The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra celebrates the winter holidays from one end of December to the other, beginning with “Holiday Joy” on Dec. 1 at Chesapeake College’s Todd Performing Arts Center and ending with a concert on First Night Talbot, New Year’s Eve.
Traditionally, pre-COVID, the “Holiday Joy” program of secular and sacred Christmas music with a nod to Hanukkah (there just aren’t that many Hanukkah songs; just ask Adam Sandler) had been held at Easton’s Avalon Theatre. MSO board president Jeffrey Parker said the move was made, in part, to accommodate a larger number of musicians than can safely and comfortably perform on Avalon’s smaller stage.
This year’s program,” with new music director Michael Repper conducting his second set of concerts since his appointment last summer, also features soprano Rochelle Bard, who specializes in Verdi and bel canto repertoires. Earlier this season, she performed in Verdi’s “Attila” (as in the Hun) as warrior princess Odabello for Sarasota Opera. In February, she moves on to the title role in “Norma” for Opera Tampa. Two other “Holiday Joy” performances are on Dec. 3 at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Delaware, and Dec. 4 at Ocean City Performing Arts Center.
The Eastern Shore’s only professional classical music orchestra returns to Easton during the First Night Talbot in anticipation of the new year. MSO’s annual New Year’s Eve concert at Christ Church features two guest vocalists: alto soprano Anna Kelly and soprano Rachel Blaustein. Beginning at 7 p.m., the Auld Lang Syne concludes with plenty of time to celebrate the last hour of 2022 on your own.
First Night Talbot, the only New Year’s Eve celebration of its kind in Maryland, is billed as an alcohol- and drug-free family event with live entertainment at various downtown venues. These include Avalon Theater’s main stage and the upstairs Stoltz Room, the Academy Arts Museum, Easton Town Hall, and the Waterfowl Building. Grown-up celebrants can grab a seat at the Avalon for two live shows starting at 9:30 and ending at 11:45 – just in time for the midnight hour – with the Karen Somerville Quintet followed by a Scandinavian musical celebration. For just $10, a collectible Crab Button gets you into all venues except the symphony concert.
Just outside the Waterfowl Building, two Maryland Crab Drops will mark the New Year. At 9 p.m., for early birds and young kids, and at midnight to show the world that Times Square has nothing on Easton when it comes to welcoming 2023. The Parade of Sea Creatures, led by bagpiper Randy Welch gets you ready for the countdown.
Meanwhile, starting Dec. 8 at the Avalon, it’s a friends-and-family holiday season with its traditional musical production starring neighbors and neighbors’ kids from Easton and not far beyond. This year’s show is “Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka,” with performances by alternating casts to accommodate all the kids who want their moment on stage. Shows run from Dec. 8-11 and 15-18, with evening showtimes and matinees for little ones who can’t stay up late – unless maybe they’ve had too much chocolate.
Chestertown’s Garfield Center for the Arts at Prince Theater presents “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Tim Rice – the creative duo’s very first musical performed before a paying audience back in 1972. Based on a parable in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, this family-friendly musical is a cautionary tale about the dangers of picking a favorite son among a dozen brothers.
If you’re like me, you haven’t even started shopping for Christmas or for Hanukkah (the eighth night of which falls this year on Dec. 25). To help get you selections, the Dorchester Center for the Arts has turned its art galleries into a “Merry Market” bazaar. These will be unique gifts created by dozens of artists – including jewelry, candles, traditional arts and crafts items, paintings, and more. There’s a Second Saturday reception on the closing evening of the holiday shoppers’ market with live music, light refreshments, and a good chance to meet the artists.
For a Nation’s Capital celebration of the arts this holiday season, the Kennedy Center hosts a plethora of performances and celebrations, among which we have a few choice ones to suggest.
* We’ll begin with a Kennedy Center-sponsored annual event on Dec. 6 – the “Ugly Sweater Holiday Concert” as the National Symphony Orchestra goes casual, if not comical, by performing off-campus at The Anthem, the nearby waterfront music hall. The musicians will leave the tuxedos and gowns at home in favor of ridiculous holiday sweaters and jeans while, as the concert promotion ads say, “deconstructing the concert experience without deconstructing the music.” You will be admitted with or without an ugly sweater.
* Kennedy Center’s family-friendly theatrical offering this holiday season is the hugely popular Broadway musical “Wicked,” running Dec. 8-Jan. 22. In case you have no daughters or any other cause to pay attention, “Wicked” is the Good Witch/Bad Witch prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Even if you miss it in D.C., the show’s still going strong on Broadway with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
* Although there’s no chance of landing a ticket for this one (even major donors need lottery luck to make it into this event), we’d be remiss in failing to mention the annual Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 4 (you and I can catch it on CBS Dec. 22). This year’s honorees are George Clooney, R&B-pop singer Gladys Knight, singer-songwriter Amy Grant, Cuban-American composer Tania Leon, and the Irish rock band U2. The president of the United States and the First Lady are expected guests.
* On a somber note of war and hopefully peace, Gerdan – Kaleidoscope of World Music, a Washington-based ensemble named for intricately woven, multi-colored beaded necklaces of Ukraine, will be on Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Their “Christmas in Ukraine” tribute will also be live-streamed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 21.
Sticking with family fare, though not necessarily of the happy-face holiday variety,
Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center downtown presents the Broadway-touring production of “Little Jagged Pill” with a Tony-winning book by Diablo Cody, lyrics by pop artist Alana Morissette and music by Morissette and Glen Ballard. The show also won the 2021 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. The “Pill” in question is by prescription – an opioid – by which an otherwise “normal” suburban mom and wife becomes all-consumingly addicted – tragically an all-too-familiar American story these days.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.