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Comfort and joy: A roundup of holiday concerts

Do you hear what I hear?

It's a multilayered din. The rumble of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, barreling toward Buffalo. Countless choruses warming up for their annual Christmas extravaganzas. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's musicians tuning up for its glittering holiday concerts.

Embrace it. It's there for a reason.

James Burritt, the director of the singing group Vocális, put it eloquently when announcing his group's concert.

“The music of the holiday season draws us all together," he said. "Christmas and choral music bring us back to our childhood, and reminds us of how much we share as a community.  The music of Christmas warms and calms us. There’s nothing like it for helping us conquer the dark and cold of winter.”

Here is a list of musical events to carry you through December. Round up the family and head to "The Nutcracker." Assemble a group of friends and hear Vocalis at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum. Take your kids, or borrow some, and head to the magical opera "Hansel and Gretel," being performed in English by Buffalo Opera Unlimited.

Date night coming up? Bill Kirchen brings Christmas honky-tonk to the Sportsmen's Tavern. Or go for elegance and think Handel's "Messiah" at Our Lady of Victory Basilica.

Here's one more idea: Sneak off by yourself for a Festival of Lessons and Carols, or for a choral concert. Breathe deeply and remember all there is to love about this time of year.

Here are your options.

Nobody sings "Silent Night" like Colm Wilkinson, so with luck he'll sing it when he comes to Buffalo for "Broadway, Christmas and Beyond." Wilkinson sings at 8 p.m. Nov. 26 at the University at Buffalo Center For the Arts, North Campus. $44-$64. 645-ARTS,

Colm Wilkinson, performing at the University at Buffalo in 2009, returns to the same venue on Nov. 26. (Buffalo News file photo)

Colm Wilkinson, performing at the University at Buffalo in 2009, returns to the same venue on Nov. 26. (Buffalo News file photo)

The scarlet and gold of Shea's Performing Arts Center is the perfect setting for "The Nutcracker." That is one reason that the Neglia Ballet Artists' production of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet, accompanied by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, is for many people the quintessential kickoff for the holiday season. Performances are 7 p.m. Nov. 2 and 2 p.m. Nov. 27. Admission is $26-$72. 885-5000.

"O thou, that tellest good tidings to Zion, arise, shine, for thy light is come!" Arise and shine and go to Our Lady of Victory Basilica at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 when, surrounded by angels, you may hear Handel's "Messiah," performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Adam Luebke, the chorus' director, conducts. Suggested donation is $20. Visit

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but Larkinville's heated boardwalk is so delightful. The annual Holiday Live at Larkin concert is from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at Larkinville (745 Seneca St). There will be a fleet of food trucks, plus a small holiday market including Beautiful Cookies and Elizabeth's Granola, plus Christmas music by the musicians of Robot Holiday. Free.

Get your piece of the pie. The Freudig Singers' annual pie concert - titled, this year, "A Frozen Christmas Pie" - has a plate set aside just for you. There are two performances, both followed by homemade pie. The first is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral ( 6298 Broadway, Lancaster). The second is 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at Blessed Trinity Church (317 Leroy Ave.). A $10 donation is requested for tickets. For info or advance tickets, visit

Visions of sugarplums! Classical Ballet of WNY offers four performances of "The Nutcracker": 7 p.m. Dec. 2, 2  and 7 p.m. Dec. 3, and 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Lockport High School Visual and Performing Arts Center (250 Lincoln Ave., Lockport). 631-1582.

That holiday spirit, the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus has got it. The group gathers for  "Sing the Spirit" at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church (724 Delaware Ave.). $20. 883-1277,

A Vocális Christmas has become a hallowed tradition. At 8 p.m. Dec. 2, Vocalis sings at historic Saints Peter and Paul Church (5480 Main St., Williamsville) and at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum (220 North St.). $15 for adults; $10 for students.

"A deceptively sweet, deliciously dark confection." That is how Buffalo Opera Unlimited describes its production of "Hansel and Gretel," by Engelbert Humperdinck (the Romantic German composer, not the lounge singer). A sandman, guardian angels, plus a witch, and her gingerbread house -- who can resist? Small wonder that this magical story has become a Christmas tradition around the world. The audience will receive gingerbread cookies to take home. See "Hansel and Gretel" at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Rockwell Hall at SUNY Buffalo State College. $30 general, $25 seniors and $10 students. 878-3005.

The American Academy of Ballet's "The Nutcracker" is famous and rightfully so. Quoth the company: "This 'Nutcracker' offers the best of what this ballet is meant to provide: holiday tradition, whimsical abandon, a prima ballerina that will knock your tutu off..." Say no more! There's a troika of performances: 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts. $19.50-$28.50. 645-ARTS.

They'll be home for Christmas. The Scintas leave the glitter of Las Vegas and come home every December, at least when we're lucky. The Scintas perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda). $45-$52. 692-2413.

The Scintas are a tough act to follow, but there is room at the inn, and so Jay & the Americans are going to try. "Jay & The Americans' Christmas Show" takes over the Riviera Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3. $29-$44. 692-2413.

Is it Pachelbel's Canon... or Pachelbel's Cannon? You'll find yourself shouting that question over impressive decibel levels when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to town. The loud, good-natured band and its elaborate special effects take over KeyBank Center for two shows, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. $46-$76. 855-4444.

Soprano Cristen Gregory singing "O Holy Night." The joyous sound of Matt Miraglia on trumpet. Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim." They're all part of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra's "Celebrations," 3 p.m. Dec. 4 in Amherst Middle School (55 Kings Highway, Amherst). Free.  633-4606,

"All On a Starry Night" is the glowing title of the Buffalo Choral Arts Society's Christmas concert. Enjoy it 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at St. Mary Church in Swormville (6969 Transit Road); 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at St. Joseph's Cathedral (50 Franklin St.),  and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at St. Peter and Paul Church (66 E. Main St., Hamburg). Suggested donation $15.  775-7664,

Bill Kirchen

Bill Kirchen and his Too Much Fun Honky Tonk Holiday Show

Honk (-y-tonk) if you love Christmas! Bill Kirchen and his Too Much Fun Honky Tonk Holiday Show sweeps into the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.), the Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint In Town, at 9 p.m. Dec. 5. $20. 874-7734.

The BPO plays Christmas classics, and cirque artists cavort and perform superhuman feats of skill, strength and grace. Bask in the experience at 7 p.m. Dec. 7, when Kleinhans Music Hall plays host to "Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular." $29-$75. 885-5000.

The wearing of the green - and the red. Bask in them both at "Irish Christmas in America -- The Show," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Buffalo Irish Center (245 Abbott Road). $29-$39. 510-1887.

Put an elegant spin on your Christmas, as opposed to the spin of your revolving aluminum tree, when the BPO presents "A Classical Christmas," 10:30 a.m. Dec. 9 and 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Kleinhans Music Hall. Associate Conductor Stefan Sanders has hand-selected treats for your delectation, and the Philharmonic Chorus is all warmed up for "O Holy Night" and other favorites. On Dec. 9, arrive early for complimentary coffee and doughnuts. $35-$85. 885-5000,

Enjoy  gentle reminder of the reason for the season. At  7 p.m. Dec. 9, Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Lewiston holds its Ceremony of Lessons and Carols. Free.

So you were at that office party, and you wish you hadn't had that extra Tom and Jerry, because ... Relax. A little Kenny G, and you'll feel better. Kick back and chill to "Kenny G Live For Christmas" at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Riviera Theatre. $59-$69. 692-2413,

"A Grand and Glorious Christmas" is the title given to the concert by the Buffalo Master Chorale and Buffalo Niagara Youth Chorus. The program includes Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols," a "Hansel and Gretel" Choral Suite, and a spirited sing-along. There are two performances. The first is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Fourteen Holy Helpers Church (1350 Indian Church Road, West Seneca). The suggested donation is $15. The concert repeats at 4 p.m. Dec. 11 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (1080 Main St.). $15, students $10. For info, visit

It's fun for kids from 1 to 92. Catch "Jingle Bell Jam," the BPO's annual children's concert, at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Kleinhans Music Hall. Enjoy classics led by the BPO's Stefan Sanders, and stay afterward for milk and cookies with Santa and Mrs. Claus. $13-$21. 885-5000,

Sing we now of Christmas! The Harmonia Chamber Singers will do the honors in "Love Came Down at Christmas," embracing music from the Middle Ages until now. There are three performances: 4 p.m. Dec. 11 at St. Leo the Great Church (885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst); 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at St. Mary of the Cataract Church (259 4th St., Niagara Falls); and 4 p.m. Dec. 18 at St. Joseph University Church (3269 Main St.). Admission is by free-will donation.

O Tannenbaum, priceless Tannenbaum. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's traditional Christmas Tree lighting takes place at 3 p.m. Dec. 11. In a change of pace, the tree will be on view in the Albright-Knox’s Auditorium. It features a rare 18th century Neopolitan creche, given in memory of Helen Northrup Knox by her close friend the late Mrs. Howell H. Howard. The set is rare. The only other two known to exist in the United States are in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the White House. The tree lighting, accompanied  by the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus, is free.

The trumpet shall sound when the much-lauded American Legion Band of the Tonawandas gives its much-anticipated annual Christmas concert. It's at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Riviera Theatre. $12 general, $10 youth and $14 at the door.  692-2413,

All that glitters! Classics and traditional Christmas music will sparkle when the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band gives its Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine (1023 Swann Road, Lewiston). 754-7489,

"Oh night diviiiine..." Reach for that high note! "Christmas with the Celtic Tenors" takes place at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at SUNY Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall. $35-$40. 878-3005.

Have a lavish Christmas. The great Tony Bennett sings at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on the North Campus in a benefit concert for the Ronald McDonald House. Hopefully you have your tickets for this benefit event, since it has sold out. 645-ARTS.

Tony Bennett, at the Seneca Events Center, in 2012. (Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News}

Tony Bennett, at the Seneca Niagara Events Center, in 2012. (Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)

John Morris Russell, the BPO's principal pops conductor, has earned the title of "Mr. Christmas." Find out why when he conducts the glittering annual Holiday Pops. It starts with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus singing "Ding Dong Merrily On High," and we'll also hear from the Westminster Presbyterian Church Bell Choir. Plenty of treats between, and it ends with that rousing sing-along. Times are 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 16, 8 p.m. Dec. 17, and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18. $35-$85. 885-5000,

Orchard Park will be aglow when the Orchard Park Chorale unveils "Christmas Carols and Joys." Featured is Britten's "Ceremony of Carols," plus a wreath of other delights. The concert takes place at 4 p.m. Dec. 17, at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church (4369 S. Buffalo St.). $10 presale, $15 at the door, $25 preferred. 491-5001,

The Buffalo City Ballet has its own sophisticated take on "The Nutcracker." Go and enjoy at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 and 3 p.m. Dec. 18. Guest artists include Willie Moore Jr., long associated with Columbia Classical Ballet in Columbia, S.C.; and Garard Holt, former member of the Pittsburgh Ballet. $20-$25.

Amy J. Steiner will be conducting the Cheektowaga Symphony Orchestra "A Winter Festival" at 3 p.m. Dec. 18 at St. Philip the Apostle Roman Catholic Church (950 Losson Road). The afternoon includes wintry music of Vivaldi, Leroy Anderson, Prokofiev and Adolphe Adam. Free-will donations are welcome.

Take a time-out from the pre-Christmas rush. St. Joseph's Cathedral (50 Franklin St.), holds its Festival of Lessons and Carols at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19. Free. 847-8700.

You know the Twelve Days of Christmas? They actually start on Dec. 25. Celebrate the Third Day of Christmas by listening to the traditional and contemporary sounds of the Voices of Mercy Christmas Concert, 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Lewiston. And bask in the Festival of Lights, glowing from 5 to 9 p.m. Free. 754-7489,





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