Holiday Arts Guide: 5 concerts that get merry through music

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      Early Music Vancouver

      (At the Vancouver Playhouse on December 1 and 2 and the Chan Centre for Performing Arts on December 23)

      Go figure: our leading early-music company has never staged George Frederick Handel’s Messiah in concert before. So expect a topnotch and intimately authentic rendition when Alexander Weimann conducts the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, and soloists Yulia Van Doren, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels, and Tyler Duncan at the Playhouse. Then, just a couple of days before Christmas at the Chan, EMV stages a female-powered concert of Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, with Brit violinist Monica Huggett leading a group of female period instrumentalists and vocalists.

      VSO: A Traditional Christmas

      (At St. Andrew’s–Wesley Church from December 8 to 10 and various other Lower Mainland venues to December 17)

      Christopher Gaze hosts and performs readings while William Rowson conducts this reliable Christmas chestnut. This year, the symphony is joined by the choir EnChor and the UBC Opera Ensemble for a mix of classics, carols, and more.

      Winter Harp

      (At the Blueshore Financial Performing Arts Centre on December 13 and 14, St. Andrew’s–Wesley Church on December 16, and the ACT in Maple Ridge on December 17)

      Transport yourself back to medieval times amid harps, flutes, violin, and rare instruments like a bass psaltery, an organistrum, and a Swedish nyckelharpa. Winter Harp is big on atmosphere, complete with velvet historical costumes, candlelight, and backdrops of cathedrals and snow.

      Music for the Winter Solstice

      (At Heritage Hall on December 14 and 15)

      Definitely not your standard carols: Music on Main offers up a different, intimate new tradition, with luminous music by composer in residence Nicole Lizée, and alongside virtuosic performances from pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, singer-violinist Wallgrin, and tenor Carman J. Price.

      Christmas Presence

      (At Pacific Theatre from December 19 to 23)

      Songs and stories interweave as musicians and actors enact a sort of Christmas jam session. The company calls it the “un-slickest Christmas show in town”, but that’s its appeal. No two shows are the same, with a rotating array of performers.