Special Holiday Radio Programs on NWPB: December and New Year’s Day

Turn on your radio, pour a cup of tea, cozy up to a warm fire, and enjoy uplifting music, heartwarming stories and inspiring performances to celebrate the season.

Here’s a list of special programs coming your way throughout the month of December.

Hanukkah Lights 2023

NWPB News December 7, 7pm & December 10, 6pm

A perennial NPR favorite, Hanukkah Lights features all new Hanukkah stories. Hosts Murray Horowitz and Susan Stamberg looked back into the show’s 30 year archive and picked their favorite stories: “Hanukkah Gelt” by Sholem Aleichem, “Gifts of the Last Night” by Rebecca Goldstein, “How To Spell The Name Of G-d” by Ellen Orleans, “Of Love and Latkes” by Lia Pripstein, and “Erev Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, translated by Marie Jaffe. 

Candles Burning Brightly

NWPB Classical December 7, 8pm & December 10, 6pm

A delightful hour for everyone to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights! Lots of music from Jewish communities around the world, plus a hilarious lesson on how to prepare a classic Chanukah dish, and a timeless and touching holiday story that brings light into every home. 

A Chanukah Celebration with Chicago a cappella

NWPB Classical December 7, 9pm & December 10, 7pm

Join Jonathan Miller, artistic director of Chicago a cappella and a longtime champion of Jewish choral music, for an inspiring and informative show featuring choral music set to Chanukah texts. 

Variations on a Theme: Hanukkah

NWPB Classical December 9, 6pm

Chanukah Memories and Melodies

NWPB Classical December 9, 7pm & December 11, 8pm

In this Chanukah special, artists and public personalities share their Chanukah memories grounded in the music tied to their holiday memories. Guests on this program include Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, Sephardic music expert and flutist Daphna Mor, musician and Yiddish musicologist Henry Sapoznik, poet, musician and author Aaron Dworkin, and Eric Jacobsen, artistic director of The Knights orchestra. Hosted by WQXR’s Elliott Forrest. 

Welcome Christmas

NWPB Classical December 18, 8pm

There’s no better way to welcome Christmas than Welcome Christmas!, the VocalEssence holiday concert. It’s an hour of joyful, classic holiday music from VocalEssence, one of the world’s premiere choral groups, singing traditional carols and new discoveries.

Chanticleer Christmas

NWPB Classical December 18, 9pm

Holiday favorites, new and old, will be presented in concert by Chanticleer, the superb 12-man ensemble known as “an orchestra of voices.” Chanticleer is one of the premiere vocal ensembles in the nation. The ensemble has won two Grammys and is a member of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. 

Carols at Home with the Imani Winds

NWPB Classical December 19, 8pm & December 25, 11am

Carols as Home features a modern take on classic Christmas carols, hosted by Imani Winds founding oboist, Toyin Spellman-Diaz. Toyin coaxes intimate stories of Christmas memories from the members of the ensemble, and why these classic carols are still essential today. You’ll hear many of your favorite carols updated with the ensembles’ own imaginative take. This is APM’s first hour long special dedicated to Imani Winds, and the debut of Toyin Spellman-Diaz as host.

The Ballad of the Brown King

NWPB Classical December 19, 9pm & December 25, 12pm

Dr. Louise Toppin, a preeminent performer and scholar specializing in the concert repertoire of African American composers, presents the world premiere recording of Margaret Bonds’s The Ballad of the Brown King. With a libretto by Langston Hughes, this Christmas cantata focuses on Balthazar, the dark-skinned king who journeyed to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus Christ. This gorgeous work is beautifully interpreted by New York City-based The Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra, soloists soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Noah Stewart, with Malcolm J. Merriweather at the podium. 

Christmas w/the Morehouse & Spelman Glee Clubs

NWPB Classical December 20, 8pm & December 25, 1pm

One of the great holiday traditions in America, the choirs of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges — two of the most prestigious historically black institutions in the nation — get together to present a spine-tingling concert program. This year’s program features the best works of the last several years. It’s a joyous celebration of the schools’ tradition of singing excellence, with their trademark mixture of spirituals and carols. Korva Coleman hosts. 

Afro-Blue Christmas  

NWPB Classical December 20, 9pm & December 25, 2pm

Here’s a very special holiday concert with Howard University’s premiere vocal ensemble Afro Blue, and special guest pianist Cyrus Chestnut. The a-cappela group performs a variety of holiday songs including African-American spirituals, jazz and pop tunes, and classical repertoire. The joyous celebration includes one of a kind arrangements on traditional holiday songs plus new compositions… music perfect for the holidays and the spirit of Christmas. Hosted by Michele Norris.

The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice 2023

NWPB Classical December 21, 9-11am & 9-11pm

A musical celebration of the winter holidays – Advent, Chanukah, the Solstice, Christmas, Dongzhi, New Year’s and Twelfth Night/Epiphany — featuring traditional carols, wassails, hymns, ballads, children’s game-songs, and folk dance-tunes excerpted from live Christmas Revels stage productions presented around the country. 

A Winter’s Solstice 

NWPB Classical December 21, 8pm & December 25, 3pm

A winter solstice program, with modern classical sounds for the longest night of the year, chosen especially to compliment the chilly, starry nights of the season. 

The Film Score: Music for the Winter Holidays

NWPB Classical December 22, 3pm & December 24, 6pm

In addition to beloved standards (“White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from “Meet Me in St. Louis”), host Michael Phillips shares an eclectic mix of wintry film scores, ranging from “It Happened in Sun Valley,” to Alexandre Desplat’s folk-inspired score for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” to Bernard Herrmann’s bracing sleigh ride accompaniment composed for the Orson Welles drama “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Bundle up and enjoy The Film Score: Music for the Winter Holidays! 

A Christmas Carol w/Jonathan Winters

NWPB News December 22 8pm

A public radio tradition with NPR host Lisa Simeone. Master comedian Jonathan Winters presents a distinctive reading of Dickens’ holiday classic, with a special performing edition prepared by Dickens for his own presentations. Also featuring Mimi Kennedy.

Variations on a Theme: Christmas

NWPB Classical December 23, 6pm

St. Olaf Christmas Festival

NWPB Classical December 23, 8-10pm & December 25 9-11am

The St. Olaf Christmas Festival has become one of the nation’s most cherished holiday celebrations. Started in 1912 by F. Melius Christiansen, founder of the St. Olaf College Music Department, the festival includes hymns, carols, choral works and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

NWPB Classical December 24, 1-3pm & 10pm-12am

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols presents an opportunity to share in a live, world-wide Christmas Eve broadcast of a service of Biblical readings, carols, and related seasonal Classical music. This special will be presented by one of the world’s foremost choirs of men and boys and performed in an acoustically and architecturally renowned venue, the 500-year-old Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, England. 

The Big Tiny Desk Holiday Special

NWPB News December 24, 5pm

Celebrate the season with amazing holiday performances from The Tiny Desk Concert series including Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Steve Martin, Hanson, The Polyphonic Spree and more! Hosted by NPR Music frenemies Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson.

Joy To The World: A Holiday In Pink

NWPB News December 24, 6pm & December 25, 10am

The internationally acclaimed “little orchestra” Pink Martini bedecks the airwaves with festive holiday songs from across the globe. From timeless classics to rarely heard gems, hear a multi-denominational, multi-cultural jubilee, overflowing with enough holiday spiit to warm your entire family. Hosted by All Things Considered’s Ari Shapiro.

All Is Bright: Contemplative Music for Christmas

NWPB Classical December 24, 7pm & December 25, 8pm

All Is Bright, with host Lynne Warfel, offers an hour of gorgeous, contemplative choral music that tells the traditional Christmas story with songs about angels, the star and the manger scene. 

The Sounds of Kwanzaa

NWPB Classical December 26, 3pm

During the aftermath of the Watts Uprisings in the 1960s, Dr. Maulana Karenga decided to create a special December holiday designed for Black people to celebrate themselves, their culture, and their future liberation. Today, Kwanzaa is still celebrated by not only Afro-Americans, but Black people around the globe! Host Garrett McQueen offers a background on the history of Kwanzaa and its guiding principles, alongside musical selections that highlight the spirit of the celebration. The show features the compositions of Florence Price, Duke Ellington, Sean O’Loughlin, and special performances by Imani Winds.  

New Year’s Day from Vienna 2024

NWPB Classical January 1, 2-4pm

The Vienna Philharmonic presents its ever popular New Year’s Day concert from the Golden Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein. This year’s guest conductor is Christian Tielemann.

(Find the NWPB radio frequencies map here, stream online from anywhere or with the NWPB app.)

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