Here are some musical events that invite audience participation in NYC.
Caroling in Washington Square Park
One way to join the holiday hullaballoo is neighborhood caroling, my favorite locale being the arch in Washington Square Park on Christmas Eve. Sheet music is handed around at 5 o’clock and from then on, it’s speed-caroling, first and last verses only. Brevity was much appreciated by me during last year’s cold snap.
Dec. 24, 6PM, Washington Square Park
Community Messiah sing at Judson Memorial Church
I don’t go to sing-along performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” that being outside of my vocal range. But if I did, I’d stay downtown for that as well, and join the community Messiah sing at Judson Memorial Church, hosted by the West Village Chorale. Your $15 admission buys you scores, piano accompaniment and light refreshments at intermission. Judson Memorial Church is on the south side of Washington Square Park at Thompson Street.
Dec. 11, 3PM, 239 Thompson St.
Unsilent Night at Washington Square Park
The arch in Washington Square Park is also the gathering place for Unsilent Night, a holiday procession of boom boxes that wends from the West Village to Tompkins Square Park, a mile away. New York isn’t the only Unsilent Night happening. Since its inception, it’s spread all over the world.
Unsilent Night is hard to describe. The music, an electronic composition by Phil Kline has become cult classic, soon to be performed in New York for the 20th year. The New York Times described it intriguingly: …amplified drones and chimes and bells echo off buildings, stop traffic, baffle passers-by and encourage taxi horns to chime in. The 44-minute electronic Christmas carol is a slippery, swirling blizzard of sound.
This year I’m not going to miss it.
December 17, 7PM, Washington Square Arch
Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center
Unsilent Night may not be conventional holiday fare but for a seriously wacky holiday musical event, you have to move uptown to Rockefeller Center for Tuba Christmas. On a Sunday afternoon in December, around 500 hundred tuba players from all over the East Coast schlep their instruments to the ice skating rink, where they play holiday favorites while standing beneath the statue of Prometheus, clad in gold leaf and little else.
It’s quite a sight — and a sound. As instructions to participants note, rehearsal time is limited. Players register at 11:30 and start an hour later. By the time of the 3:30 concert they are an ensemble, ready with rousing versions of “Deck the Halls” and other carols – singing along very much encouraged.
Since its inception in 1974, Tuba Christmas has become a holiday ritual in more than 250 cities and town around the world. But it started in New York and it’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for it anywhere than the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and the golden gaze of Prometheus.
Dec. 11, 3:30PM, Rockefeller Plaza