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BPR’s December 2021 specials: joyful classics, choral traditions and festive storytelling

Pine branches and leaves laid on a dark table in the shape of a wreath

BPR is pleased to share a vibrant line-up for specials for the 2021 holiday season – from annual live traditions like the Christmas Eve broadcast “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” and “New Year's Day From Vienna” to new programs for BPR, including “Apollo's Fire presents Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Irish-Appalachian Celebration” and “A Season's Griot,” public radio's only nationally syndicated Kwanzaa program. Listen on-airstream online or on BPR’s free mobile app.  

Monday December 13th

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - A Soulful Christmas 

A Soulful Christmas is an uplifting, relevant display of Black music in the classical, gospel, spiritual, and jazz-inspired style. This special celebrates the non-idiomatic Black classical music, while exploring non-idiomatic choral traditions. Guests include: D’Walla Simmons-Burke, director of Choral Activities at Winston-Salem State University; Jason Max Ferdinand, conductor, “The Aeolians;” Dr. David Morrow, director of Choral Activities at Morehouse College; Dr. Tony McNeil, director of Choral Activities at Clinton College and Dr. Brittany Boykin, assistant professor of music at Georgia Tech. 

Tuesday December 14th

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Welcome Christmas 

There’s no better way to welcome Christmas than Welcome Christmas!, the VocalEssence holiday concert conducted by Philip Brunelle. It’s an hour of joyful, classic holiday music from VocalEssence, one of the world’s premiere choral groups, singing traditional carols and new discoveries. 

Wednesday December 15th 

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Candles Burning Brightly* 

Candles Burning Brightly is a one-hour celebration of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights with an exploration of Chanukah foods, traditional activities, and plenty of music. Music includes: Dov Frimer (arr Netsky and Jacobson); Al HaNissim – Zamir Chorale of Boston and Ensemble; Traditional -- Blessing Melody - Andrea Stern, harp; Traditional (arr Ellstein; choral arr Jacobson, orch Gelber); Candle Blessings – Cantor Morton Shames, Aram Demirjian; New England Conservatory Chorus and Orchestra and more. 

*Rescheduled from previous air date of 12/17 at 10 AM 

Thursday December 16th

9:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - St. Olaf Christmas Festival

Melius Christiansen started the Christmas Festival in 1911 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota as a simple service in word and song for students, faculty, friends and family. In the 109 years since, it has grown to include more than 500 student musicians who share their gifts with more than 12,000 audience members at the four live concerts – tickets for which always sell out months in advance.Programming includes sacred choral and instrumental music from many traditions: beloved hymns, classical masterworks, folk songs from around the world, andAfrican American spirituals. 

Friday December 17th

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square 

The sounds of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square floated into many homes during the holidays in the '60s & '70s on Goodyear and Firestone albums, bringing lush renditions of favorite Christmas carols. Those warm memories and feelings come right back again in this holiday special. The choir continues its tradition of great artistry with touching arrangements of familiar carols, and surprises with lesser-known melodies that are fast becoming the new classics. 

10:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - A Chanticleer Christmas*

This one-hour program of holiday favorites, new and old, will be presented live in concert by Chanticleer, the superb 12-man ensemble known as "an orchestra of voices." Chanticleer is one of the premiere vocal ensembles in the nation. The ensemble has won two Grammys and is a member of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. 

*Rescheduled from previous air date on 12/15 at 9 AM

Sunday December 19th

7:00-8:00 PM (BPR Classic) - Joy To The World – A Holiday in Pink 

The internationally acclaimed “little orchestra" Pink Martini bedecks the airwaves with festive holiday songs from across the globe. From timeless classics to rarely heard gems, hear a multi-denominational, multi-cultural jubilee, overflowing with enough holiday spirit to warm your entire family. Hosted by All Things Considered’s Ari Shapiro. 

8:00-9:00 PM (BPR Classic) - Festivo Alt.Latino feat. Gaby Moreno 

NPR Music’s Alt.Latino presents a 2015 encore featuring songwriter/performer Gaby Moreno and her band performing tracks from her popular holiday album Posada - recorded live at the KUT studios in Austin, Texas. She was joined by special guests Gina Chavez and Chicano Zen bandleader and record producer Michael Ramos. Hosted by Felix Contreras 

9:00-10:00 PM BPR Classic - A World Cafe Holiday  

World Cafe is celebrating 30 years by revisiting special holiday performances from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Los Lobos, Andrew Bird, The Bird and The Bee, Pink Martini, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more. Hosted by Raina Douris, this musical gift will provide a full hour of hip holiday cheer. 

Monday December 20 

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Apollo's Fire presents Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain: An Irish-Appalachian Celebration 

The latest holiday program from GRAMMY®-award winners Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire is a communal celebration of the American immigrant experience, sharing the spirit and history of Appalachia’s Irish and Scottish roots through music. The 35-member ensemble includes 10 children and brings a joyous concert experience with the warmth of period instruments. Fiddlers, medieval harp, hammered dulcimer, bagpipes, singers, and children’s voices join together to evoke the Celtic roots of an Appalachian holiday. In this one-hour special, the listener is transported from Christmas Eve in medieval Scotland to the folk carols and shape‐note hymns at a toe‐tapping Christmas gathering in Virginia. The special is hosted by WFMT’s Candice Agree and conductor, harpsichordist, and Artistic Director of Apollo’s Fire, Jeannette Sorrell.  

10:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - A Mountain Stage Holiday 

From the heartfelt to the humorous, Mountain Stage looks back at the songs and stories that remind us of this special time of year. Larry Groce hosts 

7:00-9:00 PM and Tuesday December 21 9:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice 2021  

The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice 2021 is a musical celebration of the winter holidays: Christmas, the Solstice, Chanukah, Jonkonnu, New Year’s and Twelfth Night/Epiphany -- featuring traditional carols, anthems, wassails, hymns, children’s game-songs, and folk dance-tunes excerpted from live Christmas Revels stage productions presented around the country. 

Wednesday December 22nd

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic) - A Choral Christmas With Stile Antico 

Celebrate Christmas with the sound of soaring voices. Stile Antico, the award winning choir from London, pays a visit to St. Paul’s church on Harvard Square for a concert of radiant sacred music for the Christmas season by the most acclaimed composers of the renaissance. Hear the group’s luminous blend of voices sing the intricately woven music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. Hosted by Cathy Fuller of WGBH. Presented by NPR Music. 

10:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Christmas with Morehouse and Spelman Glee Clubs 

One of the great holiday traditions in America, the choirs of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges -- two of the most prestigious historically black institutions in the nation -- get together to present a spine-tingling concert program. This encore presentation features the best works of the last several years. It's a joyous celebration of the schools' tradition of singing excellence, with their trademark mixture of spirituals and carols. Korva Coleman hosts. 

Thursday December 23nd

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR News & BPR Classic) - Jonathan Winters’ A Christmas Carol  

From NPR and KCRW, an updated version of a public radio tradition hosted by NPR's Susan Stamberg. Master comedian Jonathan Winters presents a distinctive reading of Dickens' holiday classic, with a special performing edition prepared by Dickens for his own presentations. Also featuring Mimi Kennedy.  

10:00-11:00 AM (BPR Classic) - Hollywood Holiday 

Lynne Warfel, host of Saturday Cinema, takes listeners on a one-hour musical retrospective of some of Hollywood's most cherished Christmas themed movies. Selections feature scores from “Scrooge, the Musical,” “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” “The Polar Express,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and more. 

Friday December 24th

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR Classic & News) - Selected Shorts: Holiday Hurdles with David Sedaris  

In Selected Shorts: Holiday Hurdles with David Sedaris, audiences are invited to reimagine holiday rituals. Selected Shorts’ late host and founder Isaiah Sheffer is featured as the reader of Tobias Wolff’s “Powder,” in which a pre-Christmas snowstorm provides an adventure for a father and son. In Allegra Goodman’s gentle borrowing from an O’Henry classic, a long-established couple discover they can surprise one another; Dana Ivey and Michael Cerveris read her “Gifts of the Jewish Magi. And David Sedaris says English writer Jeanette Winterson captures the city to a T in “Christmas in New York,” a modern fairy tale with just a hint of magic, performed by Richard Masur. Repeats Saturday December 25th, 8:00 PM (BPR News). 

10:00-Noon (BPR Classic) - A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols  

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols presents your audience with an opportunity to share in a live, world-wide Christmas Eve broadcast of a service of Biblical readings, carols, and related seasonal Classical music. This special will be presented by one of the world’s foremost choirs of men and boys and performed in an acoustically and architecturally renowned venue, the 500-year-old Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, England. 

Saturday December 25th 

Noon-3:00 PM (BPR News & Classic) - Tinsel Tales: NPR Christmas Favorites 

NPR fills millions of homes each holiday with humor, warmth, and a host of festive voices. Continuing with the tradition of the first Tinsel Tales program, this is another collection of the best and most requested holiday stories. Joy, hope, and childhood memories overflow as NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Audie Cornish, Ken Harbaugh, Nina Totenberg and other voices from NPR's past and present tell stories of the season. In the final hour, NPR revisits interviews with musicians about their Christmas albums. Some, like Katie Melua and Sting, celebrate tradition and winter mystery in their Christmas songs. Others, like Kenny Rogers and Amy Grant, find spirituality and stability in holiday music. Jon Batiste and Anthony Hamilton bring new energy to old favorites on their Christmas albums. Hosted by Lynn Neary.  

3:00-4:00 PM (BPR News & Classic) - The Big Tiny Desk Concert Holiday Special 

Celebrate the season with amazing holiday performances from The Tiny Desk Concert series including Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Steve Martin, Hanson, The Polyphonic Spree and more! Hosted by NPR Music frenemies Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson. 

4:00-5:00 PM (BPR News & Classic) - Jazz Piano Christmas 2021  

Join us for a twist on your favorite holiday classics! The Kennedy Center and NPR present A Jazz Piano Christmas, the holiday tradition and annual sell-out, where pianists perform their favorite seasonal music. This year features Kennedy Center favorite George Cables, Latin all-star Rebeca Mauleón, Mark G. Meadows and Hancock Institute International Piano Competition Finalist Joshua White. 

6:00-7:00 PM (BPR News & Classic) - A World Cafe Holiday 

World Cafe is celebrating 30 years by revisiting special holiday performances from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Los Lobos, Andrew Bird, The Bird and The Bee, Pink Martini, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more. Hosted by Raina Douris, this musical gift will provide a full hour of hip holiday cheer. 

7:00-8:00 PM (BPR News & Classic) - An Afro Blue Christmas 

Here's a very special holiday concert with Howard University's premiere vocal ensemble Afro Blue, and special guest pianist Cyrus Chestnut. The a-cappela group performs a variety of holiday songs including African American spirituals, jazz and pop tunes, and classical repertoire. The joyous celebration includes one-of-a-kind arrangements on traditional holiday songs plus new compositions -- music perfect for the holidays and the spirit of Christmas. Hosted by Michele Norris. 

Sunday December 26th

7:00-8:00 PM (BPR Classic) - All Songs Considered for the Holiday Extravaganza  

Bob Boilen is like a child this time of year, his eyes and ears full of wonder, as he traipses through the NPR Music offices, vigorously jingling his collection of sleigh bells. He believes, in his heart, that he's truly getting everyone in the spirit of the holiday season. But it's always a steady source of irritation for Robin so he tries to escape but ends up on a steam engine headed to the North Pole. (This is a repeat of the 2017 episode.)  

8:00-9:00 PM (BPR Classic) - Jazz Night In America: A Holiday Celebration 

This holiday, Jazz Night in America will present popular jazz artists sharing their seasonal music from forthcoming holiday albums. Enjoy first-person stories and memories from the musicians and hear festive originals and new takes on classics in this special episode. More details to come soon. Christian McBride hosts. 

9:00-10:00 PM - Christmas Memories with Dee Alexander 

Christmas is time for celebration, family, and togetherness. And although the weather outside may be cold, Dee Alexander’s music and stories are sure to keep you warm and hopeful through the holiday season. In this special, Dee shares songs that inspire celebration and spark nostalgia for the holiday, spinning classics like Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song and Mahalia Jackson’s No Room at the Inn. With her impeccable selections and inviting hosting style, this special is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit! 

Friday December 31st

9:00-10:00 AM (BPR News & BPR Classic) - A Season's Griot 2021  

A Season's Griot is public radio's only nationally syndicated Kwanzaa program. Hosted for 25 years by acclaimed storyteller Madafo Lloyd Wilson, this annual one-hour special captures the tales and traditions of African American and African peoples. The show’s poet laureate, Beverly Fields Burnette, and other members of the Season’s Griot family return with familiar and favorite elements of Griot. Repeats Saturday January 1st 8:00 PM (BPR News). 

8:00-9:00 PM (BPR News & BPR Classic) - Joy To The World – A Holiday in Pink  

The internationally acclaimed “little orchestra" Pink Martini bedecks the airwaves with festive holiday songs from across the globe. From timeless classics to rarely heard gems, hear a multi-denominational, multi-cultural jubilee, overflowing with enough holiday spirit to warm your entire family. Hosted by All Things Considered’s Ari Shapiro. 

9:00 PM-1:00 AM (BPR News & BPR Classic) - Toast of the Nation 

An NPR tradition every New Year's Eve since the 1970s, Toast of the Nation is the perfect audio complement for the occasion. It's festive jazz you can party to, all night long. 

Saturday January 1st

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM (BPR Classic) - New Year's Day From Vienna 2022 

The ever-popular annual New Year’s Day Concert will be performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. With this concert it is not only the desire of the Vienna Philharmonic to provide musically definitive interpretations of the masterworks of this genre, but also, as musical ambassadors of Austria, to send people all over the world a New Year's greeting in the spirit of hope, friendship and peace. Hosted by WBUR's Lisa Mullins. 


Catherine Komp joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in September 2020 as the organization’s first Director of Content, leading BPR’s talented team of local journalists and content creators, overseeing national programming and facilitating collaborations and engagement initiatives.