The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

6 holiday pops concerts to make the season merry and bright

Choose from six festive shows featuring special guest stars, new compositions and lots (and lots) of jingle bells

The National Symphony Orchestra will play three holiday pops concerts Friday and Saturday. (Scott Suchman)
3 min

Whether you’re listening to the grocery store P.A. system or the car radio, ’tis the season for an endless brigade of holiday music. But Christmas carols can be more than just an earworm. These holiday pops concerts prove, perhaps even to your inner Grinch, that jingle bells sound best live.

‘A Holiday Pops!’ with the National Symphony Orchestra: What better way to hear holiday songs than from Santa himself? The North Pole celebrity joins the orchestra for performances of classics from “Winter Wonderland” to “Santa Baby.” Also performing is Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti, who starred in “Gypsy” opposite Patti LuPone. Sing along to the 96-member ensemble’s arrangements in the festively decorated Kennedy Center Concert Hall at one of three concerts. Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. $39-$114.

‘Songs of the Season’ with American Festival Pops Orchestra: More than 60 musicians, including members of the U.S. military ensembles and George Mason University’s music faculty, make up AFPO, which brings festive favorites to GMU’s Center for the Arts in a holiday pops performance. The orchestra is joined by jazz vocalist Darden Purcell, as well as the Fairfax Four Quartet and the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble, for an evening of nearly two dozen Christmas classics and original compositions. Saturday at 8 p.m. From $36; half-price for children through grade 12.

‘Season of Hope’ with the U.S. Air Force Band: Beyond the neoclassical pillars outside DAR Constitution Hall, the Air Force Concert Band performs Christmas tunes fit for the family, as dancers from the Virginia Ballet perform selections from “The Nutcracker” and the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir joins in on carols. Saturday at 7 p.m. Free with reservations.

D.C.’s Different Drummers Holiday Concert: Ugly holiday sweaters are encouraged at this show featuring jazz, symphonic and chamber ensembles from D.C.’s Different Drummers, a group of over 125 LGBTQ+ musicians whose members will perform festive songs at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. Note: Proof of coronavirus vaccination is required for ages 12 and up. Sunday at 3 p.m. Free.

Several options to celebrate ‘Tuba Christmas’: In an annual tradition that was started 49 years ago in New York and has since expanded across the country, low brass (tuba, sousaphone and euphonium) players of all ages are welcome to join in the merriment of Tuba Christmas. Beginners and professionals alike unite to reimagine holiday classics — in the bass clef only. Tuba Christmas hits Annapolis on Saturday at 3 p.m., Leesburg on Sunday at 2 p.m. and the Kennedy Center on Monday at 6 p.m. Free.

Holiday Concert and Sing-Along with the Capital City Symphony: This singalong holiday show features the 55-year-old community orchestra at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. If you missed a chance to get tickets for the sold-out Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Show series, don’t fret — the symphony will be joined by Potomac Fever, an a cappella group made up of members of the chorus. Dec. 18 at 3:30 p.m. $35; free for ages 16 and younger.