Credit: Jati Lindsay
Credit: Jati Lindsay

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will present a jazzy new take on Tchaikovsky’s classic The Nutcracker this year as part of its holiday concert lineup.

“A Swingin’ Nutcracker a la Ellington” will be a collaboration between the symphony and Step Africa!, a dance company that just performed at the opening of the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D. C.

Temperatures may have been in the 80s this week, but that didn’t keep the BSO from announcing its holiday schedule, which celebrates the season with a mix of classics and new works.

The lineup brings two spins on The Nutcracker as BSO Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh explores music from the ballet suite as standalone concert music, both in a program paired with John Adams’ The Chairman Dances and Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and also as part of the Off the Cuff series.

Later in the season, jazz composer Paul Murtha has channeled Duke Ellington’s 1960 reimagining of The Nutcracker and developed a brand new semi-staged production featuring original choreography by Step Afrika!

Other highlights  include the return of Edward Polochick to lead the BSO in Handel’s Messiah, which has become an annual musical tradition. The BSO will also perform a live film score accompaniment to the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

In addition, Storm Large, the vocalist for Pink Martini, will headline the BSO’s Holiday Pops. Supported by the Baltimore City College Choir, Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers, Dancing Santas and the BSO musicians, Storm Large will holiday songs ranging from carols to popular classics.

The concert series will be performed at both the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore and the Music Center at the Strathmore in North Bethesda. Tickets are available through the BSO Ticket Office,410-783-8000 or

Here is the lineup in order by date:

Music from The Nutcracker

Thursday, November 3, 2016, 8 pm (Meyerhoff)
Sunday, November 5, 2016, 3 pm (Strathmore)
Nicholas Hersh, conductor
Nicole Cabell, soprano

John Adams: The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra
Ravel: Shéhérazade
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Overture Miniature
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Act II

Note: ‘Music from the Nutcracker’ performances feature the score as concert music and do not feature dance accompaniment. 

Tickets start at $33.

Off the Cuff: Music from The Nutcracker

Friday, November 4, 2016, 8:15 pm (Strathmore)
Saturday, November 5, 2016, 7 pm Meyerhoff)
Nicholas Hersh, conductor
Tchaikovsky: Selections from The Nutcracker

 The BSO will host an after-party for all concert attendees featuring live music, drink specials and baked goods and hot chocolate provided by Pitango, a local Baltimore bakery.

Note: Off the Cuff: Music from The Nutcracker performances feature the score as concert music and do not feature dance accompaniment.

 Tickets start at $33.

Handel’s Messiah

Friday, December 2, 2016, 7:30 pm (Meyerhoff)
Saturday, December 3, 2016, 7:30 pm (Strathmore)
Sunday, December 4, 2016, 3 pm (Meyerhoff)

Edward Polochick, conductor and harpsichord
Jennifer O’Loughlin, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Luca Pisaroni, bass baritone
Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale

Handel: Messiah

Tickets start at $25.

Family Concert: The Snowman
Saturday, December 3, 11 am (Meyerhoff)
Nicholas Hersh, conductor

The Snowman animated film with film score performed live.

Starting at 9:45 a.m., the Meyerhoff lobby will have activities for the whole family, including an instrument petting zoo, arts and crafts, interactive workshops, performances by BSYO and OrchKids and face painting.

Tickets start at $15.

A Swingin’ Nutcracker à la Ellington featuring Step Afrika!

Thursday, December 8, 2016, 8 pm (Strathmore)
Friday, December 9, 2016, 7:30 pm (Meyerhoff)
Saturday, December 10, 2016, 2 pm & 7:30 pm (Meyerhoff)
Sunday, December 11, 2016, 2 pm (Meyerhoff)

Nicholas Hersh, conductor
Step Afrika!, dance company
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, composed and arranged by Ellington/Strayhorn/Murtha

Tickets start at $25. Children 12 and under receive a 50% discount.

Music Box: Snowflakes on Parade
Saturday, December 10, 2016, 9 am & 10:30 am (Meyerhoff)

This special program is created for babies ages 6 months through 3 years old. Concerts take place in the Meyerhoff lobby and seating is unreserved. Attendees of all ages are required to have a ticket.

Thirty minutes before the concert, the lobby fills with a range of musical, creative and fun activities for babies and families.

Tickets are $10.

Movie and Music: It’s a Wonderful Life

Thursday, December 15, 2016, 7 pm (Meyerhoff)
Friday, December 16, 2016, 7 pm (Meyerhoff)

The BSO performs the timeless film score while accompanied by the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, on the big screen.

Tickets start at $25.

Holiday Pops with Storm Large

Saturday, December 17, 2016, 2 pm & 7:30 pm (Meyerhoff)
Sunday, December 18, 2016, 2 pm (Meyerhoff)

Storm Large, vocalist
Baltimore City College Choir
Baltimore School for the Arts Dancers

Tickets start at $25.

Ed Gunts is a columnist for Baltimore Fishbowl.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.