Celebrate the season with holiday music

Pack the holiday season with classical concerts.

Each December, metro Atlanta plays host to a plethora of choral concerts, with groups from amateur to professional taking on everything from standard holiday carols to sections of Handel’s “Messiah” to little-known sacred and secular works. Many programs are centered around Christmas, but it is possible to find singers programming Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs, too. Harder still, though, is uncovering instrumental-only celebrations of the season.

ExploreAtlanta theaters extend their season’s greetings

For new classical listeners, holiday concerts serve as accessible programming and a way to get used to an ensemble’s sound before coming back for more throughout the year. If you catch one (or two … or three) of this season’s performances, make sure to check to see what is being programmed in 2023. The Atlanta Master Chorale has some interesting programming in the next few months, as do Coro Vocati, New Trinity Baroque and others.

Festival Singers of Atlanta

Billed as a celebration of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas, the Festival Singers of Atlanta will present a program of familiar caroling tunes mixed with songs like “Maoz Tzur,” Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “Seven Principles” and Keith H. Walker’s “Great Arbiter of Human Fate.” Walker, a former singer in the group, has served as music director of the ensemble since 2014.

3 p.m. Dec. 4. Free. Northside Drive Baptist Church, 3100 Northside Drive NW, Atlanta. 404-727-5050, festivalsingersofatlanta.org

GSU Gala Concert

It’s the 25th time Georgia State University has brought together its student and faculty ensembles, perhaps with some special guests, in a celebration of the holidays. For this one performance, listeners will find a choir-heavy celebration that is “brimming with holiday cheer.”

3 p.m. Dec. 4. $17-$36. Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St., Atlanta. 404-413-9849, rialto.gsu.edu

Credit: Jonathan Phillips

Credit: Jonathan Phillips

Spelman-Morehouse Christmas Carol Concert

Holiday performances at Morehouse and Spelman are always a sign of the season in Atlanta, but this year, the concerts are happening earlier than usual. Spelman’s Glee Club gives listeners “A Little Taste of Christmas” in Sisters Chapel on Nov. 29 before heading over to Morehouse and the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel for the combined concerts on Dec. 4. (The two glee clubs also appear back at Spelman on Dec. 3.) These performances are always packed, so plan accordingly.

6 p.m. Dec. 4. Free. MLK Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College, 830 Westview Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-270-5476, spelman.edu

Spviey Hall Children’s Choir

This concert unites Spivey Hall Young Artists with the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir and the Spivey Hall Tour Choir in a program of holiday music from various nationalities. Organist Alan Morrison will also lead audience sing-a-longs.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 9; 3 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11. $25. Spivey Hall, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow. 678-466-4200, spiveyhall.org

Athens Symphony

For listeners who want to venture out of the metro area for some holiday cheer, Athens Symphony musicians will perform a holiday program including “Overture to ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’” “Sleigh Ride” and others. Choral music planned for the performance includes “Irving Berlin Christmas,” “O Tannenbaum” and Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.”

8 p.m. Dec. 10; 3 p.m. Dec. 11. Free. Classic Center, 300 N. Thomas St., Athens. 706-357-4444, athenssymphony.org

Masterworks Chorale

Masterworks Chorale, along with guest soloists and various additional choirs (and even dancers), present this year’s “Christmas at the Centre” in Newnan. The program includes portions of Handel’s “Messiah” — plus an audience singalong of the “Hallelujah” chorus — as well as other seasonal fare.

2:30 p.m. Dec. 11. $5-$15. Donald W. Nixon Centre, 1523 Lower Fayetteville Road, Newnan. masterworkscommunitychorale.com

Atlanta Master Chorale

Directed by Eric Nelson, who runs Emory University’s choral program, the Atlanta Master Chorale has been a mainstay of university programming for decades. The group’s annual holiday concert is always a must-see seasonal event. Livestream tickets are available. If these holiday shows pique your interest for more choral excitement, AMC will present Bach’s “Magnificat” in March and a “High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass” in April.

8 p.m. Dec. 9-10; 4 p.m. Dec. 11. $10-$38. Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-727-5050, arts.emory.edu.

Atlanta Women’s Chorus

The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus perform early in the season, holding their holiday shows on Dec. 2-3, but their Voices of Note companion choir brings seasonal singing to the middle of the month — perfect for procrastinators. In the women’s program, titled “Winter of Wonders,” the chorus will perform songs including “The Holly and the Ivy,” “Gaudete” and “Still, Still, Still” alongside David MacIntyre’s “Ave Maria.”

2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 17. $25-$35. Cascade Midtown United Methodist Church, 458 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-320-1030, voicesofnote.org

Coro Vocati

One of Atlanta’s most visible professional choirs is back this season, led in its 13th year by conductor John Dickson. For this year’s program of holiday concerts, the choir promises “Christmas classics mixed with modern works” during their “Christmas with Coro: Magnificat” program.

7 p.m. Dec. 17. $10-$20. Morningside Presbyterian Church, 1411 N. Morningside Drive NE, Atlanta.

3 p.m. Dec. 18. $10-$20. All Saints Episcopal Church, 634 W. Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. corovocati.wordpress.com

New Trinity Baroque

Chamber ensemble and instrumental concerts seem to take a backseat this time of year to choral extravaganzas. But New Trinity Baroque has been plugging away for years during the holidays, bringing a wide-ranging and sometimes esoteric group of works to the public — all on period instruments. This year, listeners can expect works by Corelli, Scarlatti, Buxtehude and Torelli. The concert will also include organ works by Bach and Pachelbel.

8 p.m. Dec. 18. $9-$49. St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 1790 Lavista Road NE, Atlanta. 770-638-7574, newtrinitybaroque.org

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra might be the busiest band this holiday season. In addition to its annual Christmas with the ASO concert (Dec. 15-18) at Symphony Hall — a chance to hear Atlanta Braves staple tenor Timothy Miller and the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir — the ASO and ASO Chorus are hitting the road this holiday season.

Members of the ASO brass present their annual Cathedral of St. Philip concert, under the direction of Dale Adelmann, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 (cathedralatl.org), and the orchestra and chorus are then in Athens on the campus of the University of Georgia for a special performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at 8 p.m. Dec. 21 at Hugh Hodgson Hall.

The orchestra then blazes a trail to North Avenue Presbyterian Church for a holiday concert at 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Dec. 21 conducted by William R. Langley, founding music director of the Memphis Repertory Orchestra (information below). The musicians end the month in Madison for a reprise holiday music performance at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center (mmcc-arts.org) at 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

Check the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra website for details at aso.org.