December is a time of year when many of us, religious or otherwise, enjoy listening to the familiar melodies of Christmas music, carols and songs. Well this year in Penang we are truly spoiled for choice as the line up of concerts in December is almost overwhelming.
The Christmas music season begins with a big bang from the big band! On Saturday December 8th, the Big Band of Penang invites you to Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas, from 8.15pm at penangpac, Straits Quay. The Big Band will be joined by other jazz musicians and will perform Christmas tunes with a jazz twist. Tickets cost RM 43 (RM 28 for students) and can be purchased from the penangpac box office or from here.
The next day, Sunday December 9th, poses a dilemma for classical musical lovers. At the elegant venue of Suffolk House, Penang’s long-established Ensemble Koschka will fill the marble hall with Christmas classical classics, such as excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Waldteufel’s Skaters’ Waltz, Strauss’s Emperor Waltz and others for their Christmas Concert. The festive spirit will continue after the hour-long concert with fruit punch and mince pies included in the ticket price. Wine is available by the glass at an extra cost of RM 20. The concert begins at 3pm, and tickets are RM 60 per person. Concerts at Suffolk House have always sold out in the past, so don’t delay in buying your ticket from here.
Later that day, at 8pm, the more recently-established but equally-talented Elysian Ensemble will also perform excerpts from that quintessential staple of the festive season, the Nutcracker Suite, in the acoustically-good but sadly shabby KOMTAR auditorium A. Tickets cost either RM 35 or RM 40, depending on the seat, and can be purchased from the Ensemble directly by calling 012 401 5411.
The following weekend offers up at least five more concerts. On Friday 14th December, Musica Sinfonietta will perform at Dewan Sri Pinang. This is not a Christmas concert, but is their bi-annual Music Camp concert, when the orchestra arranges an intensive week-long schedule of rehearsals and training for young aspiring classical musicians, culminating in a concert conducted by visiting conductor, Vanich Potavanich of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. The concert, entitled Rising Melodies, includes a new composition by the conductor himself, the glorious Hummel Trumpet Concerto, and Grieg’s classic Pier Gynt Suite. The concert begins at 8pm. Tickets cost RM30 and can be purchased by contacting Musica Sinfonietta at 012 486 6926 or by visiting one of the music shops selling tickets (Bentley Music at Gurney Paragon, Jy Klasik in Air Itam and others).
On Saturday 15th December at 7pm, Penang Philharmonic Winds and Voices of Penang Philharmonic join together to raise the roof of the auditorium of the Star Building on Pitt Street with The Joy of Christmas. The huge sound of a full wind, brass and percussion section will perform jazzy marching band versions of Christmas favourites such as Elvis’s Blue Christmas, Sinatra’s Let it Snow, The Carpenters’ Merry Christmas Darling. Tickets cost RM 25 and can be purchased at Bentley Music or from the PPO directly (012-4854733 and email@example.com)
That same night, back at Dewan Sri Pinang, Zero Orchestra will perform their annual fund-raising concert Music Flows in You. Not strictly a Christmas concert either, the programme promises a perfect Penang mix of East and West, classic and contemporary, with pieces performed by a string ensemble, and a brass and woodwind, but also a Chinese instrument ensemble, a ukelele ensemble, and solo performances by pan flute and oud. The concert also begins at 7pm. Tickets range in price between RM 20 and RM 200 and can be purchased by contacting the orchestra on 016 434 9286, firstname.lastname@example.org or through their facebook page.
On Sunday 16th St George’s Church on Lebuh Farquhar hosts A Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols, a traditional Christian pre-Christmas service, with bible readings telling the story of Christ, interspersed with carols and hymns. Singing will be led by KL chamber choir Cantus Musicus. The service will begin at 6pm but music lovers should arrive before 5.30pm for the pre-service organ recital. Admission is free of charge and it is free seating, so come early to secure a good place! More information can be obtained from Jason at St George’s Church, 016 415 9544.
Also on Sunday 16th, Entertainment with Enlightenment promises “unity in diversity with light and sound” featuring a virtual reality light show by a performing artist, Vinay Hegde from India, who has composed a storyline to depict unity amidst the diverse cultures in Malaysia, and sacred world music by Desert Rose, performers from Cape Town who are known as ambassadors of peace, non-violence, and interfaith understanding. The concert will be held at Wawasan Open University, Auditorium LKY, 54, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Tickets are free of charge but you should book your seat by registering here.
The grand finale of the Penang Christmas Concert season is as ever the annual Family Christmas Concert at penangpac by the Actors Studio Chorus and Orchestra. Around 60 singers, accompanied by 25 members of the orchestra, invite the audience to join in as they perform Christmas carols old and new. Song sheets are provided to the audience for singing along, and Santa will make an appearance to entrance the kids. New carols this year include “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Harold Darke, and “Star Carol” and “The Angel’s Carol” by John Rutter. Old favourites include “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”. The concert will be performed twice, on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd December, beginning at 8.30pm. Tickets cost RM 40 (RM 30 for concessions) and are available at the penangpac box office and online here.
For those who still haven’t has enough (!), you can catch a performance of The Messiah at Fettes Park Baptist Church on Sunday December 23rd at Fettes Park Baptist Church, 15 Jalan Meranti in Tanjung Bungah. The performance will be by the Messenger Choir accompanied by a string ensemble from Musica Sinfonietta. The concert starts at 8pm and entrance is by donation to the church. More information from email@example.com.
Well and why not, because I can, and because I doubt many people will read this far through the article, I am going to mention the Irish Christmas music to be played by Penang’s best (in fact only) Irish band, the DramBand, at their monthly gig at Healy Mac’s. The fun starts at 6pm, entrance is free and you’ll be given song sheets so you can sing along. Booking a table with Healy Mac’s is advisable (call 04-890 3477). More information at facebook.com/DramBandPenang