Tune in the Holiday Spirit with Music and Theater

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By Wendy Migdal

This holiday season, amidst the gift buying and food shopping, don’t forget to nurture your artistic soul as
well. There are plenty of fine entertainment opportunities available in Prince William to add a layer of sight and sound to the season. And best of all, none of them will add clutter to your house or pounds to your waistline.

Music

On Friday, Dec. 2, the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa will be performing “Hope — It’s Been A Long Time Coming” at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. The choir has performed for several heads of state, won Grammy awards, and teamed with world-famous musicians. Their style combines tradition African music with American gospel, spirituals, and pop. This concert will include Christmas music, as well.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the 100-voice Manassas Chorale and its 20-piece orchestra will give its most popular concert of the year, titled “Everywhere, Christmas, Tonight.” It’s also at the Hylton (They are the official choral group in residence, after all.) and includes both carols and popular songs of the season.

The American Festival Pops Orchestra takes the stage on Friday, Dec. 9. The orchestra’s mission is to both preserve and reimagine American pop music from prior to 1970 and bring it to new audiences. Instrumental music will be highlighted by guest singers, quartets, and jazz vocal ensembles.

Fiddler and singer Sean Heely brings tunes from the British Isles to Hylton in “A Celtic Christmas” on Sunday, Dec. 11. The concert will feature carols, lively Irish tunes, and Celtic arrangements of other old favorites. In addition to fiddles, the audience will be treated to bagpipes and Scottish and Irish dancing. Sean is an award-winning Scottish and Irish fiddler who lives in Washington, D.C. but frequently travels around the country and the world. (He will also be hosting a session on Celtic music at the Lifelong Learning Institute on Dec. 7.)

Join the Old Bridge Chamber Orchestra for a Messiah Sing- Along. After a performance of “Carol of the Sleeves” the OBCO will accompany the audience as they (possibly you) perform selections from Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 17. While the phrase “sing-along” may evoke memories of campfires, a sing-along to
the Messiah is a completely different experience. It may be one of the best ways to get in the spirit for the holidays.

Musical Theater and Ballet

If you’re not familiar with the Italian opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, it tells the story of the Three Kings, who in Italy perform the duties of Santa by bringing gifts to children. Amahl is a disabled boy who meets the Magi on their way to Bethlehem. Originally composed for American television in 1951, this rendition is performed by the Dewberry School of Music at Mason. There will be four performances at the Hylton on Dec. 2 and 3.

The gifted poet Langston Hughes wrote the play Black Nativity in 1961 near the end of his life. It was first performed off-Broadway that year and has been enjoyed in both the United States and in Europe. The musical play opens in a modern-day African American church in an urban setting and then moves into the story of the birth of Christ. Hughes chose traditional Black spirituals such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain” to
accompany his work. (The play is not to be confused with the 2013 movie by the same name, which features Hughes’ play as a story within a story.) Catch one of two performances at the Hylton on Sunday, Dec. 4.

Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and of course, the sugarplum fairies grace the stage at Hylton in eight performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The Manassas Ballet Theater performs this classic, which has something for all ages, between Dec. 16-23.

Theater

Rewatch Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at home on TV (the 1984 George C. Scott version is generally considered the best), and then head to the Prince William Little Theater’s version of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge to find out the rest of the story. Written in the early 2000s, this humorous play imagines that
Scrooge has backslidden some years later, and is now accusing Marley and the Spirits of all kinds of crimes — breaking and entering, kidnapping, etc. Witness the verdict in one of eight performances from Dec. 9-18 at the Hylton.

There’s just something about A Christmas Carol that continues to inspire not only the public, but playwrights. The premise of A Christmas Chaos is that a famous troupe of actors fails to arrive in a small town to perform Dickens’ classic as scheduled, so the local thespian group must throw together a performance in only seven hours. In this farce, actors are confused, argumentative, panicked, and altogether crazy. Castaways Theater will present several performances on the Youth Mainstage from December 9-17.

Grab some family and friends, and catch one, two, or several of these performances to get you in the holiday spirit this year.

Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She has written extensively for The Free Lance-Star and also works for online educational companies. Wendy enjoys traveling around the area to learn about parks, restaurants, attractions, and especially history.

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