Stile Antico Photo: Marco Borggreve

Looking for some Christmas cheer? The good news is there are lots of classical music goodies for all the family to feast on in the run-up to Christmas – the perfect antidote to a rather dismal year. 

  1. Oxford Philharmonic – premieres John Rutter’s ‘Joseph’s Carol’, with Sir Bryn Terfel, dedicated to the Oxford vaccine team, Friday 18 December, 6:30pm streamed on Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s YouTube Channel

In recognition of the formidable work accomplished by the team of scientists at the University of Oxford on their Covid-19 vaccine, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra will stream a celebratory concert recorded in The Sheldonian Theatre presented by John Suchet.
Performed by bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, the short concert features the premiere of John Rutter’s Joseph’s Carol, written in tribute to the Oxford Vaccine Group, the Jenner Institute and the RECOVERY team.

Oxford Philharmonic. Pic by Chris Gloag

Bryn Terfel also joins the Orchestra and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, in a rousing programme from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone (with Jette Parker Young Artist Alexandra Lowe) to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. 

Sir Bryn and the Orchestra will be joined by chorister Alexander Olleson of Christ Church Cathedral Choir, a BBC Young Chorister Of The Year 2020 finalist. From Russia and Germany respectively, world-renowned virtuoso violinists Maxim Vengerov perform the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, and Anne-Sophie Mutter offers her own special tributes to the programme. 

2) Oxford Philharmonic – A Christmas Special

Released online on 1st December, this cheerful family-friendly concert features a brass quintet playing festive favourites, complete with Christmas jumpers and tons of tinsel. So grab some drinks and nibbles, put on your own Christmas jumpers, and enjoy! This is the first in a three-part series created by Principal 2nd Violinist Jamie Hutchinson, who also makes a guest appearance in the concert. The series continues in the New Year with two new episodes, Dance and Brass Movies.

3) Oxford Bach Soloists – Back to Bach: Peace Be With You

Sunday 6th December, 3pm

This half-hour concert is the latest in the OBS’s Back to Bach series, which has been running on YouTube throughout lockdown. Enjoy two sublime Bach festive pieces – Violin Sonata in G, BWV 1021, with Jean Paterson (violin), Gabriel Amherst (cello) and Anhad Arora (harpsichord), who are then joined by baritone Ben Davies for Der Friede set mit dir (Peace be with you), BWV 158.

Oxford Bach Soloists

4) Carols by Candlelight

Sundays 6th, 13th and 20th December, 6pm

University Church of St Mary the Virgin

The carol service at the University Church is always a popular event. This year, due to numbers in the church having to be limited, there will be three carol services on successive Sundays, the final one being the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The services are very similar, and will be the traditional celebration of the Christmas story by candlelight, with music by the University Church Choir. These are ticketed events, each supporting local homeless charities The Gatehouse (, The Porch ( and Oxford Winter Night Shelter (

5) Stile Antico – A Renaissance Christmas

Friday 11th December, 8.30pm

University Church of St Mary the Virgin

Acclaimed vocal ensemble Stile Antico returns to live performance for the first time since March with this lovely festive programme, which has been inspired by the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols service. The one-hour concert, with no interval, features some of the most beautiful music from the Renaissance, with works by Byrd, Tallis, Victoria, Josquin, Aleotti, Guerrero and Sheppard, interspersed with poems by John Donne and George Herbert. 

Stile Antico Photo: Marco Borggreve

6) Bampton Classical Opera – Baroque Christmas Cantatas

A Concert for St Beornwald’s Day

Saturday 12th December, 4pm

St Mary’s Church, Witney

Anna Starushkevych mezzo-soprano Pic by Olya Dobrovolska 

Always a lovely event, this seasonal concert to mark St Beornwald’s Day has moved this year from Bampton to Witney, and includes two gorgeous Christmas baroque works: Scarlatti’s Non sò qual più m’ingombra and Caldara’s Amarilli vezzosa. The Bampton Classical Players are joined by mezzo-soprano Anna Starushkevych, who won the inaugural Bampton Classical Opera’s Young Singers’ Competition in 2013 and returned to sing in the 2014 and 2015 seasons; mezzo-soprano Cathy Bell, making her Bampton debut with this concert; and soprano Samantha Louis-Jean, who will be singing in Gluck’s The Crown and Paris and Helen in Bampton’s 2021 season. Andrew Griffiths conducts.

Andrew Griffiths, pic by Marco Borggreve.

The concert will also be available to view online from 14th December to 6th January for a small donation.

7) OperaUpClose – Sammy and the Beanstalk

December 19th-January 3rd 2021

As part of its online festive programme this year, Oxford Playhouse has teamed up with the award-winning OperaUpClose to present this special modern re-telling of Jack and the Beanstalk for children of 7 years upwards. Told from the perspective of 8-year-old Sammy, the piece draws inspiration from classic winter tales, opera, theatre and film to create this fun, magical and moving story, in which Sammy’s dad has become scared of the outside world. Can Sammy help her dad before Mum comes home for Christmas?

8) Instruments of Time & Truth – Socially Distanced Mini-Messiah

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Sunday 20th December, 2.30pm and 7pm

Instruments of Time & Truth

Oxford’s acclaimed period instrument ensemble brings a Messiah with a difference this year. To accommodate socially distanced audiences, there will be two performances of 90 minutes, both without interval, featuring highlights from this festive Handel favourite. Edward Higginbottom conducts. 

The orchestra also hopes to livestream this event, with details being released nearer the time. 

Booking for the two ticketed concerts closes on 6th December.

9) Orchestra of St John’s

The OSJ has a busy programme of live events coming up before Christmas, all in the wonderful setting of Dorchester Abbey.

First up, on 12th December, is the fourth concert in the OSJ Unlocked series, which features the Strings of Orchestra of St John’s and the OSJ Ashmolean Voices performing Karlowicz String Serenade, Hurd Love bade me welcome, Dett Ave Maria and Tchaikovsky String Serenade. John Lubbock conducts. 

This is followed on 16th December by the OSJ’s traditional carol concert with the OSJ Ashmolean Voices and conductor John Lubbock. 

Hannah Davey (OSJ soprano soloist)

On 19th December, John Lubbock conducts highlights from Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah, plus the famous Hallelujah Chorus. The OSJ Ashmolean Voices and Orchestra of St John’s are joined by Hannah Davey (soprano), Ellie Edmonds (mezzo-soprano), Xavier Hetherington (tenor) and Frazer Scott (bass-baritone) for what promises to be a joyful festive event. For an idea of what to expect, take a peek at this YouTube clip:

All concerts are an hour long, with no interval, and have two performances, at 6pm and 8pm, to allow as many people as possible to enjoy these live events.

The concerts will also be livestreamed free of charge, but donations are welcomed.

10) Follow the Stars: A Celebration of Christmas, Friday December 11, Christ Church Cathedral

Paddy Armstrong Christchurch Cathedral Oxford Macmillan Cancer. Andrew Ogilvy Photography

A galaxy of theatre and TV stars have lent their support once again for Oxford’s traditional Christmas concert in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Follow the Stars: A Celebration of Christmas features Stephen Fry, Sinead Cusack, Jeremy Irons, Max Irons, Greg Wise, Joanna Lumley and Toby Jones, as well as poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

The event also features baritones Roderick Williams and Christopher Purves, singer and radio/television presenter Alexander Armstrong and his son, New College chorister Paddy Armstrong, and the Oxford Bach Soloists, with conductor Tom Hammond-Davies and organist Steven Grahl.

Joanna Lumley pic by Giles Harvey

Audiences can enjoy some traditional seasonal fare from the guest soloists, including The Three Kings (Roderick Williams and Christopher Purves), Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (Alexander Armstrong) and In the Bleak Midwinter (Paddy Armstrong), as well as a selection of Christmas choral music from the Oxford Bach Choir.

Follow the Stars: A Celebration of Christmas premieres on Friday December 11 at 8pm and will remain available until December 31. The concert is free to view, but you need to register. For details, and to donate, visit



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