Nougaty Goodness

by Dwight Newton

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A Wealth of Holiday Music

Let me first state unequivocally that Scrooge has nothing on me when it comes to Christmas. It’s my least favorite holiday of the year for the most obvious reasons: crass commercial exploitation that causes people entirely too much stress, makes traffic a worse nightmare than usual, and it is just generally unattractive aesthetically. If everyone decided to just forget the whole mess, it wouldn’t bother me a bit. (Don’t tell me about the “true meaning” of Christmas. That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.)

But I will admit to an upside. It’s not about sorrow or loss or overcoming hardship like some other holidays. It’s a celebration of good news, so generally it’s about a happy thing, not a sad thing. I can’t find fault with that. And the one shining light amidst the hubbub that makes it all tolerable, even beautiful at times, is holiday music. I can forgive a lot for that.

If there is any doubt that Lexington has a vital arts community, one need only look at the calendar listings around the holidays. Nearly every cultural entity in town gets into the spirit as they showcase their talents in celebration. Here are just a few of the musical highlights.

November 30, 7:30 PM
Christ Church Cathedral, 166 Market Street. 859-254-4497.
Reserved seating is $15-$35. Chapel seating by donation.
I hope it’s not too late for you to see this one. Of the two main performances of Messiah this season, this one would be my pick. Christ Church’s choral director Erich Balling directs the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, the Cathedral Girls Choir, the Lexington Bach Ensemble, and soloists. What makes this performance special is the soloists. Anne Harley, soprano, has performed throughout Canada, the USA and England, specializing in both contemporary and early music. She has recorded with the Boston-based ensemble La Donna Musicale, and has appeared as soloist in several performances of Baroque oratorios of Handel and Bach. Christopher Conley is a voice student at UK who has been making an impression in the world of early music as a highly talented counter-tenor (a male who sings in the soprano range – this writer had the privilege of accompanying Chris on viola da gamba on his Purcell recital last year.). He was even the first place winner of last year’s Metropolitan Opera District Auditions, possibly the first ever for a singer in his range. Jeffrey Price, tenor, has performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras, choral organizations and as a recitalist through the United States, Europe and China. His performances of Handel's Messiah and Bach's Passion According to Saint John have been broadcast on National Public Radio. Dennis Bender, baritone, is on the faculty of UK’s prestigious opera program and is well known as an oratorio performer.

December 1, 7:30 PM and December 2, 3:00 PM
Collage Holiday Concert with UK Choirs
Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall
Tickets: $17.00/adults and seniors, $10.00/students and children.
The University of Kentucky’s holiday Collage concerts have become one of the biggest annual events in School of Music history. Featuring all 200 UK Choir singers, the Lexington Singers Children’s Choir (75 singers), and a host of guest ensembles and soloists, Collage is the highlight of the Christmas season for many in our community. UK choral director Dr. Jeff Johnson puts together a fast-paced, visually engaging non-stop show that has new elements every year.

December 7 and 8 at 8:00 PM
December 9 at 3:00 PM
Lexington Ballet presents The Nutcracker with the Lexington Philharmonic
For tickets contact the Philharmonic box office: (859) 233-4226.
The production will feature internationally recognized principal dancers, the pre-professional school, special celebrity guests as Mother Ginger and the Lexington Philharmonic with conductor John Nardolillo. 

December 7, 7:30 PM
A Gift of Holiday Music
Transylvania University's Haggin Auditorium
Canned food donations accepted at the door for God’s Pantry.  859-233-8300 or

December 10, 7:30 PM
Home for Christmas Presented by Variety Live
Lexington Opera House
Tickets are $15 - $35, (859) 233-3535 or
Laura Bell Bundy and Lyndy Franklin with the Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors. All profits are being offered to the Opera House Fund Capital Campaign, Kreative Kids, and the educational programs of BAJA. 

Dec. 11, 2007, 8:00 PM
3rd Annual Hanukkah Night at Natasha’s Café
Natasha’s has established itself as the hip place to enjoy an eclectic variety of music in an intimate bistro setting. Their annual Hanukkah Night features Aviva and Lew Bowling, along with Harold Sherman and Danny and Aaron Bowling, performing holiday songs and Israeli pop music to close out the week-long celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah with an evening of Hebrew songs, candle-lighting, and latkes.  As they have done at past Hanukkah celebrations, Natasha’s will feature additional Israeli items on the evening’s menu. There will be a $5.00 cover.  Reservations should be made at 259-2754.

Tuesday December 11, 2007, 7:00 PM
Kentucky Christmas Chorus with the Lexington Philharmonic at Rupp Arena
Parking and admission is free. (859) 258-3123
In its 20th year, this year’s Kentucky Christmas Chorus promises to have a note of melancholy as retiring Lexington Philharmonic director George Zack conducts. The Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers and dozens of area choirs will lead the singing as thousands of people get together to sing all the traditional carols along with some new ones.

Friday December 14, 2007, 8:00 PM
Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall
Tickets: $45-$24. (859) 257-4929
The Lexington Philharmonic conducted by George Zack in his final year of conducting the Philharmonic. Soloists for this performance are UK’s Angelique Clay (recently heard in the Lexington Singers’ performance of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass), graduate voice student Brandy Lynn Hawkins (winner of the 2006 Metropolitan District Auditions and a soloist in UK’s performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony), undergraduate voice student Reginald Smith (winner of this year’s Alltech Opera Scholarship Competition), and Randall Black (professor of voice at Murray State University).

Monday, December 17, 2006, 8 PM
The Center for Old Music in the New World presents A Handefull of Christmas Delights
The Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel
2025 Bellefonte Drive
Tickets at the door: $10 general, $8 seniors, $5 students
This year's annual Handefull of Christmas Delights program by Musick’s Company promises to inspire, uplift, and amuse as we bring back old favorites and spice up the wassail with some twists and treats. Please celebrate with us in what has become a Lexington holiday tradition for so many families.

December 19th. Early Showtime 7PM.
An Evening with Riders in the Sky
Tickets are $29.50 and $22.00 at the Kentucky Theater. 859-231-7924 after 4PM.
Part of the Troubadour Concert Series. Ranger Doug, Woody Paul, Too Slim, and Joey the CowPolka King return to the Kentucky Theatre for their world famous winter concert. This is a family event at an early show time.

December 22, 7:30 PM
A Celtic Christmas
Singletary Center Concert Hall
$28 adults, $24 UK Faculty/Staff, Seniors, $20 students
859-257-4929 or 
 Tomaseen Foley’s A Celtic Christmas recreates the joy and innocence of a night before Christmas in a farmhouse in a remote parish of the west of Ireland.  Features Grammy-award winning guitarists, traditional Irish vocals, fiddle, tin whistle, and world champion Irish dancers. 

-Dwight Newton is a musicologist and is the Marketing Coordinator for the UK School of Music. His web sites are at and