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Sounds of the Season

Makin' a List of New Orleans Holiday Concerts

Holiday music in New Orleans isn't limited to the choir at the mall or whatever prog CD is hot this year. Familiar or mysterious, and in places both exalted and earthly, the Crescent City dispatches its full arsenal of musical weapons to celebrate the season.



The musical merrymaking starts in the place that has served as the city's focal point since its founding. St. Louis Cathedral serves as the home for a large series of concerts as part of the rangy Christmas New Orleans Style lineup. 



The shows begin Sunday, Dec. 2, with a concerts from local songbird Theresa Andersson, John Fohl and David Doucet. The 15 concert series, which lasts over December's first 20 days, features a huge variety of voices that will fill up the architectural wonder. In terms of big voices, there's Opera Creole, the Shades of Praise and St. Peter Claver Gospel Choir, and Betty Win's One-A-Chord singers. A wide variety of solo instrumentalists will be churning out the holiday hits as well, as harpist Rachel Van Voorhees will take to the sanctuary, and St. Louis Cathedral's young artist in residence Samuel Liegeon will rattle the pipes with the Christmas Organ Spectacular. 



Jazz is never far from the mix, either, and the series will turn out local luminaries like Don Vappie, Lars Edegran, Lionel Ferbos and none other than the great Ellis Marsalis as the final month of the year unfolds. All of the free concerts start at 6 p.m., and last about an hour. For the full schedule, visit here. 



Over in the Treme, the main Catholic Church won't be short of holiday sounds, either. St. Augustine Catholic Church is hosting its own holiday series throughout the season, starting on Dec. 1 with John Boutte. Throughout the month of December, the Church known for its Jazz Masses will also feature Germaine Bazzle and the Friendly Travelers. The free concerts begin at 4 p.m., and last about an hour.



Speaking of organs and churches, New Orleans' own Albinas Prizgintas is also set to unwrap his annual holiday program at Trinity Episcopal Church (1329 Jackson Ave.). The organ master, who calls his musical stagings "events full of mystery," hasn't missed a Tuesday edition of his Organ and Labyrinth series at the church since the Federal Flood, and he's not about to bow down for the holidays. After all, there are lights.


“It’s a visual thing as much as it is a musical thing,” said the performer. “We have a meditative walk. We get a lot of tourists, people come in the city and they’re looking for something different." 


In addition to helping us get ready for the holidays on Tuesdays, Prizgintas is also hosting Sunday concerts throughout the month.


Elsewhere, Prizgintas will bring in the Navy Brass Band and Woodwind Ensemble on December 16. The following Sunday, December 23, the soprano Trish Foti Genco will provide the musical underpinning for the more reflective side of Christmas.


"She has a very spiritual approach to Christmas," Prizgintas said.


 On December 9 at 5 p.m., he'll stage another edition of the local favorite, the Messiah Singalong. It's a chance for people to be in the choir themselves, and discover how many of the words they remember from George Frederic Handel's Baroque favorite, proving time and again that the classics are the original hits.


All of the events Prizgintas stages are free to the public, though there will be a collection basket at the entrance to the church.




 “People can come and go, donate something or not, it doesn’t matter,” he said. 


Speaking of the Messiah, the Louisiana Philharmonic is also providing a chance to see Handel's classic performed by people that aren't themselves.


On December 13 at First Baptist Church (5290 Canal Blvd.), the LPO will stage their annual Baroque Christmas, featuring a handful of selections from the Christmas portion of Handel's piece. The LPO, joined by the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans and a quartet of able solo singers, will also be performing Cantata No. 4 from Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Tickets are available here.


For those who want to go to a different kind of holy place, Preservation Hall isn't far away from the act around this time of year. On Dec. 24 and 31, the Hall hosts its annual Creole Christmas performance. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band takes the show on the road for the first part of December, but returns Dec. 24 and 31 for special performances with Lars Edegran and Big Al Carson, featuring Christmas favorites like "Blue Christmas" and even "The Dreydel Song."


Any New Orleans season wouldn't be complete without a festival, and Central City has one of those for all comers, too. The Ashe Cultural Center will have its annual Holiday on the Boulevard Festival from Dec. 7-9 on Oretha Castle Haley. A holiday market will take shape on the increasingly bustling boulevard, and some of New Orleans' favorite jazz musicians will provide the soundtrack for the day of shopping. Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra are headlining the outdoor fete, and Germaine Bazzle, Zion Trinity Gospel Choir and Michaela Harrison and many more are performing.

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