Listen to your holiday favorites in a whole new way on ’Tis the Night with Ben Folds & Friends, featuring the versatile singer-songwriter and front man for the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. Starring as host and performer for WGBH’s holiday show, Folds welcomes a wealth of talent from the Boston area, including the Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Children’s Chorus, musicians from New England Conservatory and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum.
This annual WGBH concert was originally inspired by a Facebook Live sing-along with the Handel and Haydn Society organized by 99.5 WCRB Classical Music but has grown to become a showcase for Boston’s diverse music scene. A longtime supporter of public media, Folds got involved with this year’s production after he used the Fraser Performance Studio, a state-of-the-art performance and recording space at WGBH, to prepare for an upcoming tour. Impressed with the WGBH facilities, he signed on to be part of the show.
More than a pop musician, Folds has performed with some of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras. In 2017, he was named as the first-ever artistic adviser to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. “My way of hearing classical music growing up was through NPR,” Folds said. “I’m a big supporter of public media.”
Folds mixes it up with local artists during this one-hour show produced at WGBH Studios in Brighton that reimagines the Christmas classics. Hear him perform “Silent Night” with Handel and Haydn’s celebrated baroque concertmaster Aisslinn Nosky and then swap out his piano for a snare drum to accompany tap dancer Caleb Teicher on a duet of “Little Drummer Boy,” which was spontaneously reinvented during the show’s taping.
Sing along with vocalists from the New England Conservatory in a jazzy version of “Jingle Bells” and marvel at their breathtaking performance of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” The program also features selections from Handel’s iconic “Messiah,” by Handel and Haydn, which has performed the work seasonally to international acclaim for the past 164 years.
Don’t miss the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum’s renditions of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Deck the Halls” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” while the Boston Children’s Chorus, under the director of Anthony Trecek-King, fills the room with the joyful sounds of familiar carols, including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with Folds and Teicher.
“This annual concert has become a holiday tradition,” said Jon Abbott, CEO and president of WGBH. “Ben’s impressive credentials combined with his audience appeal set the stage for a one-of-a-kind holiday experience.”
Watch: Ben Folds talks to WGBH behind the scenes
Take a look at some behind the scenes moments from the taping of the show: