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Chicago Symphony Chorus sets 'Yule!' tradition
By Bill Gowen | Daily Herald Classical Music Critic
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Published: 12/4/2008 12:02 AM

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Our second installment of 2008 holiday concerts begins with what has become a tradition over the last 14 years: "Welcome Yule!" at Symphony Center in Chicago. It's the annual showcase for the Chicago Symphony Chorus and its director, Duain Wolfe, with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also taking part.

The eight performances of this full-length concert are 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14; 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19; 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20; 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21; and 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23. Wolfe will conduct a wide variety of holiday music, including an audience singalong, plus dancing and other musical surprises. Also, Santa Claus will make his annual visit to the festively decorated Orchestra Hall. Guest artists will include Midwest Young Artists Voices Rising (Gary Fry, director), the Welcome Yule! Children's Ensemble and Dance Ensemble.

Anyone who has attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's annual Macy's Day of Music know that Symphony Center has several performing spaces in addition to Orchestra Hall. As part of its "Welcome Yule!" celebration, the CSO has invited several Chicago and suburban high school and community choirs to give free performances in conjunction with the main concerts.

Here are the dates and times and locations of the performances by area school ensembles:

• On Sunday, Dec. 14, the Hinsdale Central High School Madrigal Singers will perform at 1 p.m. in the Fifth Floor Lobby and at 4:30 p.m. in the First Floor Rotunda; the Vernon Hills High School Chamber Choir will perform at 4:30 p.m. in the Inner Lobby; at 4:30 p.m. the Hoffman Estates High School Madrigal Singers will perform in the Fifth Floor Lobby.

• On Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., the Glenbard East Madrigal Singers are in the First Floor Rotunda, the Downers Grove South Madrigal Singers in the Grainger Ballroom and the Leyden High School choir in the Fifth Floor Lobby;

• And, on Dec. 21, at 1 p.m., the Naperville North Madrigal Singers will perform in the Grainger Ballroom.

Tickets for the "Welcome Yule!" extravaganza range from $20 to $98 and are available at the Symphony Center box office at (312) 294-3000, or by visiting cso.org. Major credit cards are accepted.

DuPage Symphony: As a special treat for the holidays, music director Barbara Schubert will lead the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and a critically acclaimed cast of vocal soloists in "Hansel and Gretel" at North Central College's new Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. The two performances are 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14.

Two semi-staged performances of Engelbert Humperdinck's beloved fairy-tale opera will be performed in English, featuring soprano Stacey Tappan as Gretel, mezzo-soprano Jessye Wright as Hansel, mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott as the Mother and baritone Jeffrey Ray as the Father. The DSO will be joined by the Opera Festival Chorus from Crone Middle School.

Tickets are $27 (preferred) and $22 (regular) for adults; $24 (preferred) and $19 (regular) for seniors 65 and over; and $10 (preferred and regular) for students 18-25 with valid ID. Preferred seats are rows A-K on the main floor and rows AA-DD in the balcony.

Tickets for all 2008-09 DSO season performances in Wentz Concert Hall must be purchased through the North Central College box office. Phone (630) 637-7469 or visit the NCC Fine Arts Center Web site at finearts.northcentralcollege.edu. There is an $2 surcharge for all online orders.

Bella Voce: One of the Midwest's finest a cappella vocal ensembles, Bella Voce will offer its annual holiday concerts, this year called "Among the Stars that Glisten," at locations in Chicago and the suburbs Dec. 11, 13 and 14.

The concert will feature holiday music from England, Estonia, Germany, Poland, Italy and America, under the leadership of Bella Voce's artistic director, Andrew Lewis.

The performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago's Millennium Park; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at The Presbyterian Church of Barrington, 6 Brinker Road; and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at St. Procopius Abbey, 5601 College Road in Lisle.

Tickets are $40 for premium seating, $30 for general admission and $25 for seniors or students. To order or for information, visit bellavoce.org. For the Harris Theater location only, tickets are $40 general admission and can be ordered at harristheaterchicago.org.

"Holiday Showcase" reminder: This weekend's biggest area holiday event, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra's third annual "Holiday Showcase at the Sears Centre," is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sears Centre arena in Hoffman. Estates. Tony Award nominee and Rockford native Jodi Benson will be the host, and music director Robert Hanson will conduct the ESO and the Holiday Festival Chorus, with the concert including Cirque du Soleil jugglers and aerialists; Olympic ice dancing pair Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, and a visit by Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

Tickets for this one-night event are still available at the Sears Centre Box Office and start at $17 for children and $29 for adults. Call 1-888-SEARSTIX (732-7784), or purchase tickets online at searscentre.com.