Jingle Bells! Montréal Christmas shows
No city celebrates Christmas quite like Montréal, which welcomes the holiday season with countless musical shows by everybody, from the city’s two major symphony orchestras to dozens of local choirs. Not to mention Montréal’s yuletide season is not complete without Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s famed adaptation of The Nutcracker, as well as the 6th annual Andy Kim Christmas concert starring rock and pop legends raising money for charity.
Here are some choice 2019 holiday season events in Montréal.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s timeless adaptation of The Nutcracker by Québec choreographer Fernand Nault returns to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for its 56th year. This two-act ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and brings together more than 60 dancers and 100 extras, plus the Orchestre des Grands ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the baton of conductor Dina Gilbert. If you have never seen it, this famed production is a must. The Nutcracker runs from December 12 to 30.
The hugely popular and fun annual Andy Kim Christmas concert headlines Théatre Jean-Duceppe on December 13, with proceeds benefitting the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Born and raised in Montréal, Kim’s mega-hits include Rock Me Gently and the iconic Sugar, Sugar for The Archies. Kim will be joined by an all-star cast of guest performers. Showtime is 8 pm.
A Québec yuletide tradition
Noël, une tradition en chanson features a superb cast of singers including Québec pop stars Brigitte Boisjoli and Nathalie Simard. They perform in Lasalle on December 7 during their 10-concert Québec tour, as well as at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal on December 17 (dinner and concert option available at the casino show).
A classical Christmas
The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal celebrates the holiday season with two special concert series: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, a jewel of the Baroque repertoire (December 3 and 4) with the OSM’s Grammy-winning maestro Kent Nagano; and Great Voices of Québec Sing Christmas, starring contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, baritone Étienne Dupuis, and the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal performing White Christmas, Minuit, chrétiens, Adeste fideles, excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, as well as gospel songs performed by JIREH Gospel Choir and its chorus master Carol Bernard (December 17 to 19). All shows at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.
The Orchestre Classique de Montréal (formerly the McGill Chamber Orchestra, and now in its 80th season) performs Handel’s Messiah with an outstanding quartet of soloists – soprano Aline Kutan, mezzo-soprano Annamaria Popescu, tenor Zachary Rioux and baritone Gregory Dahl – conducted by maestro Boris Brott, on December 8 at 3 pm.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Bourgie Concert Hall over at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts boasts some of the best acoustics in the city, and will present several Christmas-themed concerts this holiday season, notably the hugely popular A Charlie Brown Christmas concert with the Taurey Butler Trio who will perform the classic Peanuts soundtrack live (originally scored and recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio in 1965), in two one-hour concerts, December 19 at 6 and 8:30 pm.
Great Christmas choirs
Montréal’s beloved Lyric Theatre Singers under the direction of Bob Bachelor return to Concordia University’s Loyola Chapel to present four performances of Candlelight Christmas from December 5 to 8. The ensemble’s annual concert of seasonal songs from around the world is one of Montréal’s most popular holiday events.
If you’re a gospel music fan, do not miss the annual ONE19 - Gospel Christmas Celebration, which will feature 100 singers backed by a live band when the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montréal Gospel Choir directed by Carol Bernard headline Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste on December 7.
Enchanted worlds at the McCord
Over at the McCord Museum, the chamber music ensemble I Musici de Montréal headlines two Enchanted Music concerts showcasing winter songs and holiday classics in the museum’s J.A. Bombardier Theatre, on December 21 and 22, at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm.
Christmas at the casino
Jingle bells will ring at Un Noël magique at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal. The 75-minute matinee concert of Christmas classics runs from November 24 to December 19. Showtime is 1:30 pm. Free parking and coat check.
Christmas for the kids
The family-friendly musical Décembre presented by the Québec Issime troupe and starring Québec’s Prince of Tenors, Marc Hervieux, tells the story of a small town whose characters come alive beneath a Christmas tree. The crowd-pleasing French-language production features some 30 performers and musicians in its 17th year at Théatre Maisonneuve from December 12 to 29.
The Québec Issime troupe also presents Le petit Noël de Québec Issime, a 50-minute French-language show about the magic of Christmas on the set of Décembre, especially geared for children aged 2 to 6, at Théatre Maisonneuve on December 15, 21 and 22.
Carols by Candlelight
The glorious and historic Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul – whose Gothic Revival architecture looks like it comes straight out of Robin Hood – presents its hugely popular Carols by Candlelight concert with the A&P Choir under the direction of Jean-Sébastien Vallée on December 15.
40th annual CBC Christmas Sing-In
Also, since 1980, the annual CBC Christmas Sing-in has been held at the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul, showcasing Christmas carols in spectacular arrangements for choir, organ, brass and percussion, with an audience of over 1,500 singing along. If you can’t get in (free general admission, though tickets must be reserved in advance), you can also see a free live-to-air broadcast of the concert at nearby Bourgie Hall. The 40th annual edition will be held on December 8 at 3 pm.
Sin City Christmas!
Finally, in a tip of the hat to Montréal’s Sin City heritage, here are a few racy shows this holiday season:
Stand-up comic Tranna Wintour will host Super Pop Xmas at The Diving Bell Social Club (December 5). Check out Holiday Double Feature with comedy legends Joey Elias and Derek Seguin at Café Cléopatra on December 15, or enjoy risqué entertainers at the Candyass Christmas Spectacle with burlesque queen Velma Candyass on December 20, also at Montréal’s iconic Café Cléopatra, a show bar since 1893 and the last hold-out from Montréal’s fabled Sin City-era red-light district.
Over at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montréal, there is a lot of buzz for the much-anticipated Little Dickens starring the R-rated (for ages 16+) Daisy Theatre gang in a naughty remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with puppet mastermind Ronnie Burkett pulling all the strings. The show runs from November 19 to December 15.
Richard Burnett, blogger
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.