More music is associated with Christmas than with any other holiday. That’s not surprising since carols heralding the season date back at least to the 13th century.
What is surprising is the variety of the music, which ranges from the spiritual majesty of Handel’s “Messiah” to the secular silliness of Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” For Downeast audiences, the holiday season provides ample opportunity to hear live music from both ends of the sonic spectrum.
The Bagaduce Chorale and the Acadia Choral Society are presenting classical offerings in a separate series of concerts in December.
The 100-member Bagaduce Chorale is performing sacred choral works by Francis Poulenc and Karl Jenkins. Both are contemporary classical works —the Poulenc composed in 1959 and the Jenkins in 2016 — with the same title.
“They’re both called ‘Gloria’ and they both are epic works,” said the chorale’s director, Bronwyn Kortge.
Kortge said she chose the music based on the desire by chorale members for more substantial works and for their historical significance. She first had the Jenkins in mind. Then she had an unexpected encounter with the Poulenc.
“It popped up on my playlist,” she said. “I got so excited.”
Kortge said she knew the two pieces, both of which feature a soprano soloist, would complement each other. The next step was to find that soprano.
Kortge had heard Katelyn Parker Bray perform and knew she would be perfect, especially for the Poulenc.
“Her voice is really sparkly,” said Kortge.
An orchestra also was needed. The 20-piece group consists of professional musicians and students.
“We’re partnering with Mount Desert Island High School, arts groups and school districts in the area,” she said. “This gives the students the opportunity to play alongside professionals.
The chorale members come from as far south as Rockland and as far east as Sullivan. Full rehearsals happen every week, along with section rehearsals. There is something special that happens with such a large group, Kortge said.
“I love big choirs,” she explained. “There is a sort of magic that comes together when they sing. It becomes this transcendent experience.”
Performances of the chorale’s winter concert “Epic Glorias” are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and at 3 p.m. Dec. 9 at the First Congregational Church in Blue Hill and at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Ellsworth High School auditorium. Tickets are a suggested donation of $20.
Admission for students is free, but they must have a ticket. Tickets are available at Sherman’s in Bar Harbor, the Southwest Harbor Public Library, the Blue Hill Public Library and Flexit Café in Ellsworth.
The 70-member Acadia Choral Society, conducted by Molly Webster, is performing concerts Dec. 2-3 at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor and at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Ellsworth on Dec. 10. Tickets are $15.
While the program includes an arrangement of “O Holy Night” by 19th century French composer Adolphe Adam, the majority of the works are by contemporary composers and includes Arvo Part’s “Bogoroditse Djevo,” the Trappist monk Chrysogonus Waddell’s “Rosa Mystica” and “Gloria” by Bob Chilcott.
What would the holiday season be without Tchaikovsky’s immortal ballet “The Nutcracker?” The Robinson Ballet has scheduled performances at The Grand in Ellsworth at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 9 and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. On Dec. 16 and 17, the ballet is performing at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and the Bangor Area Children’s Choir.
The Grand is staging its own holiday production. Performances of “A Musical Christmas Carol” are set for Dec. 15-17, 22-23.
In the mood for something a little more country? The Collins Center is hosting The Oak Ridge Boys with their Christmas Celebration Tour on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. The quartet behind such hits as “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue” has been celebrating the season with a Christmas tour for years.
In Bar Harbor, Acadia Community Theater is performing “Christmas in Oz” at the Criterion Theatre Dec. 1-2. In the play, the wicked witch steals Christmas from Munchkinland as Dorothy and the other familiar characters attempt to bring the holiday back. The Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers will be at the Criterion on Dec. 10 for a matinee performance of “The Grinch.”
For those who wish to see an animated holiday classic take to the stage, on Dec. 13 the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor is hosting “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.” Remember: Bumbles bounce.