Forget the Oxford Street lights and nauseating John Lewis ad, the Christmas season really starts when churches and venues start filling up for carol concerts and Christmas gigs. Arts venues pitch in with Advent events, creating Christmas music programmes from the traditions of classical, jazz and folk music. Here are 10 highlights from throughout December:
A Feast of Songs & Wassails @ Cecil Sharp House, 5 December 2012, 8pm
Christmas is an important time at London’s second favourite music venue (according to Time Out), Cecil Sharp House (pictured). The centre for all things folk music in the capital celebrates a traditional English Christmas, including this evening of traditional songs sung a capella (just voices) by the Cecil Sharp House Choir.
Christmas Concert with Audience Carols @ St Martin in the Fields, 8 December 2012, 7.30pm
The Trafalgar Square Church, a favourite with tourists for convenient classical concerts, comes into its own at Christmas with a full schedule, including this chance to get singing with orchestral accompaniment by the London Musical Arts Orchestra. On the menu is Corelli, Handel, Bach and Vivaldi, and lots of carols of course.
Ian Shaw & Claire Martin’s Early Christmas Stocking @ Purcell Room, 11 December 2012, 7.45pm
The two fine jazz vocalists present their annual show at Southbank Centre. Expect an informal, melody-packed evening with plenty of stage banter.
Gabrieli Consort & Players @ Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s), 15 December 2012, 7pm
£32, £26, £16, £10 (restricted view), £5 (unsighted)
The Spitalfields Music Winter Festival warms cockles each year with sparkling baroque programmes in local churches. This programme, from the Gabrieli Consort and conductor Paul McCreesh with the Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir, features seasonal music from medieval times to the present day, via Benjamin Britten.
A Ceremony of Customs & Carols @ Cecil Sharp House, 16 December 2012, 7pm
£12 adult; £10 concessions; £25 family (two adults & 2 children)
This has to be London’s most traditional Christmas gathering, looking way back beyond the Victorians, who invented our modern views of the festival. The English Folk Song & Dance Society presents an evening of old English Christmas customs, featuring Morris Dancing and a Mummers play (seasonal folk play) as well as Yuletide songs and stories. Find out more about folk music in London.
Christmas at Greenwich with the BBC Singers @ Royal Naval College Chapel, 19 December 2012, 7.30pm
The baroque splendour of the Chapel at the Old Royal Naval College (pictured) is one of London’s greatest wonders. Two BBC ensembles, the BBC Singers and BBC Concert Orchestra, combine to perform English music by composers including Vaughan Williams, Tavener and Finzi.
King’s College Choir & Philharmonia Orchestra @ Royal Albert Hall, 19 December 2012, 7.30pm
Every Christmas Eve, the Choir Of King’s College sings a service in Cambridge that is broadcast to millions by the BBC. See the choir at the Royal Albert Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra in a programme of music by Bach, Handel and John Rutter.
German Baroque Christmas @ Kings Place, 20 December 2012, 7.30pm
The King’s Cross venue is going all out with a seasonal festival that includes this intriguing concert. The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble play early brass instruments (you might have seen some of them at performing at The Globe) and here join with countertenor Mark Chambers for a programme of 17th century German music.
Family Carols @ St Paul’s Cathedral, 22 December 2012, 1pm
Chamber choir Cantate sing Christmas favourites in a 45 minute service in Sir Christopher Wren’s great masterpiece. Click here for a full listing of Christmas events at St Paul’s.
Blue Spirits Xmas Show @ The Vortex, 22 December 2012, 8.30pm
The Dalston jazz club takes a rare break over Christmas but before it closes, a guitar-hammond-organ-drums trio led by guitarist John Etheridge plays a bluesy show that will include ‘some seasonal favourites’.
Do you have any Christmas concert recommendations? Put them in the comments…
Headline image courtesy of Cecil Sharp House/English Folk Song & Dance Society. Old Royal Naval College image by Jim529, via the Londonist Flickr pool.