Art Hounds: Holiday recommendations

People wearing black stand together
The St. Croix Valley Chamber Chorale.
Courtesy Valley Chamber Chorale

Singer and retired vocal teacher Mary Heston Dahl of White Bear Lake has a special place in her heart for the St. Croix Valley Chamber Chorale. She sang with them for about eight years, but this year she’s looking forward to hearing the performance from the audience.

Now in its 49th season, the VCC is the longest-running amateur choir in the Twin Cities, and in that time it’s only had two artistic directors. The chorale includes some 40-50 singers across a range of ages.  

This weekend is “Christmas with the Valley Chamber Chorale,” with four performances Fri., Dec. 8 through Sun., Dec. 10.

Dahl says the audience can look forward to some familiar carols, beautifully arranged and sung, as well as an opportunity to sing along with a few of them.

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Performances are Fri. Dec. 8 – Sun. Dec. 10 at the St. Croix Prep Performing Arts Center at St. Croix Prep Upper School. This is a change from the chorale’s typical venue, the historic Washington County Courthouse, which is under renovation. '

Audience members are seated at tables, so buying tickets in advance is best to ensure your party can sit together. 

Classical music lover Pauline Marlinski of Gaylord plans to be in St. Peter tonight for a performance by the Gaylord-based ensemble La Grande Bande.

Now celebrating its fifth season, La Grande Bande specializes in music written from 1600-1800 (Early Music and Baroque). Their instruments, including harpsichord and viola da gamba, are original to the period. Marlinski appreciates the group’s focus on education as they perform in schools and communities across southern Minnesota.  

This weekend’s French Baroque Christmas will include eight singers and six musicians, with artistic director Michael Thomas Asmus on organ.

The performance will include a selection of works written for Christmas by French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). Marlinski is looking forward to singing along (in English) to some traditional French carols as part of the performance.  

Performances are Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 at First Lutheran Church in St Peter. Sunday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 at Church of the Assumption in St. Paul. Each performance includes a short pre-concert talk at 6:45 to guide the audience through the music and composers. 

Not all annual holiday shows are serene and thoughtful. If Klingon battles are more your style, then actor and physical comedian Gregory Parks of Minneapolis recommends that you check out “It’s an Honorable Life” at Historic Mounds Theatre in St. Paul.

In this telling, Bailey is a Klingon warrior who has a high standing in the empire because of his bravery and his feats in battle. He fears that because he is so skilled, he will never meet a glorious death in battle, which is a great problem for a Klingon.

Enter the mysterious Q, who guides Bailey through many possible scenarios of his life. (Parks originated the character of Bailey but for the past three years has enjoyed the show from the audience seat.) 

Written by local Star Trek fans, with a local make-up artist ensuring that each actor has a proper Klingon forehead, this play is filled with references familiar and obscure. The show is not endorsed or affiliated with any Star Trek enterprise. 

“It’s An Honorable Life” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, and some Sundays at 2:30 through Dec. 23. Trekkie uniforms of all empires are encouraged but not required. Masks are requested when not eating or drinking. 

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment‘s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.