One could easily overindulge on culture this holiday season, with multiple takes on The Nutcracker, Handel’s Messiah and Charles Dickens on offer around town. Slightly off the beaten path, however, there are plenty of holiday shows and concerts worth seeking out, from the high-minded and serious to the lowbrow — or at least low-lying — and comical.
There couldn’t be a more glorious venue for a traditional celebration than the Washington National Cathedral, and the Cathedral Choral Society‘s Advent procession, the “Joy of Christmas,” takes full advantage of the Gothic edifice. J. Reilly Lewis leads the chorus in performances of beloved carols accompanied by the Washington Symphonic Brass as well as organist Todd Fickley. Saturday, Dec. 13, and Sunday, Dec. 14, at 4 p.m., at the Washington National Cathedral. Tickets are $75. Call 202-537-2228.
Every year, the Folger Consort offers a more interesting, scholarly spin on the Christmas tradition, with this year’s program focusing on seasonal music from the imperial courts during the Italian Renaissance. Anna Marsh and Christa Patton join the Consort as guest artists playing the medieval wind instrument called the shawm, as well as the recorder. Mark Rimple also accompanies on lute for the concerts Tuesday, Dec. 16, through Tuesday, Dec. 23, at the Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $50. Call 202-544-7077.
Few music genres capture the festive Christmas spirit better than jazz, and this year’s brassiest best comes courtesy of The Capitol Bones Big Band. This local, all-brass band stops by Blues Alley for two concerts featuring local jazz vocalist Lena Seikaly performing renditions of Christmas classics first popularized by the late big band jazz pioneer Stan Kenton. Tuesday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Tickets are $22, plus $10 minimum purchase. Call 202-337-4141.
Of all the theatrical variations on Dickens, MetroStage offers what is no doubt the most entertaining, at least to musical theater queens. Kathy Feininger’s A Broadway Christmas Carol spins its Dickensian tale by adapting lyrics from familiar Broadway tunes, 30 or so in all, including The Music Man, Sweeney Todd and Annie. Peter Boyer is Chief Bah Humbugger in a cast that also includes director and choreographer Michael Sharp as The Man Who Isn’t Scrooge. Now to Sunday, Dec. 28, at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St., Alexandria. Tickets are $50. Call 800-494-8497.
Last but not least is the Birchmere‘s yuk-fest featuring a certain Baltimore filmmaker. In A John Waters Christmas, the “Pope of Trash” explores the gay and sexual possibilities of the holiday, posing questions you’ve probably never pondered before, such as whether there is a “Santa hag” or a “flue queen.” Monday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $49.50. Call 703-549-7500.
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