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Christmas Time in the City

Soprano Emily Tworek-Helenbrook.

Classical music celebrates the holiday season

Although Christmas is still almost three weeks away, fans of Christmas music have already been able to enjoy two weekends of holiday-related musical events. But not to worry, if you missed these concerts, as there are a whole slew of Christmas themed musical events still to come.

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

As is traditional, BPO music director JoAnn Falletta will be on the podium to lead the orchestra for a pair of concerts in the M&T Bank Classic Series on Friday, December 7 at 10:30am, and Saturday, December 8 at 8pm, joined by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus under assistant conductor Susan Schuman. The program is billed as “A Classical Christmas,” and orchestral holiday favorites to be featured include the “Farandole” from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite No.2, the “Polonaise” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve, Holst’s Christmas Day and the colorful “Winter” movement from Glazunov’s ballet The Seasons, as well as the “Introduction, March and Shepherd’s Dance” from Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Joining the orchestra and chorus as special guest soloist is the 18-year-old lyric-coloratura soprano Emily Tworek-Helenbrook. Emily has already won top awards in several national competitions, and performed as a soloist for the Rochester Philharmonic, Cheektowaga Symphony, and in many appearances with Ars Nova Musicians in the Viva Vivaldi Festival and the BPO, in addition to giving several recitals on the Friends of Vienna Sunday afternoon series. She will perform selections from Handel’s Samson and Messiah oratorios, as well as the “Ave Maria” adapted by Massenet himself in 1894 from the music for the reverie known as the “Meditation” in his opera Thais.

The concert will conclude with Leroy Anderson’s medley of favorite Christmas carols, with audience members encouraged to sing along.

BPO assistant conductor Matthew Kraemer will conduct the orchestra in the five other holiday themed events, beginning with the BPO Family Series concert on Sunday, December 9 at 2:30pm, with soprano Leah Schneider, who frequently appears with the BPO as an educational performer, singing holiday selections that the entire family, including the youngest, will enjoy along with a dramatic reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by narrator Andrew Kahn, and orchestral selections from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, ending with an appearance by St. Nick himself.

The BPO Holiday Pops Concert comes in two different varieties this year, with the Coffee Concert on Friday, December 14 at 10:30am featuring soprano Leah Schneider and narrator Andrew Kahn reprising several of their numbers from the BPO Family Series concert, in addition to whole lot more, including selections ranging from Schubert’s transcendental version of “Ave Maria” to Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song,” along with orchestral selections such as Jeff Tyzik’s expansion of Waldteufel’s popular Skater’s Waltz and Dmitri’s Tiomkin’s suite from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Buffalo Niagara Youth Chorus will join the popular Irish vocalist Ronan Tynan and the BPO for the remaining three Holiday Pops concerts, on Friday December 14 and Saturday December 15 at 8pm and Sunday December 16 at 2:30pm. Tynan is well-known to Buffalo hockey fans for performing the national anthems before Buffalo Sabres home games, and he has garnered international renown through his many recordings, his appearances as a solo performer and as one of the Irish Tenors, and his career as a motivational speaker and author. With no end in sight to the NHL lockout, this may well be the only chance for his many area fans to hear Ronan Tynan perform live in Buffalo for a long time to come.

For tickets or more information, call 885-500 or visit

Camerata di Sant’Antonio

The one thing that you can always count on the Camerata di Sant’Antonio and its music director Christopher Weber doing, at any of their concerts in their home at St. Anthony’s of Padua’s RC Church behind Buffalo’s City Hall, is something different. The group’s annual “Buon Natale,” or Christmas concert on Friday, December 7 at 7pm, is a case in point, featuring works that are unlikely to show up on anyone else’s program list. Virtuoso oboist Paul Schlossman returns to town to join fellow oboist Christine Ford in Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto for Two Oboes in C, followed by Weber leading the strings of the Camerata in Hungarian composer’s Ernő Dohnanyi’s dramatically lyrical Serenade for Strings in C Major, a work from 1902. After intermission, the Amherst High School Concert Chorale under its music director, Justin Pomietlarz, will be joined by soloists soprano Holly Bewlay, Geoffrey Pictor, and James Wright in the performance of a genuine rarity, the joyous Gloria by Luigi Boccherini.

For tickets or more information, call 854-2563 or visit

Vocalis Chamber Choir

After celebrating its 10th anniversary season in high style with many local performances, both in Western New York and at Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Vocalis Chamber Choir returns to the intimate acoustic space of the Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Elmwood and North streets on Buffalo on Saturday, December 8 at 8pm, with a second performance on Sunday, December 9 at 4pm in Saints Peter and Paul Church on Main Street in Williamsville. The members of Vocalis will sing works by Guerrero, Chilcott, Rutter, and Leighton, as well as their settings of “Silent Night” and many other favorite traditional carols, with hot cider and refreshments served at intermission.

For tickets or more information, visit

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