What is the sound of the holiday season? Traditional Christmas hymns, carols and compositions sung by a choir in an opulent church? Ubiquitous jazzy muzak renditions of the same through mall speakers? Well, Montreal’s got both, but we’ve also gone several steps further, with eclectic choirs, gospel goings-on, orchestral arrangements, Hanukkah shindigs, jazz interpretations and more than a few nights of good old-fashioned, possibly mulled, rock n’ roll…
(christmas sights in lights and song) Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica goes high-tech this year with multimedia production And Then There Was Light, the work of over 100 artists and technicians – shows Tuesday to Saturday until December 31, while December 9-10 a dozen Quebecois stars sing Christmas songs. And on December 10, singing all things yule and yore, Quebec choral group The Choeur Quebecois holds its biggest show of the year, in the city’s east end at the Maisonneuve Presbyterian Church. Les Choralies de la Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours present seven choirs singing Christmas music, traditional and contemporary, sacred and secular, old and new, at Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, on weekends in December. And add some art to Christmas tunes at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ free weekly concerts: Les Filles de l’Ile on December 11 and Sainte-Anne Singers on December 18.
(celestial orchestras) The Montreal Symphony Orchestra begins December on a universal theme with Holst’s The Planets on December 9, Christmas According to Fred Pellerin, December 16–17, and Handel’s Messiah, December 21–22, at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal. The Orchestre Métropolitain celebrates the season with The Nativity According to Bach, a performance of the six cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Christmas Oratorio, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and also featuring The Orchestre Métropolitain Choir and four soloists – December 17 at Théâtre Outremont in Mile End, and on December 22 at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste downtown.
(sing it loud) In a show rightly called Sacred & Profane, Montreal’s glorious all-women choir Choeur Maha sings an eclectic mix of traditional and folk music from around the world, Brazil to Bulgaria, North America to Asia, with guest director Linda Morrison, along with a sometimes-subversive, always catchy gospel opening set from Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir – December 17, at the Ukrainian Federation (5213 Hutchison), with a party afterwards, of course.
(kiss and tell it on the mountain) Known for their performances with Cirque du Soleil and popular Quebec artists, The Jireh Gospel Choir celebrates 15 years of making the season bright with their style of American gospel music, a repertoire of original and coversongs sung in English and French, downtown at Club Soda, December 11. Meanwhile, on December 14, have a very Motown Christmas with Alma Faye Brooks & La Gioventu Band, at the Rialto Theatre.
(celtic-canadian christmas) The genuine article, Irish-Canadian folk group The Irish Rovers have been adding fuel to many a holiday party for years and years now, whether with drinking songs or heart-felt ballads – and now they’ve got an honest-to-goodness Christmas album out. Sing along with the boys on December 10, at the Corona Theatre.
(light the lights) This year’s Chanukah Blowout at the Segal Centre, Montreal’s biggest Jewish theatre-dance-music-performance space, brings together hip-hop artist Josh Dolgin (Socalled), blues-klezmer outfit Shtreiml, and big brass band Fanfare Severni, to play holiday classics and dance tunes, at the Segal Centre, December 17. Meanwhile, on December 22, Passovah Productions teams up with info-rich music site Meet You at the Show to put on its annual multi-artist holiday performance party, with Kara Keith, Caila Thompson-Hannat, Dave MacLeod, members of Parlovr, Caroline Keating, Sebastian Chow, and many many more, at Casa del Popolo.
(jingle bell rock) Embrace the season non-denominationally via the universal truths of rock n’ roll à la Quebec. The light show shines on some major Montreal-based bands at Metropolis in mid-December. On December 14, award-winning Montreal good-time favourites Malajube are joined by The Besnard Lakes at Metropolis. On December 15, the Acadian-French-singing Maritime natives, Radio Radio, tune in. And on December 16, Karkwa, who opened for Arcade Fire during their massive outdoor concert this fall for Pop Montreal, ring in heart-felt indie-rock cheer.
(jazz tidings) Montreal’s world-traveling, in-demand Indigone Trio, no stranger to the Montreal Jazz Fest, let alone Stevie Wonder and Ornette Coleman, lead by pianist and song writer David Ryshpan, pairs with Mexico-based guitarist Todd Clouser for an ear-altering show at Casa del Popolo, December 11. And No Wave meets free jazz in New York vocalist/saxophonist James Chance, back in town to prove avant-garde is alive and well this holiday season, December 17 at Il Motore.