Brian KirkBrian Kirk and the Jirks (above) play Santa for Lunch Break, in a Saturday night benefit at the Basie…while Dr. Ryan Brandau (below) and the Monmouth Civic Chorus premiere a new Christmas choral arrangement on that Sunday stage. 

director-brandauThey may seem hard to reconcile musically, in their oil-and-water realms of choral-canon classics and party-starting pop hits. But, each in their own signature manner, the organizations known as Brian Kirk & the Jirks and The Monmouth Civic Chorus have earned a place in the hearts of their fervent followers here on the greater Red Bank green. And, every year at this time, the Jersey Shore’s premier cover band and the award-winning vocal ensemble give back to the community, with a couple of highly anticipated events at that Capital of Christmas cheer — the Count Basie Theatre.

The final weekend of the Yuletide countdown kicks off on Saturday, December 19, when cap’n Kirk and his enterprising bandmates suit up and play Santa for Lunch Break, the borough-based community resource that provides year-round meals (and a whole lot more) to Red Bank families and residents of all ages. A sequel to last year’s successful big-beat benefit (and the fourth such “Santa for…” soiree that Kirk and company have staged since 2012), the “three-hour jingle balling of a show” commences at 8 pm with the chief Jirk (whose summertime “Dunesday” beach-bash benefits have been a Shore tradition unto themselves) promising a mix of danceable tunes, “Kirky Style” comedy and special musical guests, in a variety presentation that’s sponsored by “generous anonymous donors” and dedicated in full to funding the ongoing mission of Lunch Break’s volunteers, and their ever-expanding range of charitable, educational and support services for our community neighbors. Take it here for tickets ($35 – $75); bring a non-perishable food item for Lunch Break’s holiday food drive (or make a separate cash donation here) — and read on for more.

If ever there was a cross-generational Christmas community tradition in Red Bank, it’s the annual performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus” and other highlights from Handel’s Messiah, as performed each year by the borough-based Monmouth Civic Chorus. When the ensemble now under the direction of Dr. Ryan Brandau reconvenes on the Basie stage for a Joy to the World program this Sunday, December 20, they’ll be inaugurating a 67th season that delivers those requisite welcome hallelujahs — as well as a sacred masterwork by J.S. Bach, and the premiere of an all-new  Christmas Suite that spotlights Brandau’s own arrangements of holiday favorites.

Joining the MCC for the 4 pm concert will be a pair of special guest soloists: Princeton-based soprano Blythe Lilly Quelin, and tenor Brian Dougherty. The in-demand vocal and recording artists, both of whom have performed with some of the of the nation’s premier orchestras and conductors, will take the spotlight for Bach’s Gloria in Excelsis, a cantata that will sound familiar to fans of the magnificent Mass in B Minor.   selections from Handel’s beloved Messiah (a long-running yearly gift to the Red Bank community from the MCC) and will round out the program. Reserve here for premium seating ($45 adult, $40 senior, $35 groups of 10 or more, $10 student) or for regular seating ($30 adult, $27 senior, $25 group, $5 student).

The 2015-2016 Monmouth Civic Chorus season continues on March 6, 2016, when Dr. Brandau and the MCC visit Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Long Branch for a centuries-spanning concert of “meditations on Lent” entitled Passions. The season closes on May 13, with a Heavenly Harmony  program hosted at the Red Bank’s First Presbyterian (Tower Hill) Church in Red Bank. Subscriptions are $75 for all three concerts, a savings of more than 25 percent off full-price individual admissions, and are available here or by calling (732)933-9333.