Holiday Concerts


by Annie Bergen, 10/11/2011

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New York City's museums are enchanting places to visit during the holidays. Offering everything from special themed exhibitions and decor to one-of-a-kind gifts in their shops, these institutions capture the exuberant spirit of the season and enhance it by supplying unparalleled settings for live concerts. Whether they're performed in a soaring-ceilinged gallery or an intimate living space in a historic house, these concerts can provide enriching, restorative experiences during a particularly frenzied time. Read on for musical museum events held around the City in December.

The sweeping, formal interior of The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers the perfect reverent showcase for a cappella singing. The 12 male voices of Chanticleer take full advantage of the space, delivering their ethereal harmonies in the cathedral-arched Medieval Sculpture Hall in front of the museum's Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche. Chanticleer will perform traditional carols, medieval and Renaissance sacred works and new holiday music on November 29, 30 and December 1, at 6:30 and 8:30pm. Tickets are $65. Women's voices get their turn when the a cappella female quartet Anonymous 4 presents a holiday program of ancient, traditional and modern works on December 15, also in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, at 6:30 and 8:30pm. Tickets are $60.

A Metropolitan Museum painting by Hieronymus Bosch called The Adoration of the Magi was the inspiration for the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, by composer Gian Carlo Menotti. An annual Christmas tradition for generations, Amahl tells of a disabled boy's encounter with the Three Kings. The family-friendly opera will be performed by the Harbor Lights Theater Company at Snug Harbor Cultural Center's Music Hall in Staten Island December 9–11 and 16–18. Friday performances start at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $30, or $25 for students and seniors.

Snug Harbor, originally built in 1801 as a home for retired sailors, is just one of New York City's cultural institutions housed in former residences, and this time of year, many of them offer the chance to experience the holidays from an earlier age. Stroll through the historic 19th-century Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx during a candlelight tour showcasing its Christmas trees and decorations inspired by children's stories, then stay for some holiday music provided by the a cappella Metropolitones on December 2, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and free for museum members. The free Bronx Seaside Trolley will be running from the Pelham Bay Park subway station (on the 6 train line) to the mansion and City Island. The following weekend, don't miss holiday concerts for St. Nicholas with the Bronx Arts Ensemble singers on December 10 and 11, at 1 and 3pm. The concerts are free, but tickets are required; call 718-601-7399.

Home to a merchant family for more than 100 years, the Merchant's House Museum in Manhattan offers an intimate glimpse into mid-19th-century life. Typically, the museum is decked out in period decorations during the holidays, but in a twist this year, the institution's theme will be Christmas in the 1950s. A special holiday concert of traditional carols and '50s holiday music featuring the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society will take place on December 17 at 7:30pm. Admission is $25; those interested will be able to make reservations at

Another treasure of the 1950s, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Guggenheim Museum, provides the setting for two free holiday concerts. George Steel conducts the Vox Vocal Ensemble and the Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble in holiday favorites in the building's rotunda on December 18 and 19 at 7pm. The museum closes at 5:45pm and reopens at 6:30pm for the concerts.

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is being celebrated around the City with a number of family-friendly concerts. At the Museum of Jewish Heritage, youngsters will delight in songs such as "Billy Bagel" and "Hurry Up and Light the Candles" sung by The Macaroons on December 4 at 2:30pm. Admission is $10, or $7 for children 10 and under; for museum members, admission is $7, or $5 for children 10 and under. On December 21 at 7pm, you can also celebrate with indie folk-rock band Girls in Trouble, whose Brooklyn-born leader, Alicia Jo Rabins, writes catchy songs about legendary and obscure female figures from the Bible. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors and $10 for members.

Take a journey through Eastern European Jewish culture at the Museum at Eldridge Street's annual Klez for Kids concert, on December 25 at 1pm. Clarinetist Greg Wall and his band Klezmerfest play right in the heart of the landmark Lower East Side synagogue, encouraging kids to sing, dance and learn Yiddish. The festivities conclude with an audience-participatory shtetl wedding. The cost is $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and $6 for children under 12.

With all of this good cheer, it's hard to imagine anyone hanging on to any Scrooge-like tendencies this season. Those who do, though, would be instantly uplifted by the carolers from Mannes College at The Morgan Library & Museum, on December 9 and 16 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. The concerts are free with museum admission. It's a perfect time to see Charles Dickens' original manuscript for A Christmas Carol, which is on display with manuscripts from four other Christmas books, all part of a larger exhibition, Charles Dickens at 200, celebrating the author's bicentennial. Toast the year's end with a visit to an exhibition that explores how Robert Burns' song "Auld Lang Syne" became the popular New Year's Eve anthem. Robert Burns and "Auld Lang Syne" opens on December 9; a gallery talk will be held on December 16 at 7pm.

related venues/(7)

  1. 1
    The Met
    Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10028
  2. 2
    Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
    1000 Richmond Terr.
    Staten Island – Randall Manor
    NY 10301
  3. 3
    Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
    895 Shore Rd.
    Bronx – Pelham Bay
    NY 10464
  1. 4
    Merchant's House Museum
    29 E. 4th St.
    Manhattan – Greenwich Village
    NY 10003
  2. 5
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    1071 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – Upper East Side
    NY 10128
  3. 6
    Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
    36 Battery Pl.
    Manhattan – Battery Park City
    NY 10280
  1. 7
    The Morgan Library & Museum
    225 Madison Ave.
    Manhattan – Murray Hill
    NY 10016

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