Seasonal sounds for all from Opera North this Christmas
From the youngest members of its Children’s Chorus to the most seasoned orchestral musicians and favourite guest artists, the entire Opera North company comes together this December for a Christmas programme rich in festive flavours of every kind. Committed to welcoming the widest possible audience to its work, the Leeds-based company follows its first dementia-friendly opera performance in October with the first ever Relaxed Performance at Leeds Town Hall, a thrilling seasonal double bill specially adapted for those who might otherwise be unable to experience it.
Opera North Children’s Chorus and Young Voices get the celebrations underway with Merry Little Christmas at Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds on 7 December, a programme of seasonal favourites and much-loved Christmas carols gathered together around a telling of The Legend of the Christmas Rose. Next it’s the turn of the full Chorus of Opera North, who are joined by a brass quintet from the Orchestra to serenade Christmas shoppers in Trinity Leeds’ atrium with a lunchtime Festive Fanfare on 9 December.
The full Orchestra of Opera North heads to Huddersfield Town Hall for its first Christmas contribution to the Kirklees Concert Season: The Nutcracker and The Snowman on 11 December. An enchanted world of princes, Sugar Plum Fairies and toy soldiers is brought to life through Tchaikovsky’s twinkling ballet score, hand-drawn illustrations, and narration by former Teletubby and CBeebies favourite Pui Fan Lee. Raymond Briggs’ classic festive animation completes the evening, accompanied live by the Orchestra.
Pui is back with the Orchestra at Leeds Town Hall on 22 December, to tell the story of Peter and the Wolf. With each character in Prokofiev’s charming tale represented by a different instrument, it’s an ideal introduction to orchestral music, and the programme is completed by another outing for The Snowman. At 2.30pm, this festive double bill is presented in Leeds Town Hall’s first ever Relaxed Performance, open to all and designed to welcome people with an autistic spectrum condition, learning disability, dementia or sensory and communication disorder. A standard performance follows at 4.30pm.
The centrepiece of the company’s Christmas celebrations, the get-together of the Orchestra of Opera North with the company’s Chorus and Youth Chorus at Dewsbury Town Hall takes place this year on 12 December, under the baton of Music Director designate Garry Walker. From wintry medieval minstrels’ songs, through much-loved carols including O Little Town of Bethlehem and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, to the MGM magic of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Opera North’s Christmas Concert brings festive sounds from down the ages to the historic, holly-decked Town Hall.
Polkas by the Strauss family conjure the spirits of Viennese Christmas past, Leroy Anderson’s 1948 Sleigh Ride takes a dash through the snow, and Jacques Ibert’s wonderfully witty Divertissement and some treasures from the world of American band music weave a playful thread through the evening. Vaughan Williams’ beautiful Fantasia on Christmas Carols takes in English folk tunes and more well-known festive songs; and of course, there’ll be an opportunity to join in with audience carols.
Kirklees Borough Organist Gordon Stewart gets the Huddersfield Lunchtime Concert Season into the Christmas spirit with an 80th birthday tribute to York-based composer and Carols from King’s favourite Andrew Carter on 2 December, joined by Hallé trumpeter Tom Osborne and mezzo-soprano Elinor Carter, Andrew’s daughter. The University of Huddersfield Brass Band’s lunchtime Christmas Concert comes to Huddersfield on 9 December and Dewsbury on 11 December, and Gordon is back at the console of Huddersfield’s stunning Father Willis organ, joined by the Huddersfield Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs in Music for Christmas on 23 December.
After a brief and well-earned break for some festivities of their own, the Orchestra of Opera North hitches up the sleigh again to bring the pomp, pageantry and playfulness of the Wiener Musikverein to Yorkshire with three Viennese Whirl concerts in some of the region’s most magnificent civic buildings: Leeds Town Hall on 29 December, Huddersfield Town Hall on 30 December, and Hull City Hall on 31 December.
For these traditional New Year celebrations, they’ll be joined by old acquaintances Paul Daniel, Opera North’s former Head of Music, on the podium, and Gavan Ring, an Opera North mainstage favourite. Having made the move up from baritone earlier this year, Gavan’s company debut as a tenor includes selections from Lehár and splashes of Neapolitan colour from De Curtis and Tosti, sprinkled in among the sumptuous waltzes, polkas and marches to usher in the new decade in style.