ORGAN OF CELEBRATION: The Kotzschmar.
For many of us, the holidays would not be the same without the familiar melodies and musical traditions we’ve grown to love. I will never forget the first time I saw The Nutcracker; I was entranced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and terrified of the Rat King. These days, taking in some traditional holiday music and even learning a few new tunes can be a welcome respite from the craziness of shopping, cooking, visiting grandma, and whatever else the holidays mean for you.
Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet
Nov 30 & Dec 1-2 | Maine State Ballet | Merrill Auditorium, Portland | $20-35 | www.porttix.com | 207.842.0800
Kicking off the season is the Maine State Ballet’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. Although this is Tchaikovsky’s most famous work, it was not his favorite. He did warm to it after the composition was completed, but never got to see his work become the holiday tradition it is today. The ballet grew in popularity after it was choreographed by George Balanchine and performed by the New York City Ballet in the early ’50s. Maine State Ballet director Linda MacArthur Miele was a performer in Balanchine’s troupe for many years and has the rights to perform the Balanchine choreography for the yearly performances at Merrill Auditorium. There will also be a 40-foot Christmas tree, which is about as much pine-scented cheer as could be crammed into the Merrill.
Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet
Dec 8-9 | Portland Ballet | Merrill Auditorium, Portland | $22-52 | www.porttix.com | 207.842.0800
No, you are not seeing double. There are two separate versions of The Nutcracker being performed. The second, performed by the Portland Ballet, is called The Victorian Nutcracker and is the same musical score written by Tchaikovsky, but a different choreography. Set in Portland’s famous Victorian Mansion in the late 1800s, the ballet’s characters are woven in with famous Portlanders of the time. This unique spin on the traditional story is well worth the price of admission.
Handel’s Messiah Singalong
Dec 10 | Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra & Choral Art Society | St Patrick’s Church, Portland | $5 |www.choralart.org | 207.828.0043
If ballet is not your thing, there are certainly other options. Ever wanted to sing Handel’s famous Messiah with an orchestra accompaniment? Here’s your chance. Maine Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Russell has invited the audience to join the choir of the Choral Art Society in what is likely to be the most entertaining version of the Messiah this city has ever heard. Handel may be twitching in his grave during this one, but you and all your friends can belt out that Hallelujah Chorus like you’ve always dreamed you would. An opportunity like this may not come around again. You can bring your own score or receive a complimentary copy at the door.
Christmas with Cornils: A Kotzschmar Christmas
Dec 18 | Merrill Auditorium, Portland | $19-31 | www.porttix.com | 207.842.0800
Portland municipal organist Ray Cornils will be putting the famous Kotzschmar Organ through its holiday paces in his 18th annual Christmas concert. “It’s a fun program,” Cornils says. “The wide range of music will be great for families.” Cornils has invited some guests to join him, including the Oratorio Chorale, a hand-bell choir, and a brass choir. The music will range from a hand bell arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" to big-band style arrangements of a number of French-Canadian Christmas songs. This might be the most original concert you could see this season.