Voices of music

Holidays mean more than candy canes and trees.

Wes Nagy, an organizer of the concert, conducts during a rehearsal last year. —Gabrielle Mannino

There’s a lot more to holiday music on Martha’s Vineyard than canned recordings of “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.” This season always offers numerous opportunities to enjoy concerts by some of the Island’s most talented vocal and instrumental groups. There’s a wide variety to choose from this year, including performances that encompass the religious, the secular, and some simply peaceful music to celebrate the solace of winter.

Christmas in Edgartown weekend will feature a holiday tradition when the MVRHS Minnesingers take to the stage at the Old Whaling Church for two concerts. The program will encompass an international mix, including a Renaissance motet, some songs in Latin, one in Spanish, and in honor of the group’s upcoming trip to Scotland, a medieval Scottish Christmas carol. As always, the concert will feature a sing-along of holiday favorites and a performance by the a capella group Soundwave, harmonizing on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” The group will be accompanied by Nancy Rogers on piano, Peter Boak on organ, Oliver Hughes on trumpet, and Brian Weiland playing the bodhran — an Irish hand drum — for the Scottish number. Last year the Minnesingers celebrated their 50th anniversary, and the group is still going strong under the direction of their new musical director Abigail Chandler. Minnesingers Winter Concert, Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 4 pm, at the Old Whaling Church. Tickets are $15.

One of the more moving annual holiday events is the Reflections of Peace Concert — a benefit for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. On Dec. 12 a variety of vocal and instrumental groups will perform at the Whaling Church. Featured performers include the West Tisbury UCC Choir, members of the Island Community Chorus, the Handbell Ringers, and an instrumental group comprised of Eric Johnson, Ed Merck, Brian Weiland, and Jan Hyer on, respectively, acoustic guitar, recorder, percussion, and cello. If you’ve never attended the Reflections of Peace concert, it’s a great opportunity to take a break from the holiday madness and reflect and relax. Reflections of Peace Concert, Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 pm at the Old Whaling Church. Tickets are $20.

Another lovely way to spend an evening is enjoying Handel’s “Messiah” as performed by vocalists from across the Island. Every year Grace Church sponsors the event, with accompaniment by a 10-piece orchestra. The concert has proven so popular that in its fifth year, it has moved from Grace Church to the Old Whaling Church. Conductor Wes Nagy says, “‘The Messiah’ seems to really signal Christmas. It’s one of those tangible things. When you hear the ‘Hallelujah chorus’ you can forget all of the hoopla and enjoy the true spirit of the holiday.” Handel’s “Messiah,” Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Old Whaling Church. Tickets are $20. Proceeds benefit the Island Food Pantry.

For something different, you can stop by the Chilmark Community Church any Sunday in December (through the 16th) for a unique event called “Offerings of Music and Light.” There will be a variety of performances of song, dance, story, and pieces for the piano and strings “in celebration of the love, joy, peace of the holiday season.” The evening includes a candle lighting and refreshments, and it’s free.