Holiday concerts are few and far between this year, but a handful of organizations are offering at least some cheery sounds.
The Schenectady Symphony Orchestra initially streamed their virtual “Poinsettia Pops” concert on Tuesday from the Proctors stage, but the concert is still available to listen to through Christmas Day. Music director Glen Cortese chose a wide-ranging program that includes holiday favorites like “Sleigh Ride,” “Little Drummer Boy,” selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” ballet, Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia” from “Greensleeves,” and “The Little Drummer Boy” with local soprano Jean Leonard. She will also sing Irving Berlin’s 1930s hit “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The concert is about 90 minutes long. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased from Proctors either online at www.proctors.org or by phone at 518-346-6204. Purchasers will be given a code, which will be sent to their email address with a theater link.
On Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. on WNYT Channel 13, the Albany Symphony Orchestra will give its annual “The Magic of Christmas” show. Hosted by music director David Alan Miller and News Channel 13 reporter Benita Zahn, the show will include the ASO Brass Choir and Symphony Percussionists; the Empire State Youth Orchestra Jazz and Percussion Ensembles; The Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys; the Music Studio; the Northeast Ballet Company and students from the City School District of Albany.
Some of the offerings are from past seasons and some were taped by the individual groups from November performances or taped specially for this event. This includes the ASO playing seasonal favorites such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Sleigh Bells.”
While the live show usually takes place at the Palace Theatre, this reimagined hour-long show is the first time it has ever aired on television.
“We approached Steve Baboulis [general manager] at Channel 13 … and to our delight he was interested and enthusiastic to try and make it work,” said Anna Kuwabara, the ASO’s executive director. “His team has been great. Putting a show together for TV is new to us.”
“The Magic of Christmas” will also be aired at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, on WNYA, My4.
As a side note, the ASO was nominated for its fifth Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for Theofanidis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra. Tune in Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. on CBS6 to find out if they win.
The Albany Pro Musica will present “The Best of the Many Moods of Christmas” also on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 3 p.m. through their website www.albanypromusica.org. The concert is free.
The repertoire is wide-ranging and follows a plan artistic director Jose Daniel Flores-Caraballo has set for several years. It includes a blend of the familiar, such as “O Holy Night” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the new, which for this concert was the 2019 world premiere of Steve Murray’s “Christmas at Sea.”
“We now [also] have a tradition that the audience loves,” Flores-Caraballo said. “The concert opens with Morten Lauridsen’s moving “O Magnum Misterium.”
After that, the program includes works by Mendelssohn, Rutter, Pierpont, and Pietro Yon’s “Gesu Bambino,” which Metropolitan Opera tenor Rafael Davila sang in 2016 with the APM. For this concert, Davila will also participate in a conversation with Flores-Caraballo, who has known him for more than 25 years since their days working in Puerto Rico.
To hear more holiday favorites from past seasons, also tune in at 5 p.m. on Sunday on WMHT 89.1 FM for the APM’s hour-long show with Flores-Caraballo and Rex Smith.
The annual “Melodies of Christmas” held at Proctors over a four-day spread has been reduced to a show that will be presented at 11:30 p.m. Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) on CBS6 or 10 p.m. on CW15 and 9:30 a.m. Dec. 25 on CBS6 or 6:30 a.m., noon and 10 p.m. on CW15.
The show will be hosted by Liz Bisop and Greg Floyd of CBS6; Bill Sullivan of Freihofer’s; and Jerry Golub of Market 32 with past performances from the 2018 and the 2019 shows. Producers have added three specialty acts that were pre-recorded on the Proctors stage. These are flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski and her Maria Z Trio; Kevin McKrell and Brian Melick; and the newly named Melodies of Christmas Carolers in a humorous song.
Also, the children who have been treated at the Melodies Center and in past shows would come on stage to sing “Silent Night,” will this season offer personal reflections on the holiday and the Melodies show. These two days are still about fundraising and viewers will be urged to make donations directly through a phonebank to the Melodies Center or on CBS6’s news broadcast on Dec. 17, which would have been the opening night of the 2020 show.
The Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra will offer selections from the “Messiah” at 4 p.m. Dec. 20 via its website www.theglensfallssymphony.org. People are asked to subscribe to the orchestra’s virtual season, which is free. Music director Charles Peltz will conduct a string quintet and harpsichordist taped at the local Park Theater; the singers are soprano Alicia Russell, mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann, tenor Terrence Chin-Loy, and bass Christopher Humbert. The singers were singing virtually from Glens Falls’ 1st Presbyterian Church. The concert is available through Jan. 20.
The virtual season began Dec. 13 with an hour concert of Widor’s Suite for flute and piano with principal flutist Yvonne Hansbrough and pianist Michael Clement and Beethoven’s Violin Sonata with concertmaster Michael. This concert is available through Jan. 13.