Holiday Fun

Beyond Jingle Bells: NYC’s Best Holiday Concerts

How can a music fan survive the Yuletide season of tired carols and the same-old radio holiday tunes? These eclectic and exciting performances provide the antidote.

Holiday Brass 2016 / Photo by Chris Lee

I like to consider myself an open-minded listener. I can generally find plenty to (equally) enjoy at a Tuvan throat-singing concert, a mosh-pit–friendly warehouse club, or a special effects–heavy pop mega show. Unfortunately, there’s one blind spot I can’t seem to overcome: Christmas music. With a few notable exceptions, Vince Guaraldi foremost among them, nothing raises my hackles quite like the ubiquitous 24-7 sonic shift to nonstop holiday tunes that kicks in the instant the turkey has been cleared from the Thanksgiving table.

What’s a musical Scrooge to do in the face of an onslaught of cloying good cheer and carols on repeat? I suggest you follow my lead and get tickets to the following selection of exciting concerts. Whether you’re looking for jazz, pop, comedy, cabaret, or classical, I promise you’ll find something under the tree to satisfy.

Jane Lynch’s A Swingin’ Little Christmas
You probably know Lynch from her Emmy-winning role on Glee or her run of characters in Christopher Guest’s films. What you might not know is that she’s an accomplished musical theater actress with a love for high kitsch. She’ll be indulging in plenty of camp at City Winery with this two-night stand of her scripted holiday cabaret show, costarring Kate Flannery of The Office, Tim Davis (the music producer on Glee), and West Coast jazz combo the Tony Guerrero Quintet.

City Winery
155 Varick Street (between Spring and Vandam Streets), West Village
Sunday, December 3, and Monday, December 4
Doors open at 6 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
Tickets start at $55


Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir: Now! Now! Now!
Part dead-serious activism group and part theatrical comedy (“We put the Odd back in God”), Reverend Billy Talen and his Stop Shopping Choir offer up a heartfelt force of liberal thinking that reimagines Christian faith as a force for progressive political change. Talen’s shows are fabulous big-tent revivals of slightly skewed gospel music and rapturously delivered arguments that will leave you pumped up and ready to embrace the Reverend Billy credo of “Change-a-lujah! Life-a-lujah! Earth-a-lujah!”

holiday concerts nyc
Photo courtesy of John Quality

Joe’s Pub
425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place), East Village
Sundays, December 3, 10, and 17
Doors open at 1:30 p.m.; show at 2 p.m.
$15


Fantasia
R&B superstar and American Idol winner Fantasia’s newest album, Christmas After Midnight,  mixes timeless carols with covers of new holiday classics by James Brown, Ray Charles, and Donny Hathaway. She’ll be blowing the snow off the roof of the Apollo Theater with this one-night-only Christmas concert.

The Apollo

253 West 125 Street (between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevards), Harlem
Wednesday, December 13
8 p.m.

Tickets start at $59.50


Big Band Holidays
Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra presents an array of jazz renditions of holiday tunes like Billie Holiday’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and Count Basie’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” supported by world-class chanteuse Catherine Russell and acclaimed vocalist Kenny Washington.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater
10 Columbus Circle (off West 60th Street), 5th Floor, Upper West Side
Wednesday, December 13, 7 p.m.
Thursday, December 14; Friday, December 15; Saturday, December 16, 8 p.m.
Sunday, December 17, 2 p.m.

Justin Vivian Bond: Manger Danger! Jesus as a Weapon and a Tool
One half of the Tony-nominated cabaret duo Kiki and Herb,  Mx. Bond is one of the downtown scene’s most iconic “trans-genre artists.” Tonight, Bond will present a report of holiday cheer culled from their “Bi-Polar Express” trip across America.

holiday concerts nyc
Photo courtesy of David Kimelman

Joe’s Pub
425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place), East Village
Thursday, December 14–Sunday, December 17 and Tuesday, December 19–Saturday, December 23
Doors open at 9 p.m.; show at 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday–Thursday, $35; Friday–Sunday, $45


The New York Philharmonic: Holiday Brass
Consider this your last chance of the year to see the acclaimed New York Phil. They’ll play contemporary and classical holiday songs with blare and flair. Special guest nonagenarian and ex–Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen will sit in with the band to complement the lead trumpeter and conductor, Philip Smith, at this family-friendly matinee show.

holiday concerts nyc
Holiday Brass 2016 / Photo by Chris Lee

David Geffen Hall
10 Lincoln Center Plaza (Broadway and West 65th Street), Upper West Side
Sunday, December 17
3 p.m.

$59–$89


Norm Lewis: Santa Baby!
One of theater and television’s most bankable leading men, Lewis is a Broadway fixture, with starring roles in Phantom of the Opera, The Little Mermaid, Porgy and Bess, and Sweeney Todd. Lewis’s annual holiday show at 54 Below has fast become a welcome Christmas tradition, featuring any number of celebrity guests.

holiday concerts nyc
Norm Lewis / Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Feinstein’s/54 Below
254 West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Hell’s Kitchen
Monday, December 18–Saturday, December 23
Doors open at 8:45 p.m.; show at 9:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $65; $25 food/beverage minimum

We’d love to see these tickets in our stocking, wouldn’t you?