For a change, how about sitting down to celebrate the holidays? Once-a-year events do stir up the holiday spirit, like a pilgrimage to Chicago and a little Michigan Avenue hopping. But you can still fill the bill for an out-of-the-routine experience to warm the soul if you sit back and relax at a few concerts in Oak Park venues. If the local musicians do the work for you, their holiday music can ring on in your memory right through the New Year.

A Celtic ‘Yuletide’

An Irish Christmas is the theme for Eileen Ivers, who brings an authentic Celtic accent all the way from the Emerald Isle to River Forest. She presents a family Yuletide, or An Nollaig, on solo violin.

Friday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., Lund Auditorium, 7900 W. Division, River Forest

Lessons and Carols

December for many families means back to school for a candle-lit evening at Concordia University’s Service of Lessons and Carols. “From Heaven Above …” tells the story of Advent with dozens of university singers under the direction of Professor Charles Brown and other music faculty. Experience the traditional call to the season with “Once in Royal David’s City” and other musical favorites, combined with Advent Scripture readings. Seating for this popular event is often at a premium; arrive early.

Saturday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Chapel of Our Lord, Bonnie Brae at Thomas, River Forest. Freewill offering benefits music programs at Concordia University.

A world of holidays

The nine exceptional voices of Chicago a cappella deliver more than the sum of their parts in Holidays World Tour. Music director Patrick Sinozich, now in his second season, has upheld the reputation for high entertainment and vocal finesse established by founder and artistic director Jonathan Miller. Along with familiar carols from France and England and African-American spirituals, this group is equally at home with seasonal songs from Japan, Argentina, and Nigeria. For a sample that will make you want to hear the whole show, listen to Christmas a cappella, recently released on the Cedille label.

Saturday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m., Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St. $22-35.

1 piper piping

The Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest will not offer 10 pipers piping, but the one piper featured in their December concert will impress the flute player on your gift list. Mathieu Dufour, acclaimed principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, plays time-honored concertos by Vivaldi and Mozart (No. 1) under the direction of Jay Friedman. While not billed as a children’s program, children through high school are admitted free and the second half of the concert will tempt them to imagine “The Midday Witch” and “The Golden Spinning Wheel” that inspired composer Antonin Dvorak. Jack Zimmerman presents a pre-concert conversation at 3 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m., First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St. $15-20; high school and under free.

December diversity

While not a professional ensemble, the Oak Park-River Forest Children’s Chorus annually delivers as much inspiration and entertainment as the big names. The four graded choirs of dedicated young singers, some barely 4 feet tall, love to sing for a crowd. Led by Artistic Director William Chin and assisted by Rosetta Sellers-Varela and Anjoli Asokan Karia, nearly 100 children present Christmas and Hanukkah music from many cultures.

Sunday, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m., Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St. Admission charge.

Brash brass

The calm Gothic ambience of Grace Lutheran Church comes alive when Music of the Baroque returns to the area from their season residence at the Harris Theatre in Chicago. Some of the area’s finest professional singers and brass players join in a program of Christmas music, heavy on northern European flavors, directed by Edward Zelnis.

Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, Division at Bonnie Brae, River Forest. $40-65.

Sing-along ‘Joyous’

Music at First presents “Sing We Joyous,” an annual evening of starlight, festive songs, Christmas treats, carol sing-along, and good will towards the community with a silent auction to benefit the Oak Park-Austin Cluster Tutoring Program, serving 60 West Side students. Directed by Bill Chin, performers include the Oriana Singers, a professional vocal ensemble with a beautiful blend, and the Oak Park-River Forest Children’s Chorus, sporting youthful enthusiasm and musical excellence.

Saturday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m., First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St. $15-20; $50 per family. E-mail


With their annual Christmas concert and Swedish bake sale behind them, the 30-voice Oak Park Concert Chorale joins with the Paul Lindblad Choristers to perform Vivaldi’s Magnificat in a free outreach concert conducted by Paul Lindblad.

Sunday, Dec. 21 at 4 p.m., Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, 3121 W. Jackson, Chicago. Free.

Lighting the tree

And for those who, heedless of the wind and weather, want to sing themselves, Concordia University presents its annual Christmas Tree-Lighting and Caroling this Friday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. Brass music, choirs, hot cocoa, and cookies add to the celebration and tree-lighting all around the campus. Children can look forward to a visit from a special Christmas guest.

When she is not out enjoying live concerts of great music, Dr. Cathryn Wilkinson chairs the music department at Aurora University and presides over the mighty Casavant pipe organ at First United Church of Oak Park.

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