This is the perfect season to strengthen your family’s appreciation for the arts, especially music. Many holiday concerts are affordable and offer free or lower-cost tickets for children, youth and groups. And since so many seasonal concerts include the opportunity to sing along, it’s the season that brings out the music-maker in everyone.
Holiday concerts are also often a child’s first experience of a real concert hall. Enjoy the opportunity to dress up and make concert-going a real occasion. Discover the majesty of Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, or Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, or Town Hall Seattle’s soaring dome of a room. Or you might seek sounds of the season within the acoustic sanctuary of a neighborhood church.
Here are some of our top picks for this season's great-value family concerts and singalongs.
Free or almost-free concerts and singalongs
Nov. 24–Dec. 23, free to listen on shore, 40-plus communities
A regional and beloved tradition! Check the schedule and find out when the Christmas Ships will be stopping at a community near you, so you can bundle up and head to the shore to enjoy a bonfire and choir music from the ships. Each night features a different choir, with different destinations. The famed Dickens Carolers perform on over a dozen of these sailings; the Christmas Eve finale features Seattle Girls’ Choir’s most advanced voices, Prime Voci. Carolers float around the Seattle-area waterways, leaving music in their wakes. You can also ride along (check online for value-priced nights).
Light the Candles
Dec. 2, West Seattle; Dec. 9, Olympia; Dec. 12, Bellevue, $6–$12
Seattle Jewish Chorale’s interactive, family-friendly Hanukkah concert, with songs in Hebrew, English, Yiddish and Ladino.
Annual Red White & Blue Holiday Concert, 133rd Army Band of the Washington National Guard
Dec. 2, 2 p.m., FREE, Auburn Ave. Theater
Music to honor the troops, plus holiday favorites. Tickets are free but required for admission. Limit six per family. Pick up tickets at the Auburn Parks, Arts & Recreation Office.
Figgy Pudding Street Corner Caroling Competition
Dec. 7, 6 p.m., FREE, downtown Seattle
One thousand carolers and dozens of caroling teams sing their hearts out on downtown Seattle street corners and around Westlake Center, followed by a sing-off.
Reilly & Maloney
Dec. 8, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., FREE, Crossroads Market Stage, Bellevue
The great American folk duo, based here in the Pacific Northwest, in two free one-hour concerts. Ginny Reilly and David Maloney have been stirring harmony with their sweet voices for two generations. The peaceful troubadours have just rereleased their lovely 2003 Christmas album, so expect plenty of that. (NOTE: longer, ticketed R&M concerts are Friday, Dec 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford and Sunday, Dec. 9, 4 p.m. at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theatre in Snohomish.)
Brian Vogan and His Good Buddies Rockin’ in a Winter Wonderland
Dec. 15, 2 p.m.; $6, Auburn Avenue Theatre
The award-winning Seattle-based children’s recording artist performs as part of the Ave Kids series. Ages 4–12.
Clarence Acox and the award-winning Garfield High School Jazz Band
Dec. 23, 12:30 p.m., FREE, Seattle Center Armory
Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival calls drummer, conductor, and educator Clarence Acox “the man who sets the gold standard for Seattle’s nationally prominent jazz-education system.” For over three decades, he’s nurtured the Garfield High School Jazz Band into a four-time first-place New York festival national award winner. He performs as part of Winterfest at Seattle Center.
The Dickens Carolers
Dec. 29, 12:30 p.m., FREE, Seattle Center Armory
For over 30 years, the Dickens Carolers have been Seattle’s costumed purveyors of seasonal music: warm, familiar, and just right for the season of gingerbread and cider. These professional a cappella singers — many of them Gilbert and Sullivan society performers — audition in the summer, rehearse all fall, and emerge at this season in their 19th century outfits: men in top hats and tails, women in luxuriant velvet. (You’ll find them all over town, including at parties, in hotel lobbies, on a dozen of the Christmas Ship sailings, and at the Westlake Carousel.)
Kindermusik’s Symphony Serenade: Holiday Spectacular
Dec. 1, 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.
Benaroya Hall, Seattle
A 35-minute concert that’s part of Seattle Symphony’s excellent Tiny Tots series, with singalongs, musical games and stories for ages birth–6.
$12; everyone needs a ticket, even babes in arms
LUCO (Lake Union Civic Orchestra) Family Holiday Concert & Sing-Along
Dec. 2, 2 p.m., Town Hall Seattle
The pet project of award-winning conductor Christophe Chagnard (Northwest Sinfonietta’s Music Director), this excellent, all-volunteer ensemble leads an afternoon of festive holiday music, including a singalong of classic carols.
A Christmas Party with the Symphony
Dec. 2, 2 p.m., Federal Way
The Federal Way Symphony plays at St. Luke’s Church, with a video of The Nutcracker accompanying the orchestra’s performance of the famous suite. Mix of holiday classics and festive orchestral works.
$37 ($27 seniors); free to students 18 and under
Sounds of the Season
Dec. 2, 2:30 p.m., Pantages Theater, Tacoma
Tacoma Youth Chorus performs with Tacoma Symphony Orchestra for this annual holiday show, a great way to introduce your family to this beautiful hall and fine orchestra. There are seven auditioned youth choirs, conducted by the TSO’s honored music director, Harvey Felder.
A Festival of Lessons and Carols
Dec. 7–22, in Seattle, West Seattle, Lynnwood, Bothell
The great 34-year tradition by the Northwest Boychoir, patterned after Christmas Eve at King’s College in Cambridge, England. Gorgeous sacred sounds. Nine 90-minute performances all around town; they often sell out. Holy Rosary Church in West Seattle and St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill are especially known as great music venues. They perform at Benaroya Hall on Dec. 23.
Ages 5 and up; all must have ticket, $10–$25; tickets are more expensive for the Benaroya performance
Seattle Pro Musica’s Family Holiday Concert
Dec. 8, 3–4 p.m., Town Hall Seattle
Don’t miss these internationally acclaimed Seattle (adult) choral artists, conducted by Karen P. Thomas. American Record Guide called them “one of America’s best choirs.” Their Christmas concerts usually sell out, so plan ahead. At Town Hall, the one-hour family-friendly matinee (with young singers joining the regulars) includes traditional carols and audience singalong. Later that evening, SPM returns to the same stage for a full-length concert, which repeats on Dec. 15 at Bastyr Chapel.
Dec. 9, 4 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, Everett
The English composers seem born to the task of Christmas settings. With music by Britten and Rutter, accompanied by harp, set in a venue singers love, this concert by Seattle Girls' Choir’s top-level performers, Prime Voci, should earn its title — which means “songs of angels.” They also perform the same concert on Dec. 16, 4 p.m., in Magnolia.
Annual Holiday Concert, Seattle Girls’ Choir
Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m., Town Hall Seattle
All six levels of Seattle Girls’ Choir perform.
Strike the Harp and Join the Chorus
Dec. 16, 3 p.m.
Northwest Girlchoir performs, all five levels, at Meany Theatre on the UW campus.
Advent Lessons and Carols
Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., Holy Rosary Church, West Seattle
A concert with the two most seasoned and award-winning groups from Seattle Girls’ Choir. Musicians love the acoustics at Holy Rosary Church.
$10 recommended donation; $25/family
More holiday arts
About the author: Seattle writer Gigi Yellen hosted years of holiday music on Seattle’s KING FM. She lives to sing and dance.