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11 atmospheric concerts to get into the Christmas spirit

From Bach to Loriot: How Berlin gets in the mood for Christmas

Christmas tree
Christmas tree © Getty Images, Foto: Jasmin Awad / EyeEm

Christmas music in shops and on the TV and radio can start to get on your nerves before December even begins. You feel like screaming if you hear Mariah Carey sing ‘youuuuuuuuUU!’ just one more time. Us too. It’s time for a break from all of that with this selection of Christmas concerts in Berlin. Here's a lively spectrum of musical experience from Bach to children’s choirs to a Christmas circus and maybe one or two original twists on all those songs you hear too often.

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Tip 1: My Spirit Rejoices

Kudamm
© visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

This collection of works by Edvard Grieg, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and others will be performed by the RIAS Kammerchor in the stunning surroundings of the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) in Charlottenburg. This advent event commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the reconstruction of the church after it was partially destroyed in World War 2.

When: 11 December

Where: Gedächtniskirche, Breitscheidplatz, Charlottenburg

Tip 2: Christmas Oratorio, Part I

Berlin Potsdamer Platz
© visitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

The Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall) in the Philharmonie opened in the late 1980s with the philosophy of creating an arena for the “democratic enjoyment of music”. To this end, the musicians are in the very centre of the hall – just as they are in the larger Großer Saal (Great Hall) – to make sure everyone present is as close as possible to the action. This concert celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of the Berlin Bach Academy, who will perform Bach's Christmas Oratorio 1-3, just as they did on the first day of Advent in 1991.

When: 11 December

Where: Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1, Tiergarten

Tip 3: Lyambiko

Christmas decoration
Christmas decoration © Getty Images, Foto: The Real Tokyo Life

The spectacular Konzerthaus on Gendarmenmarkt has been hosting musical events in one guise or another for over 200 years. This December, one of the most interesting events to attend is an evening of Christmas classics with the renowned German jazz singer Lyambiko. She puts her own unique twist on much-loved Christmas songs like ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ and ‘Last Christmas’ in what promises to be a memorable evening.

When: 11 December

Where: Konzerthaus, Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte

Tip 4: Weihnachts KLASSIKer from Ave Maria to Loriot

Weihnachtsdekoration
© Getty Images, Foto: Kate Koreneva

As the name suggests, you’ll enjoy a wide range of Christmas-themed fun at this event out in the Theater Ost, from the austere piety of Ave Maria to the irreverent humour of the great German comedian Loriot and much more. This theatre is protected as a historical monument. In the GDR days, it was the filming location for ‘Aktuelle Kamera’, a flagship news programme on East German television.

When: 12 December

Where: Theater Ost, Moriz-Seeler-Straße 1, Treptow

Tip 5: Christmas piano music at the Citadel

Zitadelle Spandau im Winter
© Partner für Spandau, Foto: R. Müller

Thanks to its beautiful brick walls and wood ceiling, the Gothic Hall at the Spandau Citadel is well known for its excellent acoustics. It was built in the fifteenth century and is very much worth a visit, even without a concert to attend. This event is a special one with renowned pianist Madeleine Pitu-Jokisch performing classical pieces by Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

When: 13 December

Where: Zitadelle Spandau, Am Juliusturm 64, Spandau

Tip 6: Roncalli Weihnachtscircus

Christmas tree
© GettyImages, Bild: Hoxton Tom Merton

We're stretching the definition of concert a little here, but Roncalli does have its own orchestra. The Christmas decorations outside the Tempodrom in Kreuzberg really set the tone for this Christmas extravaganza. Inside the venue, a constant stream of talented artists will entrance circus fans and Christmas lovers both young and old.

When: 17 December – 2 January 22

Where: Tempodrom, Möckernstraße 10, Kreuzberg

Tip 7: NoonSong: Festival of Nine Carols and Advent Readings

Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Am Hohenzollernplatz
© BA Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Foto: Friedhelm Hoffmann

NoonSong, a half-hour liturgy sung by vocal ensemble, sirventes berlin, happens at noon every Saturday in the spectacular surroundings of the church at Hohenzollernplatz, nicknamed "Kraftwerk Gottes" (God's power plant) by locals due to its modern architecture of the 1920s. The NoonSong on 18 December will be the Christmas edition. Works by Händel, Rachmaninov and others will be performed. Entry is free and attendees are welcome to sing along. And, if you can’t make it, there’s also a live stream of every NoonSong.

When: 18 December

Where: Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz, Hohenzollerndamm, Wilmersdorf

Tip 8: TonSpur: Pleasant Surprises with the Concert House Orchestra

Weihnachtsbaumschmuck
© GettyImages, Bild: Alena Kravchenko

The Carnival of the Animals by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns isn’t the most renowned work of classical music, but it is undoubtedly one of the most fun. There are fourteen different movements, each representing a different animal, from the bold and stately lion to the slow and elegant swan. This interpretation is narrated by actor Katja Riemann and accompanied by the Dutch piano duo Lucas & Arthur Jussen.

When: 22 December

Where: Konzerthaus, Gendarmenmarkt, Mitte

Tip 9: Rundfunk-Kinderchor Berlin, Carsten Schultze

Symphony Orchestra on stage
Classical Music © Getty Images, Foto: DeshaCAM

Nothing quite harnesses the true atmosphere of Christmas like a children’s choir singing Christmas songs. The Rundfunk-Kinderchor was formed in 1955 and has toured the world ever since. With pedigree like that, they weren’t going to be stopped by the pandemic. The group continued to sing remotely and even managed to record a couple of songs in the meantime, but here they'll be back to perform in person.

When: 26 December

Where: Konzerthaus Berlin

Tip 10: Christmas Oratorio

Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin Mitte
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt © Gutschera + Osthoff

There are plenty of opportunities to hear Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in Berlin at this time of year. Your only real choice is which venue and performers to choose. The Konzerthaus offers a somewhat more intimate environment than the Chamber Music Hall in the Philharmonie. This version of the 1734-composed oratorio will be performed by the RIAS Kammerchor.

When: 23 December

Where: Konzerthaus Berlin

Tip 11: Christmas Organ Music

Konzerthaus Berlin
© Dept

It takes a big effort for most of us to even leave the house on Christmas Day, but here's an event that is certainly worth the exertion. Organ music creates a uniquely Christmassy atmosphere, and in the hands of an expert like Marcel Andreas Ober, the organist at St. Hedwig’s cathedral, it becomes something very special indeed.

When: 25 December

Where: Konzerthaus Berlin

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