“It’s the holiday season!” Or so they tell me. Having spent last week in Mexico City before they decorate (Nothing much begins there until Dec. 12 each year.), we find ourselves in catch-up mode this week. Nothing puts you in the mood more, however, than plowing through a week’s worth of Christmas concert and event listings. Here’s a heaping helping… enjoy!
This is my final set of picks for 2021. Thanks for taking the time to read; we hope you find this column enjoyable and helpful. We at M&M wish you all a meaningful holiday season, whatever you choose to celebrate, and a happy and healthy 2022! See you in January!
In addition to the singular events previewed below, there are many holiday and other opportunities that continue into early January and beyond: art and cultural exhibits, holiday light displays, theater productions and more. Check out our full listings (click Arts Calendar), which continue to be the most comprehensive in the region.
Thursday, Dec. 16
Cincinnati Ballet, “The Nutcracker” | 7:30 p.m. Music Hall. 513-621-5219. DETAILS: It’s great to see the return of one of the city’s defining holiday traditions, even if it is the final go-round for production visionary Victoria Morgan in her last year as artistic director. What I like about this production is that it is full of humor, and relatable in a very 21st-century way. And the music? Few pieces have survived parody and transmogrification as has this Tchaikovsky score. A Queen City classic worth wearing your mask for. Runs through Dec. 26.
The Union vocal ensemble, “Let Love Be Heard” | 7:30 p.m. St. Rose of Lima Church, 2501 Riverside Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: If your preference is for something brand new this Christmas, test drive this freshly minted ensemble of Cincinnati professional singers led by conductor/organist Trevor Kroeger and soprano Alexandra Schoeny. This new ensemble-in-residence at St. Rose offers a diverse program of shorter works, plus the world premiere of “Ring Out, Ye Bells!,” a work for chorus and orchestra by Dominick DiOrio. Repeats Friday evening and also Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Free, but ticket required.
Friday, Dec. 17
Over the Rhine, “Christmas with…” | 8 p.m. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: A few seats remain for each of these three performances by our own alt-folk wonders, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detwiler. If you are looking for an intimate, down-to-earth atmosphere this year, this is your best bet. Lovely, thoughtful, sometimes heart-breaking songs from the duo that made our neighborhood famous.
Pendleton Art Center, Final Friday | 6-10 p.m. 1310 Pendleton St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-421-4339. DETAILS: No, this is not a typo. The Pendleton is simply smart enough not to compete with Christmas or New Year’s Eve. What better gift for your visual-learning friends than an original art work you bought right from the creator’s studio? Amidst the eight (count ’em) floors, dozens of fine, local artists will display their most recent creations from a wide variety of media. They might even offer wine, cheese and/or cookies, if you’re on the “nice” list, of course. Support local art this Christmas! M&M photographer Tina Gutierrez, (Studio 202) is featured artist this month.
Steve Schmidt, “The Christmas Schmidtacular” | 7 & 9 p.m. Caffe Vivace, 975 E. McMillan St., Cincinnati, OH 45206. DETAILS: Another year of Hammond B3 wonderfulness and wacky decorations from one of the region’s very best keyboard artists, assisted ably across two distinct sets (sold separately) by vocalist Mandy Gaines, guitarist Brad Myers and drummer Jason Smart. Limited seating, but always worth a listen. Repeats Saturday and Sunday evenings. Call now…
Saturday, Dec. 18
Christ Church Cathedral, Lessons and Carols Concert | 7 p.m. 318 E. 4th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. 513-621-1817. DETAILS: More pop-classical balancing here, with local singer-songwriters performing readings and Christmas carols in a variety of musical styles. No admission charge. A formal Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service takes place here Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
Essex Studios, Holiday Pop-Up Art Show | 1-4 p.m. 2511 Essex Place, Cincinnati, OH 45206. 513-476-2170. DETAILS: Haven’t found that perfect art gift yet? Here’s another prime opportunity, in which a dozen artists open their studio doors for shopping. Now you have no excuse but to shop artfully this season.
No Promises Vocal Band, “Christmas With No Promises” | 7:30 p.m. The Carnegie, 1026 Scott Blvd., Covington, KY 41011. DETAILS: For my money, the best a cappella group in the region is this ourstanding male ensemble led by singer/actor/playwright Josh Steele, which offers a broad range of styles from pop to jazz and beyond. For this performance, the guys are joined by local vocal legend Nancy James and her trio.
Sunday, Dec. 19
Knox Church, “Christmas Miniatures” | 5 p.m. 3400 Michigan Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208. 513-321-2573. DETAILS: The ageless wonder, Earl Rivers, is resting his running shoes to celebrate his 47th holiday season at Knox with a selection of shorter gems by Vivaldi, Charpentier, Finzi and – one of my favorites – Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams. And he’s been nice enough to invite me to join in.
Tuesday, Dec. 21
Christ Church Cathedral, “A Ceremony of Carols” | 12:10 p.m. 318 E. 4th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. DETAILS: It is not Christmas for me until I have heard this magically evocative procession of pieces by one of my favorite composers, Benjamin Britten. The treble voices of the Cathedral Choir, accompanied bythe marvelous harpist Elizabeth Motter, offer this special Music Live with Lunch each holiday season. A most wonderful way to pass the noon hour.
Young Professionals Choral Collective, Car-Aoke | 6:30-8:30 p.m. Karrakin Spirits, 3717 Jonlen Dr, Fairfax, OH 45227. 513-601-8699. DETAILS: Still looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit? (Get it?) This free and COVID-safe, outdoor concert of holiday favorites. allows options where you can join the outdoor fun, warm up inside Karrikin Spirits, or sing along with the crazy kids (ok, young adults) from YPCC from the comfort of your car. It’s all up to you.