Offbeat: Epic Holiday Treats from Turin, Joey DeFrancesco and Music of the Baroque!

By Dennis Polkow, NewCity Music
November 24, 2014

Do Not Open Until Before Christmas

Bach may have written his jubilant, six-part “Christmas Oratorio” for the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany (January 6), but Music of the Baroque is presenting the epic work just as Thanksgiving weekend ends and Advent begins. “The trouble is timing,” admits MOB music director Jane Glover, who will conduct the performances. “It is often difficult to schedule it at an appropriate time of year: obviously, you can’t do it in July.” One problem is that MOB’s own Holiday Brass and Choral Concerts, which occur in mid-December, are already “very, very popular.” And since most of the players come from Lyric Opera or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, “already our scheduling is a bit of a nightmare, to weave a path between those two mighty organizations.” The solution? For this year, at least, “a double dose of holiday music spread liberally throughout the season,” says Glover. “In my country [England], we don’t have Thanksgiving, sadly. It is a wonderful holiday. It’s not commercial, it’s just about family and friends, isn’t it? It’s lovely. Christmas has become so commercial: I love Christmas, but it has become quite vulgar. One of the best things about Christmas is the music.” When it comes to the “Christmas Oratorio,” “every movement has a different configuration of singers and instruments, so you have to work out an immense battle campaign of rehearsal and then fit that into the Rubik’s cube of the scheduling issues.” When Glover conducted her first MOB “Christmas Oratorio” four years ago, “it went down so well, we had fabulous audiences, a fabulous reception. People kept saying that we should do it every year. If only we could: it is an immense undertaking. Yet it is such a joy. You cannot help but be drawn into the genius of the man, the storytelling and the spiritual journey that every member of the audience takes.” November 30 (North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie), December 1 (Harris Theater, 205 East Randolph), (312)551-1414.