When it comes to holiday concerts, two institutions seem to consistently come up — tradition and family.
“This year more than ever, people are going to be looking for that, things that people feel comfortable with,” said Paul Barry, marketing director for the Albany Symphony Orchestra, during a recent interview. “With the economy, things are not quite as solid as people thought they were. Tradition has a stabilizing effect, which is why people embrace holidays and traditions, as it were.”
The Capital Region has its own traditions when it comes to the holidays. Kevin McKrell, a fixture on the local folk scene and leader of The McKrells, is involved with a few of them. In addition to playing Christmas shows with his band throughout the entire month of December, for the past several years McKrell has become part of the band that performs annually at “Mountain Snow & Mistletoe” at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
“It becomes a family outing,” McKrell said. “I know I have families in Saratoga that before Christmas at their house, one of their traditions is to come to one of my Christmas shows.”
Whether you’re a fan of traditional or contemporary holiday songs, pop, rock, folk or classical, there’s a wide range of holiday-themed shows both big and small to see in the area. What follows are some highlights of upcoming holiday shows in the Capital Region, organized by genre, followed by complete lists of holiday shows.
From hard rock to country, holiday shows make up the bulk of December’s popular music concerts.
Things kick off with a modern holiday tradition for Albany, when the Trans Siberian Orchestra returns to the Times Union Center for two shows, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., on Sunday, Dec. 7.
Metallic guitar riffs, near seizure-inducing light shows and new arrangements of holiday favorites combine to create TSO’s bombastic rock opera show, which has been wowing holiday audiences since 1996. In a recent interview with The Gazette, TSO founder and primary composer Paul O’Neill promised the show would be “twice as big this year as last year.”
Vince Gill and Amy Grant are next up for the Times Union Center. The country couple’s first Christmas tour since 2004 heads to the venue at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. The tour coincides with Grant’s “The Christmas Collection,” which compiles songs from her previous three Christmas albums along with four brand-new tracks.
Legendary bluegrass combo Bela Fleck and the Flecktones play The Egg’s Hart Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9. Lead by banjoist extraordinaire Fleck, the Flecktones will perform from their new holiday album, “Jingle All the Way.”
The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall has at least three holiday shows in its lineup. Spyro Gyra brings “A Night Before Christmas” to the hall on Sunday, Dec. 14, while a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock performs on Friday, Dec. 19. Both artists have played here before, although this will be their first holiday shows at the hall.
And of course, there’s the aforementioned “Mountain Snow & Mistletoe,” put on every year by Chris and Bridget Shaw. This year’s shows take place on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 20 and 21. On the menu are classic Christmas songs, readings and a version of “The Night Before Christmas” acted out by McKrell and percussionist Brian Melick, with accompanying sound effects.
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. — Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Times Union Center, Albany. $50, $40, $20.
-- Tuesday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. — Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: The Holiday Tour, The Egg, Albany. $34.50.
-- Thursday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. — Christmas with Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Times Union Center, Albany. $65, $51, $41, $31.
-- Saturday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m. — Holiday Folk Concert, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs. $15, $12 (members).
-- Sunday, Dec. 14, 2 p.m. — The Zucchini Brothers, The Egg, Albany. $10 (adults), $8 (children).
-- Sunday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. — “A Night Before Christmas” with Spyro Gyra, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. $32, $29, $15.
-- Wednesday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m. — The Capital Pride Singers, Basso Moderno Duo, with Eric Marczak and Dawn Standing Woman, WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany. $10.
-- Thursday, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. — The Oak Ridge Boys: Christmas Cookies Tour, The Palace Theatre, Albany. $45.50, $40.50, $30.50.
-- Friday, Dec. 19, 8 p.m. — Sweet Honey in the Rock: “A Holiday Show,” Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. $36, $33, $20.
-- Saturday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 21, 2 p.m. — Mount Snow and Mistletoe, with Chris and Bridget Ball Shaw, John Kirk, Kevin McKrell, Brian Melick, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy. $20.
-- Sunday, Dec. 21, 7 p.m. — A Saratoga Christmas, with Ray Pashoukos, Tequila Mockingbirds, Phil Drum, The She-tles, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs. $12.
If your idea of holiday music runs towards the more traditional orchestra setup, the Capital Region offers no shortage of classical holiday concerts.
The Albany Symphony Orchestra’s “The Magic of Christmas,” which runs Saturday, Dec. 6, at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 7, at 3 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in Albany, is becoming another holiday tradition in the Capital Region. This will be the third year the orchestra has put on its holiday show, conducted by musical director David Alan Miller.
“Each year, it’s a different show,” said Paul Barry, marketing director for the orchestra, during a recent interview. “The only thing that remains the same are the sing-along jingles, because everybody seems to love carols, and it’s all familiar.”
The show includes Irish step dancers from the Campbell Studio and two choirs, the Capital District Youth Chorale and the Holiday Community Chorale. In addition, The Music Studio school in Albany has commissioned a new piece of Christmas music for the orchestra, which Barry described as “a musicological journey through the 12 Days of Christmas.”
The Mainstage at Proctors will host CBS 6’s annual “Melodies of Christmas,” featuring the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorale conducted by Helen Cha-Pyo, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 18 - 20, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m.
The show, an annual benefit for the Albany Medical Center’s Child Cancer Program, has over the years raised more than $5 million for the program, according to the orchestra’s Web site, www.esyo.org. Guests include Albany blues singer Ernie Williams, local baritone Art DeLuke and the Northeast Ballet Company.
-- Friday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. — Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady. $90, $80, $70, $40, $20.
-- Saturday, Dec. 6, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. — Albany Symphony Orchestra, “The Magic of Christmas, Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany. $25, $12 (under 12).
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 5 p.m. — Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, “Notes of Good Cheer,” Glens Falls High School, 15 Quade St., Glens Falls. $25, $10 (students).
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. — Holiday Concert featuring University at Albany Symphony Orchestra, Chorale, Chamber Singers, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, University at Albany Performing Arts Center Main Theatre, Albany. $8, $6, $4.
-- Monday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m. — “20 Drummers Drummin’,” with University at Albany Percussion Ensemble, University at Albany Performing Arts Center Main Theatre, Albany. $8, $6, $4.
-- Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 18 - 20, 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 21, 3 p.m. — “Melodies of Christmas,” with Empire State Youth Orchestra, Proctors, Schenectady. $25.
The holidays wouldn’t be complete without singing, and numerous area choruses are putting on shows throughout December to help celebrate.
First up is the Mohawk Valley Chorus, with director John Nethaway. This year, the chorus’s Christmas concert will be held on three consecutive nights, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 5 through 7. Visit www.mohawkvalleychorus.org, or call 339-6714.
The Capital Community Voices, directed by Julie Panke, will perform a one-off holiday show, “Winter Fantasy,” at Columbia High School in East Greenbush at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. The program, which can be viewed at http://www.bhsinging.info/cdata/capcv.html, promises a mix of classic carols and contemporary holiday favorites.
The Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church, 1943 Palmer Avenue in Schenectady, hosts the Schenectady Choral Society’s holiday show, directed by Betsy Lehmann, on Sunday, Dec. 7, starting at 3 p.m. Visit the church online at http://www.troyconference.org/home.asp?site=epumc, or call 374-4306.
Later in the week, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, the Mendelssohn Club will sing “Christmas Melodies” at The Egg’s Hart Theatre, aided by guest Donnie Ray Albert, baritone.
-- Friday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. — Mohawk Valley Chorus, Johnstown Presbyterian Church, 37 South Market St., Johnstown.
-- Saturday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. — Mohawk Valley Chorus, First Reformed Church, 224 North Ballston Avenue, Schenectady.
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. — Mohawk Valley Chorus, Saint Mary’s Church, 156 East Main St., Amsterdam.
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. — Schenectady Choral Society, Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church, 943 Palmer Ave., Schenectady.
-- Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m. — Thursday Musical Club, First Reformed Church, Schenectady.
-- Friday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. — Mendelssohn Club, The Egg, Albany. $16.
-- Saturday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m. — Albany Pro Musica’s “This Yool Night,” First Reformed Church, Schenectady. $25, $23 (seniors), $10 (students).
-- Sunday, Dec. 14, 3 p.m. — Albany Pro Musica’s “This Yool Night,” Carondelet Hospitality Center, Sisters of Saint Joseph, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road, Latham. $25, $23 (seniors), $10 (students).
-- Sunday, Dec. 21, 3 p.m. — Octavo Singers, Union College Memorial Chapel, 807 Union St., Schenectady. $18, $15 (seniors); $8 (students).