Christmas Choraling

With Conspirare’s Christmas at the Carillon and Austin Civic Chorus’ Sing It Yourself ‘Messiah’, you’ll get a thrilling dose of that most potent Christmas commodity: song!

Christmas Choraling

'Tis the season. You know how I knew? When a local radio station began playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving Day! That's how I knew.

But why settle for recorded impulses transmitted electronically over airwaves when you can easily obtain the mellifluous strains of voices raised together in songs of praise, joy, and happiness live? After all, if there's ever a time of year for choral singing, that time is now. At the yuletide, there's always music in the air, and in more ways than one.

It may be that your tastes require only the best voices. Then you might be tempted by Conspirare, Austin's premier professional choir, and its 10th annual Christmas at the Carillon. Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson and his 20-voice ensemble, which has toured nationally and sung at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, always provide an eclectic collage of traditional and nontraditional music celebrating the season, everything from "O Come All Ye Faithful" to a 16th-century Dutch work to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Some Enchanted Evening." The Conspirare singers, several of whom travel to Austin from across the country to sing with the choir, will be joined again this December by Dove and Grammy award winner Cynthia Clawson. There are only six local performances, four of which were sold out at press time, so getting your tickets, like, now might be a good idea.

It may be that you crave choral singing with a more local, community-centered focus. The 100-voice Austin Civic Chorus, which raised the roof at Carnegie Hall just before Thanksgiving (and has already been invited back), is offering its 15th annual Sing It Yourself Messiah. Audience members are allowed – make that encouraged – to join in the singing of Handel's beloved oratorio, including that most famous of choruses, the "Hallelujah." "Once the 'Hallelujah' chorus is sung, a lot of people think that's the end, and we have to tell them, 'No! No! There's more!'" says Vicki Buterbaugh, the Chorus' executive director. "We divide the audience into voice parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. People can bring their own scores, but many people already have them because they've come before. For those that don't, we provide the score and encourage everyone to sing along. But you don't have to; you can just listen and enjoy."

So which way are you leaning? You can have the best of both holiday worlds: national and local, sitting back and listening and vocalizing in the spirit of the season. Either way, you're certain to get a thrilling dose of that most potent of Christmas commodities: song!

Christmas at the Carillon will be performed Saturday, Dec. 11, 2:30 & 8pm, at First English Lutheran Church. The performances Dec. 9, 10, and 12 at the Carillon are sold out. For more information, call 476-5775 or visit

Sing-It-Yourself Messiah will be performed Saturday, Dec. 11, 7:30pm, at North West Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Dr. For more information, call 719-3300 or visit

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