Special Acoustics, Sloane Square, London
The marvelous choral ensemble Sixteen is about to present its 2022 Christmas programme, with a fine collection of music from the 16th century to the present day. It’s a treat every year, with Cadogan Roomthe acoustics making it even more special.
From £19, 15 and 21 December, cadoganhall.com
So atmospheric, west London
Ealing Abbey’s Carols by Candlelight is an absolute gem – as a professional musician I’ve played there for the past few years and it’s by far my favorite Christmas gig. The choir is impeccable and the whole event is so atmospheric, from the a cappella opening just at the back of the Abbey and the procession, to the unsettling and near-apocalyptic Hark the Herald at the end with its hovering descant and crashing drums. The repertoire is a carefully chosen selection of traditional songs and a pinch of more unknown contemporary or international settings. A must-have for Christmas music lovers, whatever your religious beliefs.
£15, 7.30pm, Dec 17, trybooking.com
Brilliant Show, North Yorkshire
A thousand twinkling candles greeted us at 12th-century Fountains Abbey as we entered to join a Christmas carol service last year on a chilly Yorkshire evening. This annual event is a brilliant spectacle where you’re warmed up with mince pies and mulled wine before singing classical carols with stars twinkling overhead if you’re lucky. It creates a magical community atmosphere where people come together in unison. Just what is needed in these troubled times.
Free, 3pm, 11 December, limited numbers, so tickets must be collected from the Gatehouse at Fountains Abbey from 1pm the same day, nationaltrust.org.uk
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Welsh carols, St Davids, Pembrokeshire
St. David cathedral in Pembrokeshire is special at any time of year, but the candlelight carol service a few days before Christmas is something else entirely. People come from far and wide to attend so most are familiar with the occasional carols sung in Welsh as well as the carols in English. The first time we went my then boyfriend was so overwhelmed by the vibe he was quick to come up with. My husband and I have tried to come back every year since.
£12, 7.30pm, December 10, stdavidscathedral.org.uk
Pub carols, South London
Renowned as a comedy club and for hosting a stellar line-up of musicians (Ed Sheeran played one of his first shows here), the Bedford pub in Balham sets the stage for the lively, high-energy tunes of Christ Church pub singalongs Balham. For more than a decade, Church has raised Bedford’s roof by mixing modern pop and rock songs with the carol classics you know and love; think Clean Bandit and O Little town of Bethlehem. The event is sure to warm the soul and add some groove to the classic Christmas carol service. There’s fun for everyone, with two afternoon services aimed at families with children.
Free, December 113pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, christchurchbalham.org.uk
Beautiful People and Traditions, Central London
The Fourth Choir, London’s LGBT+ chamber choir, performs its winter concert at the beautiful St. Clement Danes Church. Discover early Christian music from underrepresented composers as well as bold contemporary pieces that will hit you directly at the solar plexus. It is a concert with a magnificent tradition and glorious people. Dark lighting, hot cider, a pleasant atmosphere and an early start at 5pm with old pubs nearby for after parties. £8-£205 p.m., December 11, thefourthchoir.com
I saw three ships, Truro, Cornwall
Truro has the most southerly cathedral in the UK and it is magnificent; three spiers and magnificent stained glass windows. So why not head there for a Christmas hit? As well as empty beaches, that’s a good reason to visit Cornwall in winter. The Cathedral Choir promises carols such as I Saw Three Ships, We Three Kings, the Sans Day Carol and Gaudete, as well as joyous and beautiful music from the 16th century to the present day.
£15, 7.30pm, Dec 17. Also, Handel’s Messiah 7.30pm, December 10, from £16
Skiing to the concert, Tignes Les Boisses, France
If you are skiing in Tignes or Val d’Isère this Christmas, don’t miss the Christmas Eve mass at the Saint-Jacques church in Tignes Les Boisses. The church was built in the 1950s, a replica of the original 18th century village church, which was lost when the valley was flooded for a hydroelectric project. It is said that one of the villagers refused to leave and then drowned – a statue to commemorate him has been erected beside the road alongside the dam. The church, its setting and the Christmas Eve service are magnificent – the service takes place late in the evening before the traditional midnight meal to celebrate the arrival of Christmas Day.
Swedish Christmas, Harrow, London
Related: Happy Holly Days: 10 of the best Christmas outings across the UK
In Sweden, dark winter evenings are brightened up on Saint Lucia Day (December 13) with a candlelit procession and traditional songs in churches. If you can’t make it to Stockholm, the Swedish community in London holds an annual procession to Harrow School to celebrate this Nordic tradition. Watch the choir parade in white robes with flickering candles before settling into a Swedish selection of Christmas carols and haunting music, this year featuring famed Swedish singer Cornelia Jakobs. There will also be glögg and fika – mulled wine and gingerbread cookies to put you on the holiday plate. The atmosphere is incredible: haunting with a hint of horror in the halls of Harrow School.
£35, 7.30pm, Dec 11, londonsvenskar.com. Also children’s concert at 4pm, from £15
Winning tip: Look at the rafters, Durham
There’s nothing quite like approaching gorgeous Durham Cathedral lightly frosted cobblestones of the Kingsgate footbridge on a cool December day. The scale of this Norman structure is sure to surprise even the most frequent visitor. The acoustics are heavenly and there is something wonderfully holy about gazing at the rafters while hearing the pure opening notes of Once in Royal David’s City.
Free, 6 p.m. Dec 22 and 3pm Dec 24, durhamcathedral.co.uk
Please use the comments below to tell us about the great Christmas concerts you’ve attended anywhere in the UK and Europe.