Make it the most wonderful time of the year… with choral music!

Christ Church Cathedral Choir and McGill Chamber Orchestra perform Handels Messiah Christ Church Cathedral Choir and McGill Chamber Orchestra perform Handels Messiah. Photo Kanica Saphan.

Do you know why it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Well, I suppose it depends on who you ask. I could list religious, spiritual and commercial reasons… but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about music. Music that your friends, neighbours, kids, colleagues or classmates have been working hard to learn so that they can perform for you as part of a holiday show.

I’m talking about your neighbourhood choirs, your school choir, the community center amateur choir. Montreal is full of amateur singing groups (seriously, like hundreds!), and there’s a good chance that they’re putting on a show of some kind in the next month or so. Quebecers, and Montrealers in particular, loooove to sing! These are regular people like you and me who have day jobs, homework, families. They share their love of music and make the time to rehearse weekly or several times a month to perfect their holiday repertoire.

St Anne Singers

St Anne Singers. Recent national choral award recipients, Photo: from their website

Ok, sounds nice and all, but I’m not really into choir music. No problem! As many choirs as there are, there’s a group for every taste. You like classical? No problem. There will be at least 5 performances of Handel’s Messiah around town from your local church to Place des Arts . Traditional choral music? See what the Sainte-Anne Singers are up to this month. You like jazz/Broadway? The Lyric Theater Singers are putting on Candlelight Christmas in the Loyola Chapel at Concordia. Gospel? Check out the Montreal Gospel Choir or the People’s Gospel Choir . A cappella? There are groups of all stripes-check out University and hobby groups (like mine, see below).

Candlelight Christmas with The Lyric Theater Singers. Photo by Tam Lan Truong

Candlelight Christmas with The Lyric Theater Singers. Photo by Tam Lan Truong

Do you know what makes these events so wonderful? Besides all the great music, many of these singing groups put on a show to raise funds or goods for a local cause, or to help pay for their season. That’s right, we don’t think about it, but music and the rights to perform a song costs money. Many of the shows you’ll find will also include bake sales and crafts sales, so you can get your shopping done, too. Here’s a holiday stress reduction tip: stock up on baked goods at a show, pop ‘em in the freezer and you’re set for every potluck or last minute invitation you receive. Bam! One less thing to worry about.

To recap, you get to enjoy seasonal music, support a local choir AND help a good cause in your community? How can this not make you feel wonderful?!

I’ll admit it, I am biased about singing. For the last five years, I have been a member of Montreal City Voices, a women’s chorus singing four-part a cappella harmony. December is our busiest time of year. We sing in malls, retirement residences, at city events, and we host our own show. Every year, I begin rehearsing holiday music in August, no word of a lie. That might sound tedious, but when you see a small child dance along to Marshmallow World, or an elderly dementia patient come to life and smile because they recognize a tune, it is all so, so worth it. We’re really fortunate this year to have an incredible and award-winning quartet perform on our show with us, Foreign Exchange They’re seriously awesome to watch and one of them is our director- woot woot! You should check us all out, details here.

: Harmony Winterlude 2014 with Montreal City Voices and Richard Dagenais. Photo by La Magicienne Po-Po

: Harmony Winterlude 2014 with Montreal City Voices and Richard Dagenais. Photo by La Magicienne Po-Po

I think you’ve gotten the idea by now that there’s so much good that comes from checking out a local choir this holiday season. So, where do you find these events? If you go to a place of worship, check out the announcements and bulletin board. Check out the community boards at your local grocery or music store, gym. Almost all of the large and small local newspapers offer free community calendars that you can find in print and online to see what’s happening near you. Stay tuned to Global Montreal, CBC Montreal and CTV, they air community events during the news hour as well as offer listings online.

There’s no excuse now, find something you like and go feel good! Then do it again next year!

The Cathedral Singers, Musica Orbium, and the McGill Chamber Orchestra will play Handel’s Messiah on December 8 at Christ Church Cathedral. 7:30 p.m. $38. You can catch the STudio de musique ancienne performing Handel’s Messiah on December 11 at Eglise Saint Leon de Westmount (4311 Maisonneuve W) at 7:30 p.m. $35, and again on December 13 at Église Saint Joachim de Châteauguay at 2:30 p.m. $42.

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