From Thanksgiving through the early days of each new year is an always welcome time for families to celebrate some of the most beloved holidays and just enjoy time together. As usual, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has programmed a 2022-23 lineup of events that capture this festive spirit of togetherness — some directly related to the yuletide and others offering special ways to experience music in diverse styles and formats.
Here is a look at the CSO and Symphony Center Presents holiday programming from Nov. 25 through Jan. 14. Everything takes place at Symphony Center, except where indicated:
Nov. 25-27, The Princess Bride in Concert, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Kaufman. “The Princess Bride,” the beloved 1987 cinematic tale of young love and swashbuckling adventure, might not be directly related to the holidays. But it is a fun, rewarding way for families to spend part of the Thanksgiving weekend together, taking in director Rob Reiner’s timeless movie on the big screen and simultaneously listening to the CSO deliver a live performance of Mark Knopfler’s evocative score.
Dec. 4, Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler’s House. No classical violinist is better known or more respected than Itzhak Perlman. Instead of the classical concertos or sonatas he typically performs, Perlman returns to the traditional klezmer music he recorded more than 25 years ago for an album, titled “In the Fiddler’s House,” and an accompanying Emmy Award-winning public-television special. Joining Perlman will be music director Hankus Netsky on saxophone and piano and his Klezmer Conservatory Band, along with other soloists, including Andy Statman (clarinet and mandolin) and Lorin Sklamberg (vocals and accordion).
Dec. 6-7, A Chanticleer Christmas at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut. Based in San Francisco, the Grammy Award-winning male a cappella choir performs some 25 holiday concerts annually across the United States. The touring ensemble first presented a Christmas concert under CSOA auspices in 1995, and it has returned every year since 2000, except for the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, for SCP concerts. The programs change each year, but always mix medieval and Renaissance music with later classical yuletide works and popular carols and Christmas spirituals.
Dec. 15-18, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, with organist Cameron Carpenter. A big appeal of this concert is the chance to hear Symphony Center’s Casavant Frères organ, which has 44 stops and 3,414 pipes. Despite all the electronic and digital technology that has entered the musical realm in the 20th and 21st centuries, the venerable pipe organ remains unsurpassed for the power and visceral aural thrills it can provide. This program will feature two of the best-known orchestral works featuring the instrument: Poulenc’s Concerto in G Minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani and Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (Organ). Also on tap is Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, notably featured in the 1940 Disney movie “Fantasia.”
Dec. 16-23, Merry, Merry, Chicago!, with members of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alastair Willis. The Chicago Symphony Chorus joins the CSO for this annual salute to the Christmas season that brings together classical and popular favorites. Highlights of this year’s program include the Polonaise from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve, John Rutter’s choral arrangement of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” “The Gingerbread Waltz” from Hansel and Gretel and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”
Dec. 18, CSO Brass. No section of the Chicago Symphony is more celebrated than the orchestra’s brass, which has included such legendary performers as principals Adolph “Bud” Herseth on trumpet and Dale Clevenger on horn. Today’s members, who continue to build on and expand that rich heritage, will be featured in this showcase, which has been annually presented since the 1980s. Highlighting this year’s edition is a world premiere commissioned by the orchestra: Concert Music for Brass, Timpani and Percussion by Tim Higgins, principal trombone of the San Francisco Symphony. It was underwritten by the Edward F. Schmidt Family Commissioning Fund in honor of Clevenger, who died in January. The program also includes Britten’s Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury and a brass arrangement of Florence Price’s now-popular organ work, Adoration (1951), by trombonist David J. Miller.
Jan. 12-14, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer. No film composer past or present is more revered than John Williams, who has provided scores for some of the most iconic films of the past half-century. Among his biggest onscreen accomplishments have been the scores for all eight of the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular Harry Potter books, starting with this one from 2001. This is a CSO at the Movies encore presentation, with the orchestra providing a live performance of Williams’ iconic music as the film is projected above the stage.