Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for December 2018:
December is the office-party season, but there are still a few concert tours coming through town, notably Montreal favourite Dave Matthews Band at the Bell Centre on Dec. 8.
Other highlights include Montreal singer-songwriter Matt Holubowski – whose career got a big push as a La Voix Season 3 finalist – at the Corona Theatre on Dec. 13 and 14, Canadian indie pop rockers Stars at L’Astral on Dec. 16, and British R&B singer/songwriter Jorja Smith headlines MTELUS on Dec. 18.
The local music scene is pretty much dominated by holiday-themed concerts, such as the always fun annual Andy Kim Christmas Concert at the Corona Theatre on Dec. 15, with proceeds benefitting the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
This year, Kim – born and raised in Montreal, and whose mega-hits include Rock Me Gently and the iconic Sugar, Sugar for The Archies – welcomes musical guests Ron Sexsmith, Coeur de Pirate, Brad Barr, La Force, Jake Clemons and others.
There is nothing quite like seeing an All-Star band romp through Kim’s 1969 No. 1 Smash Hit Sugar, Sugar.
Other local Christmas concerts of note: Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright’s Christmas show has been a family tradition since 2005 when Kate and Anna McGarrigle released their classic album The McGarrigle Christmas Hour. Rufus and Martha are back home for Rufus et Martha Wainwright, Noel Nights en famille with musical guests Michel Rivard, Ariane Moffatt, Patrick Watson, Elisapie, Safia Nolin, Tire le Coyote and Anna McGarrigle, at MTELUS on Dec. 21 and 22.
Montreal’s beloved Lyric Theatre Singers under the direction of Bob Bachelor return to Concordia University’s Loyola Chapel to present four performances of Candlelight Christmas 2018 from Dec. 6 to 9. The ensemble’s annual concert of seasonal songs from around the world is one of Montréal’s most popular holiday events.
The annual ONE18 – Gospel Christmas Celebration will feature 100 singers backed by a live band when the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montréal Gospel Choir directed by Carol Bernard headline the absolutely gorgeous Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste in the Plateau on Dec. 8.
The People’s Gospel Choir will be joined by special guest singer Sylvie DesGroseilliers for holiday favourites and a tribute to Aretha Franklin at Westmount’s Victoria Hall on Dec. 8, while the city’s famed Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir will also perform holiday favorites and inspiring gospel hymns, as well as a tribute to Aretha Franklin with special guest singer Dawn Tyler Watson, at Celebration Gospel 2018 at Théatre Maisonneuve on Dec. 9.
The glorious and historic Church of St. Andrew and St.Paul – whose Gothic Revival architecture looks like it comes straight out of Robin Hood – presents their hugely popular Carols by Candlelight concert with the A&P Choir under the direction of Jean-Sébastien Vallée, on Dec. 16.
Over at Salle Bourgie at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, do not miss the hugely popular A Charlie Brown Christmas concert with the Taurey Butler Trio who will perform the classic Peanuts soundtrack live (originally scored and recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio in 1965), in two one-hour concerts, Dec. 20 at 6 and 8:30 pm.
Last but not least, there will be plenty of live music by local musicians in Montreal on December 31. The following night, though, if you’re a fan of live R&B, do not miss The Jello Bar Reunion 1995 – 2008 presented by Rickey D Events at the Pandore Rooftop nightclub (1300 Rue Saint-Dominique) on Jan. 1, featuring musical guests Shaharah & The All Star Jello Band ft Danny Blanco and Coco Thompson, plus DJs Andy Couchman, Pierre Perpal Jr., Mike Tuff Williams and Majess. This will be a glorious tribute to fabled Montreal soul-music sanctuary Jello Bar which closed its doors a decade ago. Long live Jello!
The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal celebrates the holiday season with Les jours de la Semelle (five concerts from Dec. 12 to 15) featuring Maestro Kent Nagano and the OSM joining forces with renowned storyteller Fred Pellerin, weaving an all-new French-language tale for the holidays; and the OSM’s blockbuster Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 18), all at the Maison symphonique.
The I Musici de Montréal chamber orchestra present Christmas With Bach at Salle Bourgie on Dec. 22 and 23, featuring a superb quintet of vocal soloists. Opening the concert are two stunning cantatas written by Bach just for Christmas.
Montreal’s renowned Orchestre Metropolitain and Chœur Métropolitain present the OM’s Singing As One concert at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on Dec. 23, performing Britten’s cantata Rejoice in the Lamb and Dvořák’s Mass in D Major. Then Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead both orchestra and choir to perform holiday carols.
ART AND MUSEUMS
Artist manifestos are on the program at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, notably Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto featuring an extraordinary performance by actor Cate Blanchett playing 13 roles in a thirteen-channel immersive video installation that stands as a tribute to the tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos. Manifesto has been mounted in more than a dozen cities around the world; its presentation in Montréal is only its second in North America, after the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The installation continues at the MAC until Jan. 20, 2019.
Fab Montreal artist Yunus Chkirate is doing some live painting and hosting an exhibition of his work at the RÉZO open house on Dec. 6, with DJ Diskommander (MPU and LuvHaus). Part of the art-sale proceeds will go to RÉZO, a non-profit Montreal community organization offering services to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), be they cis or trans, since 1991. The open house runs from 5:30 to 8 pm. Bravo, guys!
I really enjoyed A Doll’s House, Part 2, superb sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, which runs at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts until Dec. 9. You don’t need to know the original play to appreciate this thoroughly enjoyable sequel whose main character Nora is a forerunner of the Suffragette movement. The play runs 90 minutes without intermission, and I didn’t look at my watch once.
Meanwhile, The Segal’s production of the humourous Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story – which tells the true-life tale of two Jewish Romanian refugees coming to Canada in 1908 – has been extended to Dec. 19. This production is being presented in the Segal Studio.
Presenting live English productions for young audiences since 1980, Geordie Theatre presents playwright Will Averill’s popular comedy The Trials of Robin Hood at their annual Gala Fundraiser production at the gorgeous D.B. Clarke Theatre on Dec. 7 and 8.
Is the outlaw Robin Hood a lusty hero, hopeless lover or evil criminal? Upon his return from the Crusades, King Richard is forced to try and figure out what happened in his kingdom during his absence. Told from the perspectives of Robin himself, Maid Marian and Prince John, this hilarious tale combines three different stories into one and – with three different endings – leaves it up to the audience to decide which one is true.
In Old Montreal, the Centaur Theatre continues its 50th season with the 12th edition of Urban Tales in which event curator Harry Standjofski directs some of Montreal’s brightest theatre-makers in five shows, FEATHERS: 12 days of Xmas stories spun from a silly song, from Dec. 7 to 15.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s timeless adaptation of La Casse-Noisette (a.k.a. The Nutcracker) by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault returns to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for its 55th year. This two-act ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and brings together more than 60 dancers and 100 extras, plus the Orchestre des Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the baton of conductor Dina Gilbert. If you have never seen it, this famed production is a must. The Nutcracker runs from Dec. 13 to 30.
The 2018 edition of the Cannes Lions screens at the repertory Cinéma du Parc from Dec. 7 to 20. Established in 1954, the Cannes Advertising Film Festival is the largest annual gathering of international advertising, where the most prestigious advertising awards are handed out. The competition is judged by creative talent from the best agencies on the international scene. This year’s edition presents a wide array of amazing advertising campaigns, with a little for every taste, from the movie lover to the advertising professional.
Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, Dec. 10 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Clarence Bayne, Rae Marie Taylor, Novel Thomas, Jeffrey Mackie, Frédéric Boisrond and Martine Fidèle, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo first premiered in Montreal in 2005 and visited more than 60 cities in 19 countries as a Big Top show before transforming into an arena show in 2018. In the reboot, many of the original artists are back in a show (also pictured at top) about the clown Mauro, who has died but whose spirit is still with us. Instead of mourning, the funeral cortege celebrates the here and hereafter with a festive parade, laughter and exuberance. Corteo runs at the Bell Centre from Dec. 19 to 30.
If you prefer to be naughty, enjoy some “holidaze hi jinx” at the Candyass December Cabaret on Dec. 21 at Montreal’s iconic Café Cléopatra, a showbar since 1893 and the last hold-out from Montreal’s fabled Sin City-era red-light district. Cleo’s classic cabaret space is on the second floor, above their first-floor strip joint.