If you want to be filled with festive cheer, there’s no better place to go than London’s largest classical music venue: the Royal Albert Hall. With a winter programme featuring Handel’s Messiah, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and screenings of The Snowman and Paddington accompanied by a live orchestra, the month of December is filled with festive treats for your eyes and ears.
The famous Christmas concerts on the 23rd and 24th December are a particular highlight; this year, attendees will sing along to music provided by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Choral Society, and fanfares from Her Majesty’s Welsh Guards. With more than 5,000 people in the audience, the sound is sure to be impressive!
Theatrical giant Raymond Gubbay is in charge of the Barbican’s festive programme this year – and what a programme it is! With a ‘Christmas Classics’ concert on the 20th, packed full of festive favourites, and a candlelit concert on the 23rd December – featuring musicians dressed in 18th-century garb and a reading from actor Peter Davison – there’s a musical treat to suit any taste within the Barbican’s line-up this year.
Christmas Concerts in Cathedrals
St Paul’s Cathedral is magical at any time of year, but it takes on a particularly special feel during Christmas, when the world-famous walls of Sir Christopher Wren’s iconic building are filled with the sounds of amazing seasonal music. The lead-up to Christmas is full of carols, recitals and festive services, culminating in its annual Christmas concerts on the 23rd and 24th December. These events are free, but arriving early is essential in order to bag your place; however even the queue is a special place to be, with mince-pie purveyors selling their wares up and down the line, and carollers warming up to sing with rousing choruses of Christmas favourites. If the cathedral fills up before you’ve made it to the head of the queue, you can catch a big-screen broadcast of the whole event from nearby Paternoster Square.
Experience Christmas cheer as never before within the walls of a true London icon: Westminster Abbey. The famous Christmas concerts on the 23rd and 24th December are already fully booked, but there are many more magical events taking place throughout the month that are worth attending. The Christmas Meditation – which occurs on the 16th December – is a must, and includes a special reading of the Nativity story by David Suchet, as well as a magnificent performance of Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.
Trafalgar Square at Christmas is a particularly special sight: passers-by can’t help but stop and stare at the enormous Christmas tree, which is gifted to Britain by Norway every year (a sign of their gratitude for Britain’s support given during WWII, and in celebration of the continued friendship between the two nations). The lighting of the tree is a Christmas must-see in its own right, but the festivities don’t stop there; once the tree is up and illuminated, different choirs gather each day in the run-up to Christmas to perform free carol concerts and raise money for worthy causes. Head down there between 10 – 21 December and give whatever you can spare whilst singing along to a number of Christmas classics.
The beautiful church of St Martin-in-the-Fields (just off Trafalgar Square) offers a welcome sanctuary from the bustling shopping streets of Covent Garden during the festive season – and their Christmas programme is well worth a look. Throughout December the church offers a programme of special Christmas concerts (including Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and more traditional carol services), many of which are free to attend.
Something a little bit different…
If you fancy a change from the norm, we’ve got an exciting alternative suggestion for you: London-based charity Hop Skip & Jump are returning with their popular event ‘Christmas Carols With a Twist’ on the 7th December. Taking place in a historic London pickle factory (!) and featuring a ten-piece brass marching band, a huge variety of singers, DJs and choirs, as well as delicious food from Time Out favourite Pasta e Basta, this is a festive bash that is not to be missed. Best of all, all proceeds go to a very worthy cause: the Hop Skip & Jump foundation, which provides care to people with special needs across the UK.