The end of the year is also the end of the semester, so there are students of all ages ready to show you their stuff. The Young Company at First Stage has fun with stage blood in their production of the zombie comedy, Maul of the Dead. At UWM, student dancers and choreographers present two programs of new work in New Dancemakers. And voice students from the Peck School of the Arts pay tribute to the great Stephen Sondheim in a weekend concert performance. And for theater buffs, Jim Tasse directs Romulus Linney’s Gint, which sets Henrik Ibsen’s classic poetic drama Peer Gynt in modern Appalachia.
But elsewhere, it’s a weekend for music, music, music—some involving herald angels and some not. Here’s the line up.
The Concord Chamber Orchestra at the Basilica of St. Josephat
Why? Jamin Hoffman’s fine chamber orchestra rings in the season with a holiday friendly program that isn’t just a parade of carol arrangements. The UW-Parkside choirs join the orchestra to perform music by Mendelssohn, Bach, Bizet, Sibelius, and some carols by John Rutter. A perfect way to start the season.
The Milwaukee Symphony’s “Holiday Pops Spectacular” at the Marcus Center
Why? Choirs of angelic kids, jazzy renditions of old standards, handbells!! The MSO knows how to push all the holiday buttons in its annual pops extravaganza. Stuart Chafetz leads the orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Milwaukee Children’s Choir, Milwaukee Children’s Chorale, Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble, and tenor Mike Eldred. Jingle all the way.
The Prometheus Trio at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
Why? Because it’s a great chance to get to know Matthew Annin, who joined the Milwaukee Symphony as its principal French Horn two seasons ago, and gets to strut his stuff as a guest artist in the beautiful Brahms Horn Trio. Cellist Scott Tisdel gets to sit that one out, but he’ll get his turn in David Amram’s Three Songs for Marlboro, which was written for the Marlboro music festival in 1961. Amram is one of the great chameleons of the music world—straddling the classical, jazz and Latin worlds—and this trio of duets should be a nice showcase for his style. The concert of musical chairs also includes Beethoven’s early trio in C-minor, and Bohislav Martinu’s Duo No. 1 for violin and cello.
Robin Pluer and Friends at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
Why? Because sometimes, nothing says “Holiday Cheer” like the melancholy ache of an Edith Piaf ballad. And who better to conjure that particular strain of ennui than our very own chanteuse, Robin Pluer. In what is becoming a holiday tradition, Pluer holds forth in the filigreed environs of the WCM’s Bader Recital Hall for an evening of music—the festive and the French. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.
The Waverly Consort at St. Joseph Center Chapel, 1501 S. Layton Blvd
Why? Because it is one of the best ensembles in the world. And the Waverly Consort has been performing its signature holiday concert, “The Christmas Story,” since 1980. Blending a variety of songs and instrumentals from pre-Baroque composers, the 75-minute concert tells the nativity story with original instruments and performing styles. And the St. Joseph Chapel is a glorious place to hear it.