Your guide to holiday music and performing arts in Chicago!

By Keegan Morris, Michael San Gabino and Hannah Schiller |

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The Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker (Photo: Cheryl Mann)

The Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker (Photo: Cheryl Mann)

'Tis the season to be musical! Every holiday season, Chicago is home to many incredible performances that make spirits bright for children of all ages. Whether you're looking for a sing-along, some ballet, or anything in-between, check out WFMT's guide to holiday music and performing arts in and around the city!

Holiday Music in Chicago and Beyond

While you're at the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's Hanukkah Concert, you can also see the Wonderland Express, an annual holiday tradition. (Photo: Chicago Botanic Garden)

Elgin Symphony Orchestra — Sounds of the Season

Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 at Hemmens Cultural Center, Elgin
Elgin Symphony Orchestra presents a diverse holiday concert featuring soprano Catalina Cuervo, the Elgin Master Chorale, and Midwest Dance Collective. The ESO will also welcome a special visitor from the North Pole!

The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band's Hanukkah Concert

Sunday, December 9 at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band presents a double bill featuring festive music for Hanukkah and the holiday season at the picturesque Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Admission also includes a visit to their Wonderland Express!

Holiday Brass & Choral Concerts from Music of the Baroque

Thursday, December 13 — Sunday, December 16, multiple locations 
The holidays would not be complete without the merry sounds of brass. William Jon Gray leads the Music of the Baroque’s Chorus and Brass Ensemble in a Christmas Around the World program that will be presented at several churches throughout the Chicago area. To get you in the spirit, listen to this Impromptu from December 2017 featuring Music of the Baroque artists!

The Chicago Symphony Chorus (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Chorus (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Newberry Consort's A Mexican Christmas

Friday, December 14 - Sunday, December 16, multiple locations
Be transported to 17th century Mexico City as the Newberry Consort shares sacred and secular works for the season. A women's choir will sing church music, and musicians from EnsAmble Ad-Hoc, an early Latin American and Spanish group, will share villancicos, joyful folk music of praise and celebration.

Apollo Chorus of Chicago performs Handel’s Messiah

Saturday, December 15 — Sunday December 16 at the Harris Theater
Did you know that the Apollo Chorus has performed the Messiah every winter since 1879? This year’s installment in the time-honored tradition features soloists Jamie-Rose Guarrine, Annie Rosen, Josh Lovell, and Evan Boyer.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform Handel’s Messiah

Thursday, December 20 — Sunday, December 23 at Symphony Center
Conductor Matthew Halls conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with soloists Amanda Forsythe, Sasha Cooke, Nicholas Phan, and Joshua Hopkins in a performance of Handel’s breathtaking oratorio.

Join in the fun! Sing alongs and more

Photo: City of Chicago

Caroling at Cloud Gate

Friday, December 7 — Friday, December 14 at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park
Bundle up to carol at Cloud Gate (better known as the Bean), led by some of the city’s leading choral groups, including the Chicago Chamber Choir, Apollo Chorus, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Special guest artists The King’s Singers from the United Kingdom will also join in the festivities.

The 35th Annual Music Box Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long

Friday, December 7 — Monday, December 24 at the Music Box Theatre
Music Box welcomes you for the 35th year of this interactive double feature of White Christmas and It's A Wonderful Life. Sing along to timeless classics by Irving Berlin, and enjoy a night full of wholesome holiday magic.

Do-It-Yourself Messiah

Monday, December 17 and Tuesday, December 18 at the Harris Theater
The International Music Foundation's Do-It-Yourself Messiah features incredible soloists, an orchestra made up of volunteer artists, and YOU! Each year, thousands of audience members from Chicago and beyond come together to form the chorus for Handel's iconic work. Be a part of this beloved Chicago tradition, now in its 42nd year!

Voice of the People Holiday Caroling with the Old Town School of Folk Music

Saturday, December 22 starting from the Old Town School of Folk Music
Join Voices of the People on a caroling excursion through Lincoln Square! Bring the whole family, or make new friends while spreading holiday cheer. No singing experience necessary.

Kid-friendly performances

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Cendrillon (Cinderella)

Saturday, December 1 — Sunday, January 20 at the Lyric Opera House
Looking for a way to introduce opera to a young person in your life? Jules Massenet’s operatic adaptation of the classic fairytale will dazzle the entire family this holiday season.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Onstage

Saturday, December 22 at Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont
The Peanuts characters are moving from your TV to the stage! For one night only, see Charlie Brown, Linus, Sally, Lucy, and, of course, Snoopy in person.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Merry, Merry Chicago

Sunday, December 23 at Symphony Center
Chicago Symphony Orchestra's annual holiday spectacular is the perfect celebration for the whole family! Featuring holiday classics like "Sleigh Ride," "Joy to the World," and "The First Noël," members of the CSO and guest vocalist Storm Large are sure to bring the spirit of the holidays.

Angelic voices — Holiday A cappella performances

Chanticleer (Photo: Lisa Kohler)

Chanticleer (Photo: Lisa Kohler)

A Chanticleer Christmas

Tuesday, December 4 and Wednesday, December 5 at Fourth Presbyterian Church
Chanticleer is back in Chicago for two nights of Christmas classics ranging from Medieval to modern! This combination of virtuosic vocals with wholesome holiday favorites is sure to shine at the stunning and historic Fourth Presbyterian Church on the Magnificent Mile. While they're in town, Chanticleer will also visit WFMT for an Impromptu broadcast on air and on Facebook Live.

Holidays A Cappella: Silver Bells with Chicago A Cappella

Friday, December 7 — Sunday, December 16, multiple locations
Chicago A Cappella is bringing holiday cheer to everyone. Celebrate this ensemble's Silver Anniversary with their arrangements of holiday songs from all over the world.

Holiday traditions on stage


Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol (Photo: Liz Lauren)

Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol

November 28 – December 30 at the Goodman Theatre
In over 4 decades, more than 1.5 million people have seen Goodman Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. The Friday, December 28 performance of this Chicago favorite will feature Spanish supertitles.

Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker

Saturday, December 1 — Wednesday, December 30 at the Auditorium Theatre
In addition to the joyous Tchaikovsky score, Joffrey’s Nutcracker will be of interest to Chicagoans because of its unique setting. This production was reimagined by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon in 2016 and takes place during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Hear about this production in an arts conversation with WFMT program director David Polk, Joffrey's artistic director Ashley Wheater, and dancer Christine Rocas

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker 

Sunday, December 2 at Rosemont Theater in Rosement
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker presents a different take on this holiday ballet. The touring company debuted this production in 1993 at the end of the Cold War, and its modified plot reflects their mission — to promote peace and unity worldwide.