We're preparing to spread Christmas cheer across Yorkshire and beyond with a packed month of orchestral and choral spectaculars, live soundtracks, seasonal world music, pop-up performances and festive fun for all the family.
The Orchestra of Opera North will be giving Santa a run for his money with a December dash through Leeds, Kirklees and out to the east coast, providing a seasonal soundtrack to deserving audiences throughout the region. On 9 December, they join forces with Leeds Festival Chorus for Festive Box of Delights at Leeds Town Hall, a programme of classical favourites with a seasonal flavour, plus stunning orchestral and choral excerpts from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, a highlight of Opera North’s Autumn season.
Then it’s on to Huddersfield Town Hall for The Snowman and Cinderella, accompanying Raymond Briggs’ cherished animation on the big screen with Howard Blake’s enchanting score. The evening opens the evening with Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite, full of mystery and atmosphere and accompanied by spellbinding illustrations and narration. For hometown audiences, the double bill is reprised at Leeds Town Hall on 17 December.
The Orchestra is back in Kirklees on 14 December for the Opera North Christmas Concert at Dewsbury Town Hall, the much-loved annual gathering bringing them together with the company’s Chorus, Young Voices, and Children’s and Youth Choruses. Adrian Leaper conducts the massed forces, with a seasonal programme including Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Overture and audience carols to close.
Following a break for some festivities of their own, the Orchestra ventures out to Hull Town Hall on 29 December for Viennese Whirl, a traditional musical trip through a glittering bygone world of waltzes, polkas, marches and song, and the perfect way to celebrate Opera North’s return to full-scale performance in the city this year. The following day they take the programme to Huddersfield Town Hall, ending up at Leeds Town Hall on New Year’s Eve. Soprano Jeni Bern makes a welcome return for all three dates, and conductor Justin Brown makes his Opera North debut.
With the Howard Assembly Room’s Victorian interior candlelit and festooned with decorations, the Christmas programme at Opera North’s chamber venue has become a fixture for Leeds audiences looking for a festive experience with a difference. Oana Cǎtǎlina Chiţu opens the season on 1 December with a special programme of Romanian Christmas carols (colinde) and winter songs from her native Romania, her rich, smoky voice accompanied by the evocative sounds of the cimbalom and accordion.
Misfits, deviants and cynics are unusually well catered-for this year with The Tiger Lillies’ Cold Night in Soho (13 December), looking back on the Brechtian punk-cabaret trio’s misspent youth in London’s seedy West End. Already sold out, the more traditional choral concert this year comes from the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge (21 December).
Catalan carols, festive classical pieces from Purcell to Prokofiev and more will be performed by a specially assembled chamber group led by violinist David Le Page in matinee and early evening concerts Wishing on Stars on 16 December. The evening concert will open with a half-hour performance of classic festive pieces by the Christmas Chorus, an after-work vocal workshop run by Opera North’s Education department over the preceding ten weeks. For anyone contemplating their New Year’s resolutions, the Chorus returns in January with 10 weekly sessions getting to grips with a dramatic repertoire inspired by Opera North’s new Fatal Passions season.
For younger audiences and their families, Babushka and the Russian Doll offers atmospheric folk tales, live music and a Christmas decorations workshop on 18 December.
December also finds young musicians taking centre stage, with all of the 1100 children in Opera North’s In Harmony schools programme participating in festive performances. The annual In Harmony Christmas Concert at Morley Town Hall features the project’s 5 to 7-year-olds accompanied by a brass ensemble from the Orchestra of Opera North and conducted by James Bingham. On 5 December, over 100 children from Windmill and Low Road Primary Schools and New Bewerley Community School will gather under the dome at Trinity Leeds with the Chorus of Opera North for the traditional Opera North Festive Fanfare, a free half hour concert of Christmas hymns interspersed with rousing brass band music from 2.30pm.
Opera North’s Young Voices will open their festivities at a Christmas Choir-a-thon in Leeds Trinity at 11am on 9 December. They join 15 other choirs singing for Christmas shoppers for a total of 16 hours across Friday and Saturday in aid of the St Vincent de Paul Society, supporting those in poverty in Leeds and the surrounding area.
On 11 December, members of Opera North Children’s Chorus in Newcastle celebrate the ensemble’s first birthday with a programme of carols old and new at the Brunswick Methodist Church in the city centre.
Another milestone will be celebrated when members of Opera North’s Encore scheme, which currently numbers 94 organisations, and the Bravo Club for individuals, get together for drinks and mince pies on 18 December. Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, both initiatives offer access to performances for diverse audiences who have barriers that may prevent them from engaging fully with the arts. Since their inception, the schemes have resulted in over 9000 attendances at a wide range of operas and performances, including over 1000 in the past year.
Back to the Kirklees Concert Season, and the Lunchtime Concerts programmed by Opera North and Kirklees Council take a festive turn in December, beginning at Huddersfield Town Hall on 4 December with organ music for advent performed by Borough Organist Dr Gordon Stewart. With carols to sing and festive music old and new, this year’s Brass Band Christmas Spectacular features the University of Huddersfield Brass Band, at Huddersfield Town Hall on 11 December, and at Dewsbury on 13 December. At Huddersfield on 21 December, Dr Gordon Stewart is joined by The Choristers of Wakefield Cathedral for a programme of Christmas music from all around the world, and another chance to join in the carolling.
For more information and to book tickets for any of our Christmas events, click on the links above or contact Box Office on 0844 848 2720.
The Orchestra of Opera North at Dewsbury Town Hall, Christmas 2015. Credit: Amy Charles
Opera North Festive Fanfare, Trinity Leeds, Christmas 2015. Credit: Tom Arber
Dr Gordon Stewart with the Father Willis organ, Huddersfield Town Hall. Credit: Mike Bolderson