In 1891, when Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky visited Niagara Falls, he had no idea what honor lay in store for him.
As he rode the elevator to the foot of the falls, as he complained about the ugliness of the slicker he had to wear, he could not guess that years in the future – i.e., now – it would be “The Nutcracker” that would officially, every year, kick off Western New York’s holiday season.
But lo, it came to pass. And now, once again, that time is upon us. We hear the sparkling notes of the celeste, the shimmer of the harp, the patter of ballet slippers. The curtain is rising on “The Nutcracker” – and another packed Christmas musical season.
Mr. Tchaikovsky, it feels like you’re family. And now let’s get out our calendars. There’s no time to waste.
• Visions of sugarplums are what we’ll see at Shea’s Performing Arts Center when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Neglia Ballet Artists team up for “The Nutcracker.” At 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. $26-$72. 847-1410.
• Holiday favorites are brought to life through the heartwarming baritone of singer Pat Shea. He performs his annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Lancaster Opera House (21 Central Ave., Lancaster). $20-$25. 683-1776.
• How do you match the bigness of Our Lady of Victory Basilica (767 Ridge Road, Lackawanna)? With Handel’s “Messiah.” At 8 p.m. Sunday, Adam Luebke conducts the BPO and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus in Handel’s “Messiah.” $20. 980-5701.
• The trumpet shall sound. The BPO and Stefan Sanders play music of the season at Hilbert College (5200 South Park Ave., Hamburg) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1. $35. 885-5000.
• It’s one of the most inventive holiday concerts of the year. The Holiday Live at Larkin event showcases the return of the original holiday music by Robot Holiday, plus holiday classics by The Tins and friends from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4 at Larkin Square (745 Seneca St.). There will be food trucks, a holiday vendor market and more.
• Classical Ballet of Western New York is famous for its annual “Nutcracker.” Its 14th annual production features more than 150 children and adults and original choreography, costumes and scenery. Performances are 7 p.m. Dec. 4; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 5; and 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at Lockport High School Visual and Performing Arts Center (250 Lincoln Ave., Lockport). $11-$23.50. 434-4940.
• Carols of the bells. The Buffalo Choral Arts Society and the Royalton Ringers ring in the Christmas season at 8 p.m. Dec. 4 in SS. Peter & Paul Church (66 E. Main St., Hamburg); 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at St. Joseph Cathedral (50 Franklin St.); and 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at St. Mary’s Church, Swormville (6019 Transit Road, East Amherst). $15. 775-7664.
• Johann Strauss’ romantic, witty “Die Fledermaus,” with its famous waltz, is popular in Vienna for the holiday season. Buffalo Opera Unlimited is bringing this enchanting confection to SUNY Buffalo State’s Rockwell Hall at 8 p.m. Dec. 4 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 6. $30, discounts for students and seniors. 878-3005.
• O Gift of Glorious Sunrise. That is the title of a new Christmas carol by Buffalo composer Caroline Mallonee. It is the centerpiece of a concert by Vocalis – Mallonee sings with the group – and there are two performances: 8 p.m. Dec. 4 in SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church (5480 Main St., Williamsville) and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum (220 North St.). The Dec. 5 concert includes an extended intermission with warm beverages and sweet treats, too. $15. vocalischamberchoir.org.
• Please come home for Christmas. So begged Buffalonians to the Scintas, and the Scintas said yes. At 8 p.m. Dec. 4 and 2 p.m. Dec. 5, the Vegas first family performs its annual Christmas show at the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda). They promise that the matinee performance will be good for the kids. $45 to $50. 692-2413.
• This year the Freudig singers – “freudig” is German for “joy” – have changed the name of their yule fest from “A Christmas Pie” to “Magnificent Pie.” That can only mean something delicious. The Freudigs sing twice: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at St. Francis of Assisi Church (73 Adam St., Tonawanda) and 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, (317 Leroy Ave.). Both performances are followed by the famous Freudig fresh-baked pie reception – a pie pig-out and a pie auction. $10, and we suggest you call in advance. 551-6870.
• Dueling dancers. The American Academy of Ballet dances its own famous and singular “Nutcracker” at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, North Campus, at 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and 1 p.m. Dec. 6. Misa Kuranaga, principal dancer with Boston Ballet, and Daniel Ulbricht, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, star. $20-$30. 645-2787.
• Tradition, tradition. The Amherst Symphony Orchestra and conductor Nicholas DelBello revel in it all with “Traditions Old and New” at 3 p.m. Dec. 6 in Amherst Middle School (55 Kings Highway, Amherst). A pre-concert event at 2:15 p.m. features the Buffalo String Works. Free.
• Hectic holiday season? Here is something to revive you. The Hutchinson Family Revival gives a lunchtime performance at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at St. Paul’s Cathedral (28 Pearl St.). Free. 855-0900.
• Walk in the light. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, the glittering Buffalo Niagara Concert Band performs at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine (1023 Swann Road, Youngstown). It’s a wonderful excuse to check out the shrine’s famous Festival of Lights, which continues through Jan. 6. Lights are on every night from 5 to 9 p.m. Free. Food is available 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. 754-7489.
• Hell hath no fury like Celtic Woman scorned. Catch these Gaelic gals when they perform with the BPO on their Home For Christmas Symphony Tour at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Kleinhans. $39.50-$89.50. 885-5000.
• Masters in this hall. SUNY Buffalo State choral groups and guest choirs toast the winter season in song at SUNY Buffalo State’s Rockwell Hall (1300 Elmwood Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10. $10, free for students. 878-3005.
• Jack Jones, on the old Firestone Christmas records, had nothing on Jack Civiletto. Civiletto, one of Buffalo’s most beloved singers, joins the Orchard Park Symphony at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 in the Orchard Park High School Auditorium (4040 Baker Road, Orchard Park). He’ll sing at a concert that also includes Khachaturian’s “Masquerade Suite,” Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” and Johann Strauss’ “Polka Schnell.” $15. 474-5843.
• Believe! That’s the theme of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus Christmas concert at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 in the Riviera Theatre. Traditional hymns and carols will shine under the baton of artistic director Garrett Martin. $20. 692-2413.
• The shepherds looked up and saw the glowing star. We look up and see the gleaming dome – the dome that used to be the symbol of Buffalo Savings Bank and now looms over M&T Bank, downtown at One Fountain Plaza. At 1 p.m. Dec. 12, the BPO gathers there for its annual Holiday Music Under the Dome. Christmas cheer? Bank on it. Free.
• Music, maestra. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducts JoAnn’s Classical Christmas at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 11 and 8 p.m. Dec. 12 in Kleinhans Music Hall. The program includes “What Child is This?”, the Hallelujah Chorus and the Children’s Prayer from “Hansel and Gretel.” The concert will be recorded live for CD release. $39.50-$89.50. 885-5000.
• The Jingle Bell Jam is becoming a BPO tradition. Stefan Sanders conducts this kids’ concert – fun for grown-ups, too – at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Get there early and make cards for the military. Stay late and have cookies and milk with Santa and Mrs. Claus. $27.50. 885-5000.
• O Christmas Tree. At 3 p.m. Dec. 13, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery tree lighting features singers from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. Free.
• O Tannenbaum. At 3 p.m. Dec. 13, the Buffalo Schwaben Chor and the Schwaben Spatzen present Deutsches Weihnachtskonzert – that means German Christmas Concert – at St. Stephen’s Bethlehem United Church of Christ (750 Wehrle Drive, Cheektowaga). Free-will offering. Treats follow in the church hall. 632-4226.
• A family of choirs. The Buffalo Master Chorale and Buffalo Niagara youth Choirs team with Amor and Heritage Traditional Dance Company for “Christmas Fiesta de las Americas,” with traditional songs and dances of Latino American culture. There are two performances: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church (4569 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park) and 4 p.m. Dec. 13 at First Presbyterian Church (Symphony Circle). $10. bnchoirs.org.
• A glorious Gloria. The Orchard Park Chorale sings “Christmas Joys,” featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria with orchestra, at 4 p.m. Dec. 13 at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church (4369 S. Buffalo St., Orchard Park). $10, or $15 at the door. 471-8061.
• Joyeaux Noel. The Lutheran Chorale of the Niagara Frontier’s concert this year focuses on French carols, like “Masters In This Hall” and “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” at 4 p.m. Dec. 13 in St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (3512 Clinton St., West Seneca). $12. 668-2152.
• Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. If you work downtown you can walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral (28 Pearl St.), where the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choristers give a free lunchtime concert at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 16. 855-0900.
• Gone away is the bluebird. Here to stay is a new bird. She’s Ann Philippone, barrelhouse pianist, and she plays boogie woogie Christmas music in a happy hour party at 6 p.m. Dec. 16 in Hot Mama’s Canteen (12 Military Road). 783-8222.
• He’s making a list and checking it twice, and by the time he’s through, John Morris Russell, the BPO’s new principal pops conductor, is sure to have cooked up a bombastic Holiday Pops. He leads the BPO in this Christmas extravaganza for four performances: 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 18, 8 p.m. Dec. 19 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 20. $39.50-$89.50.
• Frankie Avalon brings his Christmas show to the Riviera at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Joining him on stage for a carol sing-along will be singers from Thomas Edison Elementary School. $46-$56. 692-2413.
• The 10,000 Maniacs perform the “Winter Tales Holiday Show” at 8 p.m. Dec. 18 in the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst St.). $40-$45. sportsmenstavern.com.
• The Harmonia Chamber Singers celebrate the season with music ranging from Renaissance to the present day. Two performances: 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at St. Peter’s Church (720 Center St., Lewiston) and 4 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. Joseph University Church (3269 Main St.). Free-will offering, $10 suggested donation. harmoniacs.org.
• Roll out the steamroller. Mannheim Steamroller performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 in Shea’s Performing Arts Center. $32-$72. 847-1410.
• Get your honky tonk on. It’s time for the annual Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun Honky Tonk Holiday Show at 9 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Sportsmen’s Tavern. $20. sportsmenstavern.net.
• Celebrate old Buffalo. Surely our city fathers will be smiling down on you at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 as you attend Lessons and Carols at St. Paul’s Cathedral (28 Pearl St.). Free. 855-0900.
• Sloan for Christmas. The Cheektowaga Symphony performs at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church (34 Francis Ave., Cheektowaga). Free. 892-0425.
• The Trans-Siberian Orchestra needs no introduction, not after all those radio ads. The group rolls and thunders into First Niagara Center with “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20. $32.50-$70.50.
• Pa rum pa pum pum. The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas rock the Riviera Theatre with a Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20. Contemporary, classical, sacred, secular, everything your little heart desires. $12. 692-2413.
• The playing of the merry organ is especially stirring when you are hearing the Hook and Hastings at St. Joseph Cathedral (50 Franklin St.), purchased at the 1877 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Bask in its big warm sound at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, when St. Joseph’s holds its Lessons and Carols. Free.
• It’s a rocking good holiday at a Buffalo musicians Christmas Party hosted by Billy Sheehan and Bobby Lebel and featuring members of Talas, the Road, Weekend and JJ Swing at 7 p.m. Dec. 23 in the Sportsmen’s Tavern. All proceeds benefit the Sportsmen’s Americana Foundation. $20-$25
• A magnificent Magnificat. At 10:15 p.m. Dec. 24, Westminster Presbyterian’s estimable musical forces present a Festival of Lessons and Carols, plus Bach’s Magnificat. Free. The church is at 724 Delaware Ave. 884-9437.
• Puer natus in Bethlehem. A boy is born in Bethlehem. Do the medieval thing and bask in Gregorian chant at 9 a.m. Dec. 25 when St. Anthony of Padua Church (160 Court St.) celebrates Christmas with a traditional Solemn High Mass in Latin. Free. 854-2563.
• Shake off that sugar coma. At 7 p.m. Dec. 28, St. Luke’s Voices of Mercy present a Christmas concert at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine. Free. Check out, again, the ongoing Festival of Lights. 754-7489.
• Here is an epiphany: The Christmas season does not end on Dec. 25. Au contraire, it is just beginning. Celebrate the season with “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by Giancarlo Menotti – performed, for the sixth year, by Nickel City Opera. This year’s performance, which includes a small chamber orchestra and chorus, takes place 7 p.m. Jan. 8; 3 p.m. Jan. 9; and 3 p.m. Jan. 10 at Westminster Presbyterian Church (724 Delaware Ave.).
Story topics: BPO/ Buffalo opera unlimited/ Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/ Celtic Woman/ Christmas music/ classical music/ Freudig Singers/ Holiday Live at Larkin/ holiday music/ Lancaster Opera House/ UB Center for the Arts/ Vocalis