Since 1986, Anonymous 4 has been performing medieval chant, Renaissance polyphony and contemporary music with a timeless sound in sold-out concerts and on best-selling CDs.
Who would have thought that the austere sound of ancient music would strike such a chord with modern audiences?
Perhaps it’s because the music’s serenity and spirituality are exactly what this harried 21st century world needs.
The Friends of Chamber Music will present Anonymous 4 in a special Christmas concert, “On Yoolis Night,” Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Kansas City’s Roman Catholic cathedral will be the perfect setting for the four singers as they perform Christmas songs, carols and motets from the British isles.
Kansas City Symphony: “Christmas Festival”
The Kansas City Symphony really knows how to put on a Christmas party.
This year’s “Christmas Festival” will be conducted by Aram Demirjian, who will lead the orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony Chorus, the Allegro youth choir, the Rezound handbell ringers and vocalist Whitney Claire Kaufman in a tinsel-trimmed blow-out guaranteed to give any Grinch the Christmas spirit.
Organist Jan Kraybill will also be on hand to add a festive blast to the proceedings and, of course, the man with the bag is sure to make an appearance.
Harriman-Jewell: The King’s Singers
The King’s Singers and Christmas just seem to go together. The English Christmas carol tradition flows like wassail in the veins of these four merry gentlemen.
The Harriman-Jewell Series will present the King’s Singers in a special holiday concert Saturday at the Folly Theater.
For the past 50 years, the Harriman-Jewell Series has presented a special Christmas concert. Clark Morris, the executive director of the series, wanted an extra special Christmas concert for its golden anniversary season, so he decided to present the King’s Singers. Good choice.
The group will not only sing popular carols but also more rarefied, lofty selections such as Herbert Howells’ “A Spotless Rose” and Francis Poulenc’s “Un soir de neige.”
Ensemble Iberica: “Kilmore Carols”
Ensemble Iberica, guitarist Beau Bledsoe’s early music ensemble, will present its first Christmas concert, “Kilmore Carols,” Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Bledsoe will be joined by fiddler Betse Ellis, Trilla Ray-Carter playing the baroque cello and soprano Victoria Botero for a program of Irish carols by way of Spain.
In 1751, Peter Devereux, a young Irish priest, was studying liturgy in Spain. When he returned to his home in Wexford, he spent two years writing carols based on the Spanish liturgical music he heard. These carols have been sung every Christmas in the village of Kilmore since 1751. Six local men sing the carols over the course of the twelve days of Christmas, and one of the men is always a member of the Devereux family.
8 p.m. Friday. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 11 E. 40th St. $15-$20. ensembleiberica.org.
William Baker Festival Singers: “Candlelight, Carols and Cathedral”
The William Baker Festival Singers have a wonderful tradition of performing Christmas music in Kansas City’s Episcopal and Roman Catholic cathedrals lit only by candlelight.
The group will perform its “Candlelight, Carols and Cathedral” concerts Sunday, Dec. 14 at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral and Friday evening at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
William Baker, artistic director and namesake of the Festival Singers, has put together a beautiful program of carols sung in Latin, Norwegian, Russian, German, Spanish, English and Haitian Creole. There will also be appropriate readings to add to the atmosphere.
At the concerts you’ll be able to purchase the William Baker Festival Singers’ new CD, “A Festival for Christmas.” It will also be available on the group’s website. Then all you need to do is light some candles and pop in the CD, and you’ll have that William Baker magic right in your own home.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St., and 8 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th St. $15-$20. festivalsingers.org.
Kantorei: “Christmas Around the World”
Kansas City is blessed to have so many wonderful choral ensembles, among which Kantorei is a standout.
The group, led by Chris Munce, produces a rich, warm sound that’s perfect for a concert of Christmas music.
Kantorei will perform “Christmas Around the World” Saturday at Country Club United Methodist Church and Dec. 21 at Visitation Church. The musical selections are not run-of-the-mill and promise to be spiritually satisfying.
7 p.m. Saturday at Country Club United Methodist Church, 400 W. 57th St., and 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at Visitation Church, 5141 Main St. $10-$15. kantoreikc.org.
Grand Avenue Temple: Don Crawley and Marvin Gruenbaum
Don Crawley, a really fine organist and KXTR’s erstwhile program director and morning show host, was a great champion for Grand Avenue Temple’s Skinner organ back in the ’90s.
He and other local organists gave memorable free lunchtime concerts on the organ, raising consciousness about its history and funds for its restoration.
Crawley, who now lives in Seattle, is returning to perform a concert at Grand Avenue Temple with a friend, violinist Marvin Gruenbaum, Thursday.
The Grand Avenue Temple organ is a very special instrument indeed. It’s the world’s oldest unaltered Skinner organ. Ernest Skinner was the most important American organ builder in the early 20th century. He specialized in large, symphonic organs that could reproduce the sounds of an orchestra. The Grand Avenue Temple instrument was completed at the same time as the temple in 1912 and cost $50,000 to build.
“It’s a swashbuckler of an organ which will seduce even the most skeptical into a boisterous love affair of the ears,” Crawley said.
“Tastes change, and in the middle of the 20th century, Skinner organs began to fall out of popularity. In much the same way that people of that era frequently ruined their beautiful hardwood floors by nailing and gluing wall-to-wall carpet over the hardwood, many churches and auditoriums chose to modify or remove their Skinner organs with instruments more in keeping with the taste of the time.
“The Grand Avenue Temple organ was saved from that fate due to a general decline in the church’s finances which corresponded with a general decline in downtown Kansas City. The magnificent artistry of E.M. Skinner was spared due to the poverty of the church.”
You’re invited to bring your lunch and enjoy the beauty of Grand Avenue Temple (it’s on the national historic registry) and the equally beautiful sounds of its Skinner organ.
12:10 p.m. Thursday. Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church, 205 E. Ninth St. Free. grandavenuetempleumc.org.