Holiday music roundup: classical ways to celebrate

Atlanta’s classical music organizations offer a wealth of opportunities for those who’d like to celebrate the holiday season in a meaningful, thoughtful way. In many cases, these have become treasured traditions, incorporated into the holiday rituals of music lovers all over town.

Perhaps the king of these is the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's "Christmas with the ASO," established here by Robert Shaw. This special event has been "ASO's Christmas gift to Atlanta every year for over 40 years," according to ASO choral director Norman Mackenzie, who prepares and conducts the concerts. "The shows are put together according to Shaw's four-part formula, which he originally developed as part of a CBS radio program in the '40s, carried to the Cleveland Orchestra during his time there, then brought to Atlanta." But, Mackenzie said, "like decorating your tree … we are always adding something new." This year's production includes an army of more than 400 singers and musicians, including, in addition to the orchestra and the ASO Chorus, the Morehouse College Glee Club and the Gwinnett Young Singers. The dates are Dec. 6-8.

Other ASO events include a performance of Part One of Handel's "Messiah," which this year is being paired with the "Gloria" from Bach's B-minor Mass, on Dec. 13 and 15; the "ASO Kids' Christmas" program, with four performances on Dec. 9 and 16; the "ASO Gospel Christmas," on Dec. 14 and 15; "Celtic Women: A Christmas Celebration" on Dec. 20; and "A Very Merry Holiday Pops," with performances on Dec. 19, 21 and 22. Details and tickets for all ASO events are available at

For those who prefer the full version of the "Messiah," the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra will be performing the 1742 Dublin version. The players will be joined by the Georgia Tech Chamber Choir and Baroque vocal soloists. The first performance is Nov. 30 at the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. A second performance will take place Dec. 2 at Roswell Presbyterian Church. Tickets and information can be found at

New Trinity Baroque, an early music ensemble that is one of Atlanta's great treasures, will present its annual "Baroque Candlelight Christmas" program Dec. 16 at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. Joined by the St. Bartholomew's Choir, the group's program will feature Charpentier's "Messe de minuit" and much more. Tickets and information are available at

The Atlanta Boy Choir will present its holiday concert Dec. 1 at the Cathedral of St. Philip. They will also be heard at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Dec. 14 and at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers on Dec. 15. Tickets and information can be found at

Spivey Hall, Atlanta's most treasured small concert venue, has a full season of holiday fare. The hall's own ensembles, including its children's choir, young artists and tour choir, will perform Dec. 7-9. An excellent small choral group, the Atlanta Singers, will perform modern settings of Christmas pieces Dec. 9. And Michael Londra, the lead singer of Riverdance, will headline "A Celtic Yuletide" on Dec. 16. Details and tickets are available at

Some of the finest singing to be heard in the city comes from the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, which will present its 32nd annual holiday concert, “And on Earth, Peace,” on December 7 and 8 at the Cathedral of St. Philip. This year’s concert will include soprano soloist Megan Mashburn. More information and tickets can be found at

Georgia State University's School of Music will present its 15th Gala Holiday Concert on Dec. 1 and 2 at the Rialto Center for the Arts. More than 200 student and faculty musicians will participate as members of the orchestra, choruses, other ensembles and soloists. Information and tickets are available at

The Atlanta Sacred Chorale will present "Christmas with the ASC" on Dec. 15 and 16 at Emory's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. This year, it will be joined by the Gary Motley Trio to jazz things up a bit. Details and ticket information can be found at