How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
A scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical | Courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Peace, magic, changing ourselves for the better, turning away from darkness toward light and hope, initiating love. We all believe that music can work these wonders, which is what makes the December holidays so apt for musical expression. Around your community, almost every musical organization will be performing over the coming month, competing to entertain you and snatch you away from the holiday rush for a couple of hours. And so, as ever, SF Classical Voice faithfully submits as full a list as we can muster of every musical event the greater Los Angeles area will provide for spiritual refreshment or to tickle the funny bone. Dive in — the madness only comes once a year.

Pink Martini
Pink Martini rings in the New Year at Walt Disney Concert Hall | Credit: Chris Hornbecker

At Disney Hall

Los Angeles Master Chorale: Various programs (Dec. 2–18) — The Master Chorale is doing the holiday heavy lifting at Disney Hall this year. The ensemble takes a tour of the Christmas world in two assorted programs at the beginning of the month — “Festival of Carols” on Dec. 2 and the Pan-American “Navidad Nuestra” on Dec. 10, both conducted by Artistic Director Grant Gershon. There’s more seasonal staples: Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 17 and then a sing-along evening the next night, which starts outside The Music Center with carols and ends up back inside for another performance of Messiah.

Los Angeles Philharmonic: Various programs (Dec. 13–31) — The LA Phil is still going full blast with subscription programs in December, so touring acts provide much of the Christmas cheer. A cappella group Chanticleer arrives at Disney Hall on Dec. 13, followed by jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s “Swinging Holiday” on Dec. 23. The Phil plays Home Alone in concert Dec. 20–22, bringing John Williams’s festive score to life. And Pink Martini closes out 2023 in signature style with two New Year’s Eve performances: a touch of Vegas, a touch of Paris, and everything in between. Visit the LA Phil’s website for the full schedule.

Pacific Chorale and Symphony
Pacific Chorale and Symphony in Handel’s Messiah | Courtesy of Pacific Symphony

Choruses and Caroling

Long Beach Camerata Singers: “Catalyst Candlelight Christmas” (Nov. 29) and Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 21) — It’s time for a new holiday tradition in Long Beach. The city’s premier professional choir, under the artistic leadership of James K. Bass, has recently developed a small a cappella offshoot, and that group, Catalyst, sings a candlelit concert for the first time this season at Los Altos United Methodist Church. The entire Camerata is onstage the next month for the annual Messiah performance at the Beverly O’Neill Theater, with Tesserae Baroque Ensemble on hand as this year’s orchestra.

Angel City Chorale: “Holiday Homecoming” (Dec. 2–3) — Community is what Angel City Chorale is all about, and the ensemble comes together again for a pair of performances at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Artistic Director Sue Fink leads the 180-voice chorus, plus orchestra, in this feel-good holiday program, from classics (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to originals (Fink and the Rev. Donald Paredes’s own inspirational song, “The Light of Hope”).

Pacific Chorale: “Carols by Candlelight” (Dec. 2–6), Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 3), and “Tis the Season!” (Dec. 17–18) — Robert Istad’s group reprises a trio of favorite programs in Orange County. The hushed, sacred atmosphere of Our Lady Queen of Angels is backdrop for “Carols by Candlelight.” Pacific Symphony augments the glory in a performance of Messiah at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. And it’s bright lights and holly jolly for “Tis the Season!” — and you can expect a visit from Santa, too — also at the Segerstrom Center.

Los Angeles Children’s Chorus
Los Angeles Children’s Chorus | Credit: Jamie Pham

Pasadena Chorale: The Light of Hope Returning (Dec. 5) — Pasadena Chorale has what looks to be a holiday tradition in the making. The ensemble presents another performance of Shawn Kirchner’s winter solstice oratorio after giving the piece’s local premiere in 2022. In the composer’s words, The Light of Hope Returning is a “ceremony of carols,” incorporating songs and settings that range from Christmas classics to bluegrass arrangements to original themes connecting it all. At First United Methodist Church, Pasadena.

St. Matthew’s Music Guild: The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge (Dec. 8) — The annual Christmas concert at St. Matthew’s is a touch different this year. Instead of the parish’s in-house chamber orchestra, a visiting ensemble occupies the December date. The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, appears in Pacific Palisades with a part-Renaissance, part-holiday program, courtesy of the Music Guild’s ongoing Choral Arts Initiative.

Los Angeles Children’s Chorus: “A Few of Our Favorite Things” (Dec. 9–10) — Nearly 300 choristers ages 6 to 18 take the stage in Pasadena for a cherished weekend of performances. Tickets tend to sell out, one reason why LACC has booked the larger space of First United Methodist Church for the first concert. The choristers are back at their home venue, Pasadena Presbyterian Church, the next night.

Jennifer Holliday
Jennifer Holliday

Star Singers

New West Symphony: “Holidays With Jennifer Holliday” (Dec. 2–3) — Who better to team up with Michael Christie’s group for a festive symphonic extravaganza than the aptly named Dreamgirls star, Grammy and Tony Award-winner Jennifer Holliday? With State Street Ballet and Los Robles Children’s Choir joining in, this dream team presents holiday classics as well as winter-inspired symphonic masterpieces by Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Strauss II, and Alexander Glazunov. Two performances, Dec. 2 in Thousand Oaks and Dec. 3 in Camarillo.

The Soraya: Samara Joy (Dec. 6–7) — Feted by SFCV’s Andrew Gilbert as “jazz’s best bet this decade,” Joy sold out her Soraya debut in 2023. She’s back for a holiday appearance with members of her musical family — her father, uncle, and cousins — which has shared the influences of gospel, Motown, and jazz across the generations.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts: “A Merry Little Christmas With Megan Hilty” (Dec. 14–16) — As part of the Segerstrom Center’s Cabaret Series, Hilty delivers a new holiday program as a thrilling early gift to Broadway lovers this year. Beloved for her warmth, sincerity, and dazzling voice, she appears for three performances.

The Nutcracker
American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker | Courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts

March of the Nutcrackers

Ballet just isn’t the same without an orchestra. There’s no shortage of Nutcracker productions across Southern California this season, but only some feature live music:

American Contemporary Ballet: The Nutcracker Suite (Dec. 1–24) — A contemporary take on the Tchaikovsky classic. The L.A. company’s Nutcracker Suite is stripped down — just the major character dances and only a handful of musicians — but all the more intimate.

Los Angeles Ballet: The Nutcracker (Dec. 1–26) — LAB tours its Nutcracker around Southern California in December, but it isn’t until the final performances — Dec. 21–26 at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre — that the orchestra joins in.

Westside Ballet: The Nutcracker (Dec. 2–3) — There’s still four performances left of Westside Ballet’s Nutcracker, the longest-running production of the work in Southern California (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year). Guest artists, a preprofessional cast, and the Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra come together at BroadStage.

American Ballet Theatre: The Nutcracker (Dec. 8–17) — The New York City company returns to the Segerstrom Center for the holidays. It’s a modern tradition — like ABT’s polished production itself, featuring Alexei Ratmansky’s 2010 choreography — and Pacific Symphony is on hand to play Tchaikovsky’s score.

Long Beach Ballet: The Nutcracker (Dec. 16–23) — Artistic Director David Wilcox doesn’t skimp on the production demands. Long Beach Ballet’s Nutcracker has a cast of more than 200, plus a full orchestra in the pit, onstage pyrotechnics, and even a live horse. At the Terrace Theater.

A Christmas Story, The Musical
A scene from Centre Theatre Group’s A Christmas Story, The Musical | Credit: Gary Emord Netzley

Broadway in L.A.

Centre Theatre Group: A Christmas Story, The Musical (Dec. 5–31) From the songwriting team behind Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, and The Greatest Showman comes this musical adaption of the classic 1983 movie. Set in 1940s Indiana, a young and bespectacled Ralphie Parker schemes his way toward the holiday gift of his dreams. With dozens of performances at the Ahmanson Theatre throughout December, this is a modern Christmas classic to catch.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (Dec. 19–24) — What would Christmas be without Dr. Seuss’s iconic Grinch? At Segerstrom Hall, catch this heartwarming musical, which promises to be a delight for both kids and adults.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center visits Orange County with Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

Baroque and Beyond

Philharmonic Society of Orange County: Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Dec. 9) — Holiday Bach is a regular thing for CMS. The consortium of star chamber players brings its program of the composer’s complete Brandenburg Concertos to Soka Performing Arts Center this season, presented by the Philharmonic Society.

Musica Angelica: “The Joy of Christmas” (Dec. 9–10) — Last year, L.A.’s established period ensemble paired a gala dinner with one of its Christmas concerts. In 2023, the culinary connections are purely figurative but appetite-arousing all the same. “European holiday musical traditions are as rich and varied as their celebratory foods,” Musica Angelica says about this year’s program, Dec. 9 in Long Beach and Dec. 10 in L.A. “We are certain your auditory senses will be fully satiated with this wonderful music of the season.”

BroadStage: The Tallis Scholars (Dec. 15) — Masters of Renaissance polyphony, The Tallis Scholars arrive in Santa Monica with a concert titled “While Shepherds Watched,” structured around a Christmas-themed mass by Jacob Clemens Non Papa (c. 1510–1556).

Jouyssance: “A Twelfth Night: Along the Danube” (Jan. 6–7, 2024) — Keep up the holiday spirits even in the new year. L.A.’s enterprising early-music ensemble Jouyssance takes its cue from the great composers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance — with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe — to celebrate the days after Christmas.

Pasadena Symphony & POPS
Pasadena Symphony and POPS at All Saints Church

Holiday Pops

The Soraya: “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis” (Dec. 3) — Classical music, new age, and rock come together in Mannheim Steamroller, which has been delivering its signature arena-style spectacle for five decades. Chip Davis and his six-piece rock band, a dozen orchestral musicians, and the infinite possibilities of synthesizers take The Soraya’s stage for matinee and evening sets.

Long Beach Symphony: “Holiday Swing” (Dec. 9) — Conductor and jazz trumpeter Byron Stripling and vocalist Sydney McSweeney join the orchestra at the Long Beach Arena for a program including favorite seasonal tunes, an audience sing-along, and “a few swingin’ surprises.”

Los Angeles Symphony: Christmas Concert (Dec. 10) — Music Director Hyun Sang Joo has a knack for eclectic and surprising combinations. His orchestra’s holiday concert puts Christmas music in dialogue with classic opera arias, with the help of a 50-member choir and featured soloists. At the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

Pacific Symphony: Celtic Woman (Dec. 15–16) — Irish singing sensation Celtic Woman stops at Segerstrom Hall for two evenings of the ensemble’s favorite Yuletide songs, backed by Pacific Symphony.

Pasadena Symphony and POPS: “Holiday Candlelight” (Dec. 16) The annual program at Pasadena’s All Saints Church sells out quickly, the orchestra warns. And it’s no wonder with the number of musicians involved. This year, Jenny Wong conducts the Symphony — plus two choruses, handbell ensemble, and guest vocalist Jamal Moore — in afternoon and evening performances in a glorious cathedral setting.

Southern California Brass Consortium
Southern California Brass Consortium | Credit: Karen Case

Holiday Brass

Southern California Brass Consortium: “Many Moods of Christmas” (Dec. 3) — Hector Salazar’s brass band does things a little differently — the group’s 26 players include a harpist and several percussionists, too. The holiday concert is a time to shine, and each year, SCBC shows off new works and new arrangements of familiar favorites. At Los Altos United Methodist Church.

Philharmonic Society of Orange County: “The Holidays With Canadian Brass” (Dec. 18) — The stellar Canadian quintet plays its holiday concert at Irvine Barclay Theatre, presented by the Philharmonic Society. This is a group that knows how to have fun, whether it’s trumpeter Brandon Ridenour’s arrangement of “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” or a patriotic spin on Tchaikovsky (The Canuckcracker).

MUSYCA Children’s Choir
MUSYCA Children’s Choir sings in the 64th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration | Courtesy of The Music Center

So-Cal Traditions

Concordia University Irvine: “Concordia Christmas” (Dec. 9) — An Orange County tradition that really extends to all of Southern California. Concordia’s seasonal showcase of student singers and instrumentalists fills Segerstrom Hall for two performances, but you can catch the program at various times on KCET and PBS SoCal through Dec. 26.

The Music Center: 64th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration (Dec. 24) — The yearly marathon performance takes over the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion once again on Christmas Eve. More than 20 instrumental ensembles, choirs, and dance companies — from classical to gospel to mariachi — join in the three-hour event, which is also broadcast online and on PBS SoCal.

Mariachi Sol de México
Mariachi Sol de México


Mariachi Sol de México: “Merry-Achi Christmas” (Dec. 2–3) — Mariachi master José Hernández tours this program from California to Texas every year. But his two bands, Sol de México and Reyna de Los Angeles, call L.A. home. Expect something special with everyone back on their stomping grounds for these two performances at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

BroadStage: Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Dec. 16) — The New York salsa and Latin jazz band brings the heat even during the winter holidays. This year, the group’s high-energy Christmas program, “Salsa Navidad,” arrives at Santa Monica’s BroadStage, having appeared in past seasons at the Segerstrom Center.

The Soraya: “Nochebuena: A Christmas Spectacular” (Dec. 16–17) — Celebrate Christmas Eve early. The Soraya’s popular program of traditional Mexican song and dance returns for another season, along with Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles, Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, and more regional artists.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts: “Fiesta Navidad” (Dec. 23) — Each year, Mariachi Los Camperos throws a musical party at Segerstrom Hall just before Christmas. It’s one of Orange County’s most beloved holiday events for a reason.