Music — Make It A Classical Holiday

Sorting Through The Blizzard Of Seasonal Performances

By Jeff Rapsis 

Put away that “Blue Christmas” album—this year, local performing groups can provide your holiday soundtrack. Manchester area residents have an incredible array of close-to-home choices to enjoy live holiday music at a reasonable cost—and much of it is made by your neighbors. Here’s a guide to some of the highlights:

• WMUR does the classics: The holiday music season kicks off this weekend with the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s annual “Catch That Holiday Spirit” concert at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. The concert, an annual event, includes all manner of musical chestnuts, whether roasting on an open fire or not, in a program narrated by Jennifer Vaughn, infobabe and WMUR-TV news anchor. Conductor Anthony Princiotti’s bag of holiday musical gifts includes excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet score, special arrangements of Christmas carols, and a performance by last year’s winner of the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s youth concerto competition. Tickets range from $12.50 to $42.50 per person and can be purchased from the Palace Theatre box office (668-5588); visit for more information.

• Nutcracker in Nashua: In the Gate City, a fully staged production of the Nutcracker will receive two performances at Keefe Auditorium: on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. The holiday season just doesn’t seem complete without Tchaikovsky’s ballet about a little girl who enters the world of her toys, only to be chased by rats before being rescued by a nutcracker with precision military training. The production is a collaboration of musicians from the Nashua Symphony and dancers from Northern Ballet Theatre. Tickets are $30 to $40; seniors 65 and older receive a $3 discount, and all children under 18 receive a $10 discount. For tickets, call the Nashua Symphony at 595-9156.

• Nutcrackers elsewhere: In Manchester, the Palace Theatre will produce its own version of the ballet from Thursday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 5, with six performances conducted by Nashua resident Robert Babb. Babb will lead a pick-up group of musicians dubbed the “Palace Festival Orchestra” and accompany dancers of the Southern New Hampshire Ballet School, a combo that’s supplied the Palace production for the past three seasons. Performances are Thursday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4 at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $43; on opening night, seats are 25 percent off.

• Raise those voices: The Manchester Choral Society is busy preparing their annual ‘Holiday Tapestry’ concert, which this year will feature gems of the Baroque era. The program, to be performed on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m., includes everything from a capella motets by early masters to the resplendent sound of music for multiple choirs in the opulent Venetian style, accompanied by strings and organ. (And carol sing-alongs, too.) Performances will be led by Lisa Wolff, the group’s long-time music director, and will take place at Brookside Congregational Church, 2013 Elm St., Manchester. Tickets are $15 to $20; for more information, visit

• Philharmonic encore: The New Hampshire Philharmonic plays a follow-up holiday concert on Sunday, Dec. 12 up in Concord at the Capitol Center for the Arts. Guest artist for this one is children’s author Tomie dePaola, who will tell favorite stories to go along with the music. Tickets are $13 per person, but seniors and students can get in for just $8. For more info, call 225-1111 or visit

• Last-minute pops: In Concord, the New Hampshire Symphony brings its own dose of holiday cheer to the Merrimack Valley with a concert of holiday favorites on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord. Conductor Kenneth Kiesler leads the group in favorites that might be just what you need for a little last-minute infusion of holiday cheer. Tickets are $15 to $39, with discounts for seniors and students. For more info, call 225-1111 or visit

• Dueling concerts: Call it the great holiday pops stare-down. Just as the New Hampshire Symphony is playing a holiday pops concert in Concord (see above), so too will the Concord-based Granite State Symphony at exactly the same time — Sunday, Dec. 19 at 3 p.m., only in City Auditorium across town. Conductor Robert Babb will lead the group in holiday favorites. Tickets are $10 to $25, with student/senior discounts. All kids age 12 and under can get in for $5 each. For tickets, call 226-4776 or visit

• And then there’s Keith: If music by local groups isn’t your thing, then there’s always the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra Holiday Concert on Saturday, Dec. 11 in Manchester. The touring arm of the Pops, under the direction of matinee idol Keith Lockhart, will make its now-annual appearance at the cavernous arena for one concert only at 7:30 p.m. Who can resist the chance to hear holiday music in a gigantic space with all the acoustics of an airplane hanger? Plus high ticket prices ensure a steady flow of money back to Symphony Hall in Boston, which stages the holiday Pops tours around New England as a reliable cash cow. If it’s your cup of tea, tickets are $41 through $61.

Jeff Rapsis

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