams at Towne Crier in Beacon
The internationally celebrated Irish instrumental band Lúnasa joins forces with the Celtic music singer/songwriter Ashley Davis for an Irish celebration of Christmas at the Towne Crier Café in Beacon on Saturday, December 16 at 8:30 p.m. Lúnasa has played some nice rooms: the Hollywood Bowl, National Concert Hall (Dublin), the Sydney Opera House and the White House. Ashley Davis has collaborated with such musical luminaries as the Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, fiddle player Eileen Ivers, harpist Cormac De Barra and Moya Brennan.
One Christmas-themed evening is not quite enough for the Towne Crier, but the tone will be considerably different when the long-running psychedelic-rock eccentrics the Slambovian Circus of Dreams present their annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 23 at 8:30 p.m. The Westchester natives, at this point, seem rather like their own culture with its own holidays, but they love Christmas.
Lúnasa & Ashley Davis, Saturday, December 16, 8:30 p.m., $35; Slambovian Circus of Dreams Holiday Concert, Saturday, December 23, 8:30 p.m., $30; Towne Crier Café, 379 Main Street, Beacon; www.townecrier.com.
Neo-soul, Big Band, Charlie Brown & blues holiday revues at the Falcon
The Falcon in Marlboro combines music, good works and holiday vibe with the Fifth Annual Christmas at the Falcon Benefit on Friday, December 15 at 8 p.m. This neo-soul R & B revue raises funds for Puerto Rico hurricane relief.
On Saturday, December 16, local and national blues legend Slam Allen leads his Holiday Soul-a-bration on the Falcon main stage.
On Saturday, December 23, Christmas-themed shows play upstairs and down: Upstairs, it’s the Ed Palermo Big Band Christmas Spectacular. Downstairs at the Falcon Underground, ace keyboardist Jeremy Baum heads A Charlie Brown Christmas tribute to the music of Vince Guaraldi.
The Falcon, 1348 Route 9W, Marlboro, by donation; www.liveatthefalcon.com.
Happy Traum & friends’ Winter Solstice concert in Woodstock
Folk music legend Happy Traum & Friends celebrate the Winter Solstice at the Woodstock Playhouse on Saturday, December 16 at 8 p.m. Of course, Traum’s “friends” include just about every significant figure in folk and roots music of the last 50 years, especially any that have called Woodstock home. This year’s friends include Cindy Cashdollar, Zach Djankian, Amy Helm, Geoff Muldaur and the legendary John Sebastian.
The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild presents the Winter Solstice Concert with Happy Traum & Friends, Saturday, December 16, 8 p.m., $67/$47/$27, Woodstock Playhouse, 103 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock; www.woodstockplayhouse.org.
Mendelssohn Club & Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra perform holiday concert in Rhinebeck
The Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra celebrates the season with a Holiday Pops concert featuring the Mendelssohn Club men’s chorus and students from the Anderson Center for Autism on Sunday, December 3 at 3 p.m. in the Rhinebeck High School Auditorium. “Music speaks to the joys and celebrations of our life. And ‘how great our joy’ to be singing during the Christmas season with the Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra!” said Ed Nekos, the president of the Mendelssohn Club of Kingston. The chorus will perform a Feast of Carols, as well as “How Great Our Joy.” Students from the Anderson Center for Autism perform as soloists in the Toy Symphony as part of the Dutchess County Initiative called Think Differently.
Northern Dutchess Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops Concert, Sunday December 3, 3 p.m., Rhinebeck High School Auditorium, 45 North Park Road, Rhinebeck; www.ndsorchestra.org.
Welcome Yule concerts with Ars Choralis in Kingston & Woodstock
Conducted by Barbara Pickhardt, the venerable choral ensemble Ars Choralis presents Welcome Yule: Singing the Spirit of the Season on Saturday, December 2 at 7 p.m. at the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kingston, and then again on Sunday, December 3 at 4 p.m. at the Overlook Methodist Church in Woodstock. Tickets cost $18 in advance, $22 at the door; children under 18 get in for half-price. Now in its 22nd season, the event celebrates the turning of the seasons and December holidays in a concert inspired by Native American wisdom.
Welcome Yule: Singing the Spirit of the Season, Saturday, December 2, 7 p.m., Redeemer Lutheran Church, 104 Wurts Street, Kingston; Sunday, December 3, 4 p.m., Overlook Methodist Church, 233 Tinker Street, Woodstock, $22/$18; http://arschoralis.org.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside jazz show & Kwanzaa celebration in Hudson
Trumpeter Chris Pasin leads an ensemble of jazz notables from the New York scene in Baby, It’s Cold Outside, a holiday-themed show at Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House. Pasin will be joined by Hudson-based pianist Armen Donelian (Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Paquito D’Rivera), Rhinebeck-based French-American bassist Ira Coleman (Freddie Hubbard, Betty Carter, Herbie Hancock), drummer and Woodstock resident Jeff “Sieg” Siegel (Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Sheila Jordan) and singer Patricia Dalton Fennell (Dave Holland, Giacomo Gates, Pete Levin). Pasin’s release of the same title has won critical acclaim since its release in October. Baby, It’s Cold Outside takes place on Saturday, December 9 at 7 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, December 16 at 3:30 p.m., Operation Unite NY brings the annual Kwanzaa Umoja Celebration to Hudson Hall to celebrate African-American culture with free family-friendly activities, a special candle-lighting ceremony and a performance by the Harambee Dance Company. This even is free and open to the public.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Chris Pasin, Saturday, December 9, 7 p.m., $15/$20; Kwanzaa Umoja Celebration, Saturday, December 16, 3:30 p.m., free; Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street, Hudson; http://hudsonhall.org.
– John Burdick
Tom Pacheco’s Peace Concert at Rosendale Café this Saturday
Singer/songwriter Tom Pacheco will perform his annual Peace Concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 25 – right after Thanksgiving – at the Rosendale Café at 434 Main Street in Rosendale. Pacheco will be accompanied by Brian Hollander on Dobro and guitar.
As usual with this prolific bard, there will be some new songs, procured from his near-nonstop writing schedule, as well as a deep examination into his vast catalogue of material, pulling out stories of lovers, winners and losers, characters from literature and pop culture like Jack the Ripper, D. B. Cooper and Juan Romero, animals and inanimate objects – all from a life spent examining and writing about the culture and scope of history.
Admission costs $15, with tickets sold only at the door. The Café invites you to come early and have dinner from its fine vegetarian menu. For more information, visit www.rosendalecafe.com or call (845) 658-9048.
Jeremy Baum fronts dance party at Falcon on Friday
Regional keyboard ace Jeremy Baum finds time in his busy schedule to lead his own mostly instrumental ensemble and to make some really delightful and expansive modern blues/groove records, calling on many of the best players in the area. On Friday, November 24 at 8 p.m., Baum leads “JB’s Go-Go Boogaloo Dance Party” at (where else?) the Falcon in Marlboro. Joining Baum this time out are Chris Vitarello on guitar, Jay Collins on sax and flute, Manuel Quintana on drums and Carlos Valdez on percussion.
This being the Falcon, there is no cover charge, but donation to support living artists is inscribed in the venue’s DNA. We comply. The Falcon is located at 1348 Route 9W in Marlboro. For more information, visit www.liveatthefalcon.com.
Monica Rizzio in Phoenicia on Saturday
Flying Cat Productions presents Monica Rizzio, founder of Cape Cod’s non-profit Ukuleles in the Classroom, at the Empire State Railway Museum on Saturday, November 25 at 7:30 p.m. Rizzio will perform songs from her latest record, Washashore Cowgirl, accompanied by guitarist/lap steel player Mark Usher. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
For more information, visit https://flyingcatmusic.com. The Empire State Railway Museum is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia.
The Sebastians perform in Hunter on Saturday
The Catskill Mountain Foundation presents the Sebastians in concert at the Doctorow Center for the Arts on Saturday, November 25 at 8 p.m. An ensemble (some members of which are pictured above) specializing in music of the Baroque and Classical periods, the Sebastians present a journey back in time through two of Mozart’s important artistic centers: Salzburg and Vienna. The centerpiece of this varied program is Mozart’s Concerto in A, K. 414, which will be performed by Yi-heng Yang on a fortepiano built in the style of Mozart’s own instrument.
Tickets purchased ahead cost $25 general admission, $20 for seniors $20 and $7 for students; at the door, $30, $25 and $7. For tickets and information, visit www.catskillmtn.org or call (518) 263-2033. The Doctorow Center for the Arts is located at 7971 Main Street in Hunter.
Free SUNY-Ulster Winter Concert series kicks off on Tuesday
SUNY-Ulster hosts its annual series of winter concerts beginning on November 28. In all, the series features six concerts performed by students, music educators, faculty, staff and audience participants. All of the concerts are free and open to the public.
The College Wind & Percussion Ensembles perform on Tuesday, November 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the College Lounge. The Honors Recital takes place on Friday, December 1 at 3 p.m. in the Quimby Theater. The College String Ensemble performs on Monday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Quimby Theater. The Community Band/Jazz Ensemble takes the stage in the College Lounge on Wednesday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. And on Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m., a choral concert and guitar ensemble performance will be given at Quimby.
SUNY-Ulster is located at 491 Cottekill Road in Stone Ridge. For more information, visit www.sunyulster.edu.
Stephen Clair & Sweet Clementines at Colony
The literate, eccentric-but-gutsy Beacon-area songwriter Stephen Clair celebrates the release of his fourth record, Luck, with a performance at Colony in Woodstock on Thursday, November 30 at 8 p.m. In support will be the New Paltz smart-pop band the Sweet Clementines, led by Almanac Weekly music critic John Burdick. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door. For more information, visit www.colonywoodstock.com. Colony is located at 22 Rock City Road in Woodstock.
Debussy & Ravel concert at Bard next Saturday
Late Romantics? Early Modernists? Neither or both? The music of the famous frenemies Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel is so distinctive and so utterly essential that it warrants an era and a movement all to itself: Impressionism. On Saturday, December 2 at 8 p.m. at the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater, Bard’s Conservatory Orchestra performs a concert of Debussy and Ravel, conducted by special guest Jean-Marie Zeitouni. The program features Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Ravel’s alarming Daphnis and Chloé, Suite No. 2 and the world premiere of Telescope by Daniel Castellanos, Class of ’18.
The suggested donation is $20 (orchestra seating), $15 (parterre and first balcony); admission is free for the Bard community with ID. Bard College is located in Annandale-on-Hudson. For more information, visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu.
– John Burdick