This would normally be the time when we look back at the year and compile our Best of the Arts list. But everything changed in mid-March, when we woke up to a different world, one we haven’t yet managed to escape. So we’ll leave you with a list of holiday entertainments to enjoy at home (with one exception). By the time you read this, we’ll be snowed in anyway.
Now through Jan. 3: New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.” Need a Nutcracker? This performance was filmed in December 2019 at the New York City Ballet’s home stage at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Tchaikovsky’s score is performed by the 62-piece New York City Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton, who was Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest director for 16 years. FMI including trailer and tickets ($25). Available for 48 hours after first play.
Tonight, on Christmas Eve, TPT-2 will air four Christmas concerts in a row. 7 p.m.: St. Olaf Christmas Festival: “A New Song of Grace and Truth.” 8 p.m.: St. Thomas Christmas: “Comfort & Joy.” 9 p.m.: Christmas in Christ Chapel at Gustavus: “Visions of Divine Mystery.” And at 10 p.m.: “Welcome Christmas With VocalEssence.”
Tonight (Dec. 24), starting at 5 p.m.: Summit Avenue Luminaria 2020. Weather permitting, drive or walk St. Paul’s historic and stately Summit Avenue, which will be lit by flickering luminarias. If you walk, please do it safely and respectfully. Mind your distance, and wear a mask. FMI.
Thursday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day): Disney+: “Soul.” There’s a lot of buzz around this new Disney-Pixar film. Directed by Bloomington-born Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, it’s the first Pixar film to feature a Black lead character. His name is Joe Gardner, and he’s a jazz pianist, voiced by Jamie Foxx. Other voice talents include Phylicia Rashad, Questlove, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett and Tina Fey. The original jazz music is performed by Jon Batiste; the score was composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It’s available to subscribers starting at midnight PST, meaning 2 a.m. CST. Here’s the trailer.
Thursday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) through Saturday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m.: Dakota: The Bad Plus: A Two-Set Concert for the Holidays. Every year since 2000, the Bad Plus have played the Dakota at Christmastime. This won’t be their usual live residency, but a pair of sets they recorded for the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville earlier this year. The Dakota is adding a pre-show VIP Meet & Greet if you want to say hi in real time. Earlier this week, Dakota owner Lowell Pickett said, “It feels like a continuation of a thread of normalcy. Some consistency in this inconsistent world.” With Dave King on drums, Reid Anderson on bass and (since 2018) Orrin Evans on piano. FMI and tickets ($15 show, $30 show plus meet & greet). Available for 48 hours after the original broadcast.
Wednesday, Dec. 30, 7 p.m.: Dakota: The New Standards Preener’s Eve Show. Preener’s Eve is short and sassy for Pre-New Year’s Eve, and this concert by Chan Poling, John Munson and Steve Roehm is a Dakota tradition. This year will be livestreamed. FMI and tickets ($15) Post-show Zoom Meet and Greet available (add $75 artist gratuity).
What are you doing New Year’s Eve?
We had to quote that song. Listen to Ella Fitzgerald’s version.
5:30 p.m.: Jazz Fest Live: 2020: A COVID Year in Review. Jazz Fest executive director Steve Heckler will look back at the virtual concerts that helped many jazz fans and artists make it through this ghastly year. The lineup will include Jon Weber, Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson, Sam Miltich, Robert Robinson, Rio Nido, Will Kjeer Trio and more – most notably Debbie Duncan, who died last Friday. Free. Save your spot here.
7 p.m.: New Year’s with Cantus. Classical MPR will broadcast and stream a year-end celebration with the acclaimed men’s vocal ensemble, which is hotter than ever due to its extraordinary efforts to make music during the pandemic. FMI. On-demand audio will be added after the broadcast.
7 p.m.: Blues Fest Live Year End Revue. From April to September, starting in musicians’ living rooms and eventually moving outdoors to Dual Citizen Brewing in St. Paul, the Lowertown Blues & Funk Fest livestreamed performances by Alex Rossi, Big George Jackson, Scottie Miller, Joyann Parker and more. This will be a highlights show of previously recorded concerts. Free. Save your spot here.
8 p.m.: Vänskä Conducts a New Year’s Celebration. Livestreamed from the stage at Orchestra Hall, performed by Minnesota Orchestra musicians, hosted by Sarah Hicks with Osmo Vänskä at the podium, this will be an evening of bright, joyous music, just what we need to lift us up and out of horrible 2020. Free at the orchestra’s website, also on TPT MN.
8 p.m.: New Year’s Eve with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Violinist Eunice Kim will host an evening of music by Beethoven and Brahms, Pekka Kuusisto and Gabriel Kahane, Bartók, Max Bruch, Dvorák, Rossini and George Enescu. It will also include New Year’s greetings from artists who have worked with the SPCO through the decades. Free at the concert library. FMI. The broadcast will be repeated at 10 p.m.
8 p.m.: The Dakota will livestream New Year’s Eve with Davina & The Vagabonds, an evening of roots, blues, jazz and pop. Davina is fierce. This will be her eleventh straight year on the Dakota’s stage for New Year’s Eve. FYI and tickets ($20).
8:30 p.m.: The Hook & Ladder will livestream “Pants Optional NYE Jam,” an evening of local music with Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Lady Lark, a Drag Queen Lip Sync Battle and more. FMI and tickets ($20).