Arts & Culture

Renaissance choral music from Stile Antico tops this list of classical holiday classics

Stile Antico is a London-based choir.
Stile Antico is a London-based choir.

When the Friends of Chamber Music presents a holiday concert, you know “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is not going to be on the program.

This year the Friends is presenting a Kansas City favorite — the British choral group Stile Antico — performing “A Spanish Nativity.” The program of Renaissance choral music will be Dec. 18 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The youthful London-based choir has been garnering all sorts of critical accolades since its founding in 2001. The New York Times calls Stile Antico “an ensemble of breathtaking freshness” and the Daily Telegraph praises its “urgency and freshness” and “amazing rhythmic vitality.”

Stile Antico means “Old Style,” and that’s what 19th-century composers like Beethoven and Liszt called Renaissance choral music. It’s a fitting name for a group that specializes in the soaring choral polyphony of Renaissance composers like Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

“A Spanish Nativity” will feature music by Victoria, as well as his contemporaries like Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo. This is music that touches the heart in a profound way and gets to the essence of the season.

As a musical hors d’oeuvre, Kansas City’s Te Deum Chamber Choir led by Matthew Christopher Shepard will give a pre-concert performance at 6:30 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th St. $15-$35. 816-561-9999 or

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

It’s hard to believe that when Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” opened on Dec. 20, 1946, it was not a box office smash. Now considered a classic, the Christmas favorite ranks 11th on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films ever made.

The Kansas City Symphony is offering a rare opportunity to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the big screen Dec. 21 and 22 at Helzberg Hall. The symphony will provide live orchestral accompaniment.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” may have been a disappointment in box office receipts, but even in its day it was hailed as an artistic success. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. It won a Technical Achievement award.

Beginning in the 1970s, the film became a perennial holiday favorite on television, with many stations airing the film several times annually during the Christmas season.

7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 1 p.m. Dec. 22. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $80. 816-471-0400 or

‘Messiah’ with period instruments

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Spire Chamber Ensemble Andrew Schwartz

It’s not exactly easy to put together an entire orchestra of period instruments to perform Handel’s “Messiah,” but somehow Ben Spalding manages to do it. The Spire Chamber Ensemble and Baroque Orchestra conducted by Spalding will present an authentic, historically informed performance of “Messiah” Dec. 19 at Helzberg Hall.

Hearing this beloved work on period instruments is a revelation, especially in the acoustics of Helzberg Hall. Kansas City is lucky to have the enterprising Spire group to present Handel’s masterpiece as it was meant to be heard. For “Messiah” lovers, it’s a don’t-miss concert.

7 p.m. Dec. 19. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. 816-994-7222 or

‘A Schubertian Christmas’ returns

When the Sacred Arts Chorale gave its first performance of “A Schubertian Christmas” last year, it was standing-room only. Obviously, Schubert’s sublimely spiritual music struck a chord.

Given its positive reception, the Sacred Arts Chorale is presenting “A Schubertian Christmas” again this year on Dec. 16 at the Simpson House.

Decorated for the holidays, the Simpson House is a lovely, cozy setting for a Christmas concert. Stick around afterward for complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.

2 p.m. Dec. 16. Simpson House, 4509 Walnut St. Free. For more information about the Sacred Arts Chorale, visit

You can reach Patrick Neas at and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at