By George Basler
Last year was a blue Christmas for arts organizations in Broome and Tioga counties as COVID-19 forced the cancellation of their traditional holiday performances.
Not so this year. Organizations are planning a full schedule of holiday favorites that are coming back after a year’s absence.
The return to normal is an emotional moment for many performers. “We look forward to renewing acquaintance with our audiences,” said Bruce Borton, artistic director of the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton.
What follows are the basic features of performances that begin in mid-November and last through December. For ticketing details, check each organization’s website.
Binghamton Downtown Singers
The Binghamton Downtown Singers will renew their decades-long tradition of presenting Handel’s Messiah with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, 308 Main St., Johnson City.
But the program will be somewhat different this year. Instead of performing all of Part I and most or all of Parts II and III of the oratorio, the Singers will just present all of Part I (the Christmas section) plus the famous “Hallelujah” chorus, said Julie Drozdowski, co-president.
This reduction means the performance will clock in at about an hour, instead of the two hours of previous years. That eliminates, as an additional COVID precaution, the need for an intermission, Drozdowski said.
This year’s chorus is also smaller, about 70 singers compared to the more than 100 of previous years. Marisa Reynolds Crabb, the chorus’s principal artistic director (and widow of its co-founder, Alan Crabb), will conduct the select choir, soloists and chamber orchestra.
Another change is that the concert will be performed free of charge as a gift to the community, Drozdowski said. Free-will offerings will be accepted to help cover costs. Seating will be limited to about 240 persons, and the organization is requiring both proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks.
If you are interested in tickets, visit www.downtownsingers.org.
Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra
The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual Home for the Holidays program will return at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Broome County Forum Theatre, 236 Washington St., Binghamton.
The program, conducted by Daniel Hege, will feature holiday favorites, including music from The Nutcracker Suite and the movies Home Alone and The Polar Express. Guest soloist will be Ayana Del Valle, a local performer and music teacher.
There will be a pre-concert organ recital, 7-7:20 p.m., featuring Nancy Wildoner of the Binghamton Theater Organ Society.
“Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year BPO-style! With silver bells and little drummer boys, it’ll be a holly-jolly night of music, mirth, and merriment,” the BPO’s website says.
Tickets are $22, $38 and $55 for adults. Children’s tickets are $11 with the purchase of an adult ticket in the $22 section. Visit www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org or, for student tickets, call the BPO box office at 723-3931, ext. 1.
The Forum requires audience members to wear masks but does not require them to show proof of vaccination.
Cider Mill Stage
The Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott, will offer a special holiday edition of the musical Forever Plaid from Nov. 19 to Nov. 28. Called Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings, it’s a brand-new show that features Christmas standards and audience favorites.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Tickets are $25; to order, visit www.cidermillstage.com.
In December, John Bielenberg’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a Southern Tier (and Cider Mill Playhouse) holiday tradition for more than 40 years, returns for a series of performances Dec. 9-19.
Bielenberg, a theater professor at Binghamton University, adapted the holiday classic for the stage in 1979. Susan J. Peters and Ken Martinak added original music. The action takes place in a child’s bedroom and is told from the perspective of a family acting out Charles Dickens’ classic tale, for a ailing tyke.
This year’s production stars Tom Kremer as Ebenezer Scrooge. Many other Cider Mill favorites also will reprise their roles. The show is recommended for children 7 and older.
Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 (ages 12 and under, $18).
The Cider Mill Stage strongly encourages unvaccinated audience members to wear masks. It does not require proof of vaccination.
To order tickets, visit www.cidermillstage.com.
Endicott Performing Arts Center
The Endicott Performing Arts Center’s annual presentation of The Nutcracker returns Dec. 10-12 in EPAC’s Robert Eckert Theater, 102 Washington Ave., Endicott. The performances are a joint effort of the EPAC Repertory Company and Fuse Dance Center in Binghamton.
Tickets are $20; visit www.endicottarts.com.
EPAC asks audience members to wear masks but does not require proof of vaccination.
Madrigal Choir of Binghamton
The Madrigal Choir of Binghamton will perform its annual “Festival of Lessons and Carols” concert at 3 p.m. Nov. 27 and 28 at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church, 44 Main St., Binghamton.
The concert features readings interspersed with traditional carols, hymns and choral anthems and is modeled on “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” performed annually since 1918 at King’s College in England.
The event draws the Madrigal Choir’s largest audience every year, said artistic director Borton.
Both performances this year will be free as a gift to the community. Audience members must twear masks, but the choir will not require proof of vaccination.
Rafael Grigorian Ballet Theatre
The Rafael Grigorian Ballet Theatre will present The Nutcracker ballet at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 in the The Forum in Binghamton.
The ballet is a long-standing holiday tradition in the region. This year’s performance will feature dancers from the Binghamton and Elmira areas along with six principal dancers and two soloists.
Tickets at $45, $30, and $20 can be ordered through The Forum’s website, www.broomearenaforum.com. Click on “events & tickets” and then click on “event schedule”
The Forum requires audience members to wear masks but does not require proof of vaccination.
Ti-Ahwaga Community Players
Ti-Ahwaga Community Players’ holiday favorite, A Christmas Story, will return the weekends of Dec. 3-5 and Dec. 10-12.
The play is based on the 1983 film that has become a holiday staple. The film, in turn, is based on the semi-fictional anecdotes of humorist Jean Shepherd. The play has become a favorite theatrical tradition at Ti-Ahwaga.
“It feels great to be back. Personally, I love the show,” Diane Arbes, secretary for the company, said.
Performances will take place at the Ti-Ahwaga Community Playhouse, 2 Delphine St., Owego. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances begin at 2 p.m.; doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $25 (seniors, $20; 12 and under, $15). To order tickets, visit www.tiahwaga.com .
The Players are asking all audience members to wear masks in the theater and lobby.
In addition to plays and concerts by local arts organizations, several national programs are booked in December at either the The Forum or at the Visions Veterans Memorial Arena, 1 Stuart St., Binghamton, according to the county facilities’ website. They are:
- Broadway in Binghamton presents Manheim Steamroller Christmas at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at The Forum. Tickets are $65, $60, $48, and $35.
- The Lindsey Stirling Christmas Program at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Arena. Tickets are $78, $68, and $38.
- An Evening with Chevy Chase following a screening of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Arena. Tickets are $78.50, $50.50. and $40.50
For more information go to www.broomearenaforum.com.