Feeling forlorn by a hunkered-down holiday? It's true, the fact that the pandemic is picking up speed like the Grinch’s careening sleigh has upended much of Charleston's cherished seasonal pastimes.
While you're adjusting those post-turkey waistlines, now would be a good time to adjust your attitude, too.
Yes, holiday hopefuls, there is a Santa Claus song or two in your near future, delivered with the zest of local artists who are unleashing impressive cheer. Some are offering digital viewings to augment live shows. Others have moved annual events entirely online.
Here are a few sparkling local productions, all with home viewing options, which are sure to buoy flagging spirits. To make these moments merrier still, we've paired each with a similarly inspired local treat.
So, eat, drink and be merry, the Charleston at-home holiday way. You'll also show your support for our city's treasured arts community as it lifts us all.
Scrooge in the House
For 40 years, Charleston Stage has charmed audiences with its holiday dose of Dickens. Its take on “A Christmas Carol,” an original adaptation of the beloved classic imagined by the company's founding artistic director Julian Wiles, has become a beloved tradition.
This year, the company shares its 2018 production online. The perfect antidote for bah humbug inclinations, the show promises Christmas card sets, colorful costumes, an orchestra and a professional cast, along with other visual marvels, special effects and a holiday musical score.
“Why has this tale of Scrooge and Tiny Tim and friends endured for over 200 years?" asks Wiles in his program note. "Well, in addition to the many marvelous characters and situations Dickens gives us in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ this special story holds out the possibility for change and renewal — something I think everyone longs for at times. What is truly miraculous about us frail human beings is that we do have the capacity to change and grow.”
In addition to the online viewing, which is free with a donation of $10 or more to Charleston Stage's "Curtain Up" fund, there’s a free parent/education guide for kids ages 10 and up. All are available for download.
Tune In: Now through Dec. 31 via charlestonstage.com.
Pair up: Coburg Egg Nog, a Christmas classic with a wreathed-up and rotating cow to prove it.
Humming a new tune
Charleston Men’s Chorus regularly offers its "Christmas Concert" at Sottile Theatre. This year, which marks the choir’s 30th anniversary, the concert will be prerecorded instead and released on social media platforms.
For the performance, artistic director Ricard Bordas organized two in-person small groups within the choir, an a cappella quartet/quintet and a chamber choir of 13 singers and piano. The program offers music from the Renaissance and traditional Christmas carols, including “Still, Still, Still,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “A Little Drummer Boy,” “O Holy Night,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Bordas said the group started socially distanced rehearsals a few weeks ago on the fifth floor of the parking garage on Church and Cumberland streets. “We have heard several comments by those coming to pick up their cars after work,” he said.
Bordas notes there have been positive new experiences about rehearsing a choir in new ways. “This choral music is reaching some people that, otherwise, perhaps never would go to listen to a choir concert in person,” he said.
Tune in: Dec. 13 via charlestonmenschorus.org.
Pair up: Bordas recommends pairing the program of traditional Christmas songs with traditional Christmas foods. We're thinking gingerbread cookies, like those on offer at Charleston's Sugar Bakeshop, or give it a singularly Charleston flair by making its "Charleston Single" Gingerbread House Kit.
As part of its 2020-21 “Season of Hope,” Pure Theatre brings you “Satchmo at the Waldorf,” a one-man show by Terry Teachout featuring Pure Core Ensemble member Douglas Scott Streater, who portrays both Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.
The show is set backstage at the Empire Room of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the great New Orleans trumpet player prepares for a final performance while looking back on his illustrious life.
"Especially during the holidays, I love having the opportunity to consider the idea of "cheer" and what it means—both as a noun and as a verb," said Sharon Graci, artistic director of Pure Theatre. "Louis Armstrong personified cheer. To this day, his music inspires hope and has the transformative ability to bring instant happiness. In a time when public expressions of anger, struggle, disappointment, and fear assault our news and social media feeds, Armstrong's commitment to finding joy and embodying cheer, despite his lifelong battles against racism and labeling, is transcendent."
Tune in: Available for streaming from Dec. 17 through Jan. 2 by purchasing tickets or a seasonal Flex Pass at puretheatre.org.
Pair up: We recommend mixing your favorite rye with Bittermilk’s New Orleans Style Old Fashioned Rouge and garnish with a lemon twist. Pure suggests upping the Louisiana with a big bowl of red beans and rice.
Pops goes the holiday
Yuriy “Claus” Bekker and the Charleston Symphony promise the merriest-ever Holiday Pops! performance yet, with favorites like “Sleigh Ride” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” along with a sleigh full of surprise special guests.
The main event takes place live for socially distanced, limited-capacity performances at Charleston Gaillard Center. Ticket holders can download a recording of the performance to enjoy for the remainder of the holiday.
For added holiday shimmer, the CSO is offering patrons who purchase two tickets a complimentary pass to this year’s Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park with the checkout code CSOLIGHTS.
Tune in: Dec. 18 is sold out, but tickets are still available for the Dec. 19 performance.
Pair up: The CSO suggests a nice warm mug of hot chocolate for music lovers of all ages. Go local by picking up a Charleston Collection Hot Chocolate Tin from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier.
You can swing it
This past Friday at Firefly Distillery, Charleston Jazz let loose with a live performance of its annual Holiday Swing (shifting with its season to the socially distanced outdoor venue of Firefly Distillery in North Charleston due to the pandemic).
For the 2020 "Holiday Swing," the Charleston Jazz Orchestra brought in Zandrina Dunning and a host of Yuletide favorites, among them “All I Want for Christmas is You,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and “Winter Wonderland.”
"Enjoy holiday tunes with a twist, tasty cocktails to keep you warm and celebrate the season with us," said Tatjana Beylotte, executive director of Charleston Jazz. "Charleston Jazz is so grateful for the support of our community and look forward to sharing a wonderful season with you in 2021,"
Here’s a holiday miracle: There’s still a chance to enjoy this year’s event through the power of technology, as a download of the concert will soon be available for $10.
Tune in: The virtual performance premieres Dec. 19, and is available on demand thereafter.
Pair up: Get in the holiday red with a Ruby Slipper, made by mixing one part Firefly Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka, three parts club soda and a splash of cranberry juice, garnished with a lime wedge.
For 25 years, producers and performers Brad and Jennifer Moranz's "Charleston Christmas Special" have gathered singers, dancers and musicians in a glitzy and gleeful celebration of the most wonderful time of the year.
This year, the live show at limited capacity at Charleston Music Hall sold out. The show, however, will stream on.
“Jenny and I are very grateful we’re able to do the show at all, even in this limited capacity,” said Brad Moranz. “By offering a streaming option, families can keep their holiday tradition of enjoying the 'Charleston Christmas Special' while staying safe.”
This year, vocalist Tiffany Parker returns, along with country singer and ventriloquist Michael Minor. Jazz vocalist Amy Banks performs “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” and Matthew Billman shares a rendition of David Phelps’ “Birthday of the King.” Rodney Archie shares a gospel version of “Joyful Joyful.” There's plenty more, too.
Those wishing to stream the 2020 Charleston Christmas Special can purchase the streaming option for $25 (plus fees).
Tune in: From 7 p.m. Dec. 19-27. Those purchasing the streaming option will receive a unique link to view the show online, good for a one-time viewing, via www.bradandjennifermoranz.com.
Pair up: All this razzle-dazzle calls for confectionery bling. Pick up a box of St. Honore Pastry's Chocolate Truffles with flavors such as dark chocolate salted caramel, dark chocolate Grand Marnier, milk chocolate bourbon and white chocolate coconut.
Charleston's a cappella chamber choir The King's Counterpoint will post a live recording of its annual free Christmas Concert, "Christmas Through the Ages VII," online at no cost to viewers.
David Acres, musical director of The King's Counterpoint said, “It's been a Charleston holiday tradition for the past seven years, ever since the choir was formed.”
The idea to go online came after the group’s November online concert, attracting a vast audience of choral music lovers from around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Australia and North America.
While holiday travel may be off the table this year, audience members can still embark on a musical journey across the centuries. The concert traces sacred choral music first-century chants and the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance and ensuing centuries straight through to modern times.
“It has been extremely important to all of us at The King’s Counterpoint to bring music to our audience and to music lovers in Charleston,” Acres said.
Tune In: Livestreamed at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 on the King's Counterpoint YouTube Channel via event.gives/kcpctta. Before then, click the link for an online raffle, CDs, a sponsorship store and donation portal.
Pair up: David Acres suggests a Christmas cocktail with one ounce Jasper Gin, one ounce of cranberry juice, one teaspoon of lemon juice, six ounces of club soda, or enough to fill the glass, garnished with fresh cranberries.