Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, and so is the sheaf of holiday program announcements for Middle Tennessee. If you’re at all inclined to participate in some holiday merrymaking, read on, for you’ll discover that there’s plenty to choose from: music, opera, tours of historic homes, and lots more.
:As it turns out, one of the most interesting holiday programs is occurring close to press time: If you’re reading this on Wednesday, Dec. 4, you don’t have long to get to Fisk Memorial Chapel for a free 7:30 p.m. event featuring Tennessee Dance Theatre, Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Modern Black Mass Choir, Fisk University Choir, and Fisk Jazz Ensemble. Farther up Jefferson Street, Tennessee State University holds a pre-Kwanzaa exposition with vendors, information booths, and performances from 9 a.m. till 11 p.m. this Thursday and Friday.
Those silver bells of the Christmas song are not the only musicindeed not even the principal musicof the holiday season. Almost every congregation will be providing something special in the next month, and you can count on several of these events to be packed. While it may not technically be considered a parish church, All Saints’ Chapel at Sewanee is the venue for the region’s most popular Festival of Lessons and Carols. This year’s services, the 37th in the series, take place this Sunday at 5 and 8 p.m. Doors open one hour before each service with warm refreshments served prior to the seating. The program is free and open to everyone. Fair warning: get there very early. All Saints’ Chapel is packed each year for these services, and this year will be no different.
Closer to home, Michael Velting will be leading his musicians in a 4 p.m. Festival of Lessons and Carols Dec. 15 at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Nashville. One of the oldest area programs of Advent music, Belmont United Methodist Church’s Feast of Lights, takes place the evening of Dec. 22. The church is located at 2007 Acklen Avenue in Hillsboro Village.
You may not hear the bells on Christmas day at Belle Meade United Methodist Church, but the church’s traditional program of handbell music takes place the evening of Dec. 15. This Bells By Candlelight program is a traditional fundraiser for the congregation, and there is a $5 admission charge. Dessert will be served.
West End United Methodist has one of the strongest music programs of any area congregation, and they’ll celebrate the season with a performance of the Magnificat by CPE Bach. Less often encountered than the composer’s father’s more famous setting, this CPE work shows an obvious debt to the elder Bach while frequently bowing to the modern style that would become popularized by Mozart. The performance takes place this coming Sunday afternoon, and child care will be provided.
Considerably in advance of the usual Christmas pageant, two area congregations will be presenting holiday performances of the classic Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti. St. Edward Catholic Church, at 188 Thompson Lane, will present four performances this Thursday through Saturday; admission will be charged. First Presbyterian Church, at 4815 Franklin Road, gives its performance this Saturday evening at 5 o’clock. Their event is free and open to the public.
A visit to any shopping mall or Otis elevator should remind you that holiday music abounds in places other than churches. The best of it can be found, however, at venues such as TPAC and the Ryman Auditorium. This Saturday morning, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra presents a “Kid-Sized Christmas Celebration” in TPAC’s Jackson Hall. The jolly old elf will be there in person to join in on “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” holiday favorites from the Leroy Anderson songbook, and traditional Christmas carols. The Symphony is asking all concert-goers to bring a new book, which will be donated to BOOK’EM, a child literacy organization. The NSO and its chorus also continue a relatively new tradition with performances in Ryman Auditorium of Handel’s Messiah this coming Sunday and Tuesday nights.
Down the pike a piece, the Middle Tennessee Symphony Orchestra will present a holiday concert with glass harmonica virtuoso Jamey Turner and the Oakland/Riverdale Kantorei this coming Monday night in MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Building. If you’ve never heard a glass harmonicaan instrument that musicians in the late 18th century likened to the voices of angelsthis is your chance. Should Nashvillians decide to stick closer to home, Monday is also the night when the Belmont Camerata Musicale will join with Kathy Chiavola and fiddler Randy Howard for a mix of baroque and folk music. The program begins at 8 p.m. in the Belmont Mansion, but get there early. Nashville has grown considerably since Adelicia Acklen threw Christmas parties in the mansionthe space in her ballroom has not.
For other musical and dramatic delights of the season, we direct your attention to both the Critic’s Picks column and the 8 Days a Week listings, but one category of Christmas happenings should not go unmentioned here: the Christmas tour. At this time of year, houses, towns, cities, even whole counties invite the local citizenry to come enjoy their holiday cheer. Franklin’s “Miracle on Main Street” community pageant is planned for Dec. 13-15 in the town’s First Baptist Churchand indeed all of Franklin is decorated for its annual “Dickens of a Christmas” celebration. This weekend, Maury County presents its “Plantation Christmas,” which features tours of several of the area’s historic homes. For the full program, call (615) 381-7176 or (800) 381-1865.
The Sam Davis Memorial Association in Smyrna presents its first “Town and Country Tour of Homes” this Saturday from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. Included on the tour are the Sam Davis Home and Idler’s Retreat, home of the late author Brainerd Cheney. Finally, the Historic Mansker’s Station Frontier Life Center in Goodlettsville sponsors a holiday parade and living history weekend this Saturday and Sunday. For information, phone the center at 859-3678.
In the meantime, get out the fruitcake, mix up the eggnog, and shop till you dropbut make sure you get your taste of a Middle Tennessee Noêl
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