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Toronto Symphony Orchestra

15 Things To Do in Toronto This December

This festive month is filled with a mixture of holiday merriment and family-friendly activities.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto.

12 Trees: Let There Be Light at The Gardiner Museum
To Jan. 7
A tradition since 1990, this year’s edition is co-curated by author and visual artist Douglas Coupland and focuses on light as a symbol of hope. Evan Biddell, Vivian Wong, Julia White, Alex McLeod, Connor Crawford, Christine Dewancker and Katherine Strang are among the contributing artists who have designed themed trees. This year’s creations include an animated winter dreamscape and a disco-ball tree.
Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park

Home Alone in Concert
Dec. 1-2
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Etobicoke School of the Arts Junior Chorus, performs John Williams score from the 1990 smash hit during a live screening of the movie. The hit comedic film sees Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister take on two bumbling burglars by himself (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) when his family accidentally leaves for a trip without him.
Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

St. Michael’s Choir School Annual Christmas Concert
Dec. 2-3
The angelic voices of the St. Michael’s Choir School, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, perform both secular and sacred carols to herald the Christmas season, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hallelujah,” and Handel’s “Messiah Part I.”
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

150 Years of Canadian Christmas at Casa Loma
Dec. 2-Jan. 7
The city’s palatial castle celebrates the season with a 40-foot tree designed by Canadian icon Jeanne Beker, along with eight other trees throughout the estate. Live entertainment features illusionist Professor Wick and ice skating performers Glisse on Ice. Kids can seek out Santa Claus at his castle workshop, decorate edible treats, and partake in arts and crafts.
1 Austin Terr.

A Christmas Carol. Photo by Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

A Christmas Carol
Dec. 7-24
Bah-humbug! Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovers his heart and the holiday spirit after visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

Peter Pan
Dec. 8-31
Escape to Neverland with J.M. Barrie’s iconic character, Peter Pan. The boy who never grows up encounters an assortment of colourful characters including pirates, fairies, crocodiles, and even ordinary children like the Darling siblings. This musical rendition by Soulpepper Theatre Company is sure to capture the imagination of the entire family.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

The Nutcracker
Dec. 9-30
A true holiday classic featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing bears, and cannon dolls, is masterfully choreographed by James Kudelka and set to music by Tchaikovsky. The National Ballet of Canada transforms E.T.A. Hoffman’s traditional tale with enchanting dance numbers, elaborate costumes, and lavish sets.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

The Lorax. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
Dec. 9-Jan. 21
The North American premiere of this Dr. Seuss fable about protecting the environment gets the stage treatment. Direct from London and adapted by David Greig, Dr. Seuss’s colourful world is reflected with bold sets and costumes, puppets, and an original score by Charlie Fink.
Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W.

The Illusionists
Dec. 12-Jan. 7
Marvel as seven world-class magicians perform dazzling displays of wizardy and more right before your eyes. Back by popular demand—last year’s shows sold out—new performers are part of this year’s line up, including Darcy Oake, a.k.a. The Grand Illusionist, who performs death-defying acts, while Raymond Crowe, a.k.a. The Unusualist, is a mime and ventriloquist, and An Ha Lim, a.k.a. The Manipulator, mesmerizes audiences with card tricks.
Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W.

Dance Me/Music of Leonard Cohen
Dec. 15
This Toronto premiere by Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM) pays tribute to beloved Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen. This contemporary dance company, known for its expressive style and accessibility, selects music from the span of Cohen’s lengthy career.
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E.

DJ Skate Nights on the Natrel Rink
Dec. 16-Feb. 17
Head down to the waterfront for a scenic twirl on the rink at Harbourfront Centre. DJs spin tunes every Saturday night, with hot beverage and bites available from the rinkside restaurant, Boxcar Social.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

Sing-Along Messiah
Dec. 17
Become part of the choir at this interactive show led by conductor “Herr Handel” as thousands of voices sing Handel’s beloved Hallelujah chorus. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, along with featured soloists Joanne Lunn, James Laing, Rufus Müller, and Brett Polegato, take part in this family-friendly concert.
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Presents Reach for the Stars
Dec. 22-Jan. 1
Beloved friends from the Disney Kingdom, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, join a royal cast that includes Anna and Elsa (and their snowy sidekick, Olaf), Ariel, Rapunzel, and Belle for a musical skating spectacle. Sing along to such songs as “Be Our Guest,” “Let It Go,” and “Tale as Old as Time.”
Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way

Toronto Christmas Market
To Dec. 23
Inspired by traditional European Christmas markets—and named one of the world’s best by Fodor’s Travel—the magic of the season is on dazzling display at the pedestrian-friendly Distillery District. Good boys and girls can have a photo op with Santa, visit a life-sized gingerbread house, and take a spin on a carousel or a ferris wheel. Grown ups can head to one of several heated lounges and beer gardens throughout the venue and partake in craft beers, mulled wines, European cocktails, and hot toddies.
Distillery District, 55 Mill St.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
Dec. 31
Bid farewell to 2017 and ring in the new year at the city’s central gathering spot, Nathan Phillips Square. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. (get there earlier to secure a good spot), featuring live performances, a DJ skating party, and an impressive fireworks display to cap off TO Canada with Love, a year-long celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.

Luminato Festival: the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Plays Twice

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs outside at the Luminato Festival

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs outside at the Luminato Festival

JUNE 15 & 21  Fans of classical music have two occasions to celebrate during Luminato—the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to make a pair of contributions to this year’s festival programming. Reprising a novel conceit from previous editions of Luminato, the ever-popular ensemble will once again stay up late, this time to perform a pair of Russian classics (Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade) on with featured pianist Yuja Wang. Just a few evenings later, the TSO sets up outside for A Symphonic Birthday Party in honour of the 200th birthdays of Verdi and Wagner, and the 80th birthday of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. June 15: Roy Thomson Hall, 10 p.m., $25 to $45. June 21: David Pecaut Square, 8 p.m., free; call 416-593-4828 or visit www.tso.ca for more information.  —Laura Sabatini

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman Sings with the TSO

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman sings with the TSO this month (photo: Mat Dunlap)

Soprano Measha Brueggergosman sings with the TSO this month (photo: Mat Dunlap)

APRIL 11 & 13  Enjoy a classical pairing of major proportions as acclaimed Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman takes the stage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for an evening of music by Barber, Duparc and more. Roy Thomson Hall, 8 p.m., $29 to $145; call 416-593-4828 or visit tso.ca to buy.  —Macrina Smart

Hot Date: 3 Top Holiday Concerts

The Barra MacNeils offer Maritime holiday cheer (photo: Evan MacNeil)

Enjoy the sounds of the season at two of Toronto’s finest concert venues; call 416-872-4255 or visit here to buy.

DECEMBER 15  Cape Breton’s first family of song, The Barra MacNeils, present an East Coast Christmas with special guests including Alan Doyle and Jimmy Rankin. Roy Thomson Hall, 8 p.m., $29.50 to $69.50.

DECEMBER 15 & 16  Angelic tunes are on offer as the St. Michael’s Choir School lends its 270 voices and 75 years of tradition to a charming holiday concert. Massey Hall, Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m., $20 to $40.

DECEMBER 18, 19, 21, 22 & 23  The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir join to perform Handel’s Messiah, a seasonal tradition. Roy Thomson Hall, various times, $38 to $105.  —Eva Voinigescu

Hot Date: The TSO Tackles Rodgers and Hammerstein

photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

OCTOBER 9 & 10  The hills are alive with the sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents an enchanted evening of hits by one of Broadway’s most famous musical duos. Under the direction of pops conductor Steven Reineke—and featuring vocal performances by Ashley Brown, Aaron Lazar and Jonathon Eastbrooks—the ensemble reinvigorates classic songs from The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The King and I, and much more. Roy Thomson Hall, Tuesday 8 p.m., Wednesday 2 and
8 p.m., $29 to $110; call 416-593-7769 or visit here for more information.

Weekend Roundup: June 22 to 24

Friday: Janelle Monae offers a high-energy set at the Toronto Jazz Festival

Friday, June 22
More than 1,500 musicians are crowding into the city over the next 10 days for this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival. The much-anticipated event’s opening-night concerts include one-of-a-kind guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel take the stage for a solo performance, while modern-day R&B/soul/funk phenom Janelle Monae gets everyone grooving at the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage.

Celebrity air hostess Pam Ann touches down at the Panasonic Theatre for three uproarious nights of comedy. Fasten your seatbelts and follow Ann back to the glitzy golden age of flight—her huge hairdo, candy-pink uniform and disco boots certainly hearken back to that “glamorous” era!

Francophones and Francophiles come together to celebrate the diversity of French culture at this weekend’s Franco-Fête festival. Voila! Harbourfront Centre offers culinary delights, dancing and musique from Canadian artists like Ariane Moffatt and Samian et Anodajay, performing tonight on the WestJet Stage. (more…)

Hot Date: Yo-Yo Ma Comes to Roy Thomson Hall

MAY 30 & 31 World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is no stranger to this city. He returns this month to join the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Elgar’s elegant Cello Concerto, as well as a cross-cultural piece originally written by Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky for Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. The TSO rounds out the program with Rachmaninoff’s three-movement suite, Symphonic Dances. Roy Thomson Hall, 7:30 p.m., $49 to $185; call 416-593-4828 or click here for more information and tickets.

Weekend Roundup: April 27 to 29

Friday: the Red Hot Chili Peppers play the Air Canada Centre

Friday, April 27
Seemingly ageless rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers swing into Toronto for two shows as part of their I’m With You world tour. The multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning band famous for songs like “Scar Tissue,” “By the Way” and “Under the Bridge” play the Air Canada Centre tonight and tomorrow.

Sultry jazz-soul vocalist Kellylee Evans offers an intimate concert at Glenn Gould Studio. The Torontonian continues to promote her recent Juno Award-winning album Nina, a tribute to legendary singer Nina Simone.

Covering the walls of Gallery 44 tonight and through the weekend are incredible photographic works by local artists—the gallery’s Photopia 2012 event is a great opportunity to add some affordable art to your own collection.  (more…)

Weekend Roundup: April 13 to 15

Friday: Steven Page sings

Friday, April 13
Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page serenades the Winter Garden Theatre this evening with tunes from his new solo album, Page One. Nothing if not dramatic, Page’s performance runs the gamut of musical genres, from power pop to disco to folk and more.

Be wowed by the unique designs shown on the Mad Couture Catwalk at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The 33-piece collection showcases the creativity of local artists living with mental illness.

Legendary comedian Bob Newhart brings his deadpan wit and one-liners to Toronto for one night only. You’ll be rolling in the aisles as he offers up trademark stand-up classics like “The Driving Instructor” and “Sir Walter Raleigh.” (more…)

Weekend Roundup: March 30 to April 1

Friday: The Tao Japanese Drummings pound out a beat

Friday, March 30
Give your evening a bit (err… a lot) of rhythm at an explosive performance by the Tao Japanese Drummers, a 13-piece ensemble that fuses Japanese-style drumming with influences from Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the Far East to create a  spectacle of modern and traditional sound.

Operatic tenor Michael Schade returns to his hometown for a recital with Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni—making his Canadian debut—and Justus Zeyen on piano. On the program are the expressive words and music of German lieders by the likes of Schumann, Brahms, and Schubert, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Greer.

Vanguard indie-pop band The Magnetic Fields take the stage at the Sound Academy to promote their 10th album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea. As always, the band, formed by musician/songwriter/producer Stephin Merritt, promises a unique mix of tongue-in-cheek lyrics and synth-pop-meets-alt-folk sonics that really are not to be missed! (more…)

Weekend Roundup: March 23 to 25

Friday: Tracy Morgan brings the funny

Friday, March 23
For one night only (tonight, obviously), Tracy Morgan brings his slightly off-base brand of comedy to the Sony Centre. Edgy laughs come fast and furious as the 30 Rock and former Saturday Night Live cast member presents his stand-up act as part of the Canadian International Comedy Festival.

Contemporary art gallery The Power Plant kicks off its 25th-anniversary celebrations tonight with the opening of two exhibitions, Kerry Tribe’s Speak, Memory, and Dissenting Histories: 25 Years of The Power Plant, the latter of which offers a retrospective of the gallery’s past quarter-century.

Legendary axeman John Hammond sings (and plays) the blues this evening in Toronto. After five decades on the road—he’s performed with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton—and more than 30 albums under his belt, Hammond settles in at Hugh’s Room to play selections from his latest release, Rough and Tough. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: February 17 to 19

Friday: Only a few shows remain for Cruel and Tender (photo by Bruce Zinger)

Friday, February 17
Don’t miss one of your final opportunities to see Atom Egoyan’s return to his theatre roots as he directs his wife, Arsinee Khanjian, in Martin Crimp’s tour-de-force Cruel and Tender. This drama, which contrasts private battles and public wars, is on stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre until February 18.

Independent music showcase Wavelength celebrates its 12th anniversary with a four-night extravaganza of the newest and brightest in pop, rock and electronic music. Tonight’s lineup features Toronto’s own critically lauded hardcore band F*cked Up.

Virtuosic pianist Leon Fleisher commands the attention of the audience at Koerner Hall, as he and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra perform a bold selection of works by such masters as Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev.

Bonus Pick! Make your way to Indigo’s Manulife Centre location tonight to hear newly minted Giller Prize winner Esi Edugyan discuss her acclaimed novel, Half-Blood Blues, with the Globe and Mail‘s Sandra Martin. (more…)