The 12 Nights of Christmas series features everything from a free community candlelight carol sing to Ireland's Celtic supergroup Lunasa, to local Grammy winner Ed Gerhard to New Hampshire's Heather Pierson Jazz Trio playing "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
The Orchard Chapel is an old Unitarian meeting house, complete with oil lanterns, candles and well-cushioned wooden pews.
"It sends you right back to a time where you'd expect to see a horse and sleigh passing by," said Ben Anderson, the co-founder and co-owner of The Word Barn in Exeter who is producing the Orchard Chapel series. "There will be a fire pit outside, hot and cold drinks to enjoy, and of course, cider donuts from the neighboring Applecrest Orchards."
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"We took advantage of the quintessential New England holiday setting to create the chance for the community to gather together around a concert series that offers up affordable, high-caliber holiday events ...," Anderson said. "We saw a great opportunity to get people in the holiday spirit, but also the chance to help those in need right here on the Seacoast." Donations are being collected at the concerts, he said, and a portion of ticket sales are going to help provide individuals and families served by Cross Roads House with warm meals. So far this season, the series has raised enough to provide two weeks of warm meals for those served by Cross Roads House, according to Anderson.
"I attended one of the Orchard Chapel candlelight carol sings and fell in love with the magic of the space," Anderson said. "The chaplains are regular attendees and supporters of The Word Barn and were interested in having the Orchard Chapel used more, and we quickly came up with the holiday series idea given its festive setting. It's a superb space for any type of event, but there's something special about gathering in a historic, one-room space during the holidays."
Anderson said they started planning for the series in 2019, and "Then, like everything, it was squashed by the pandemic." They regrouped and ended up doing a live stream series from the Orchard Chapel that drew an audience from as far away as Japan, France and Brazil.
After the success of the live stream in 2020, they were excited to begin work on the live concert series.
"That was at the height of the pandemic when we were all locked down, so it was special to connect in that manner. But nothing beats live music, so we're excited to finally have this offering come to fruition," he said. "... This is the first live offering. It's going to be magical filling the chapel with the community and enjoying these events together. I fully expect folks will leave brimming with holiday cheer."
The series begins on Wednesday, Dec. 7 with a concert "A Bright Light Within" by Alisa Amador, a former NPR Tiny Desk Concert winner.
It continues on Thursday, Dec. 8 with A Celtic Christmas with Lunasa for two shows with special guest Dave Curley from County Galway. The first show at 5 p.m. is sold out, but there's still availability for the 8 p.m. show.
Next up is the Jordan TW Trio Celtic Christmas on Friday, Dec. 9. On Saturday, Dec. 10, Heather Pierson Jazz Trio presents "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in both a matinee and evening show, one at 3:30 p.m. and the later one at 7 p.m.
On Thursday, Dec. 15, it's A Nova Scotia Christmas with Cassie and Maggie, two sisters from Nova Scotia who fiddle, stepdance and sing in English and Gaelic. On Friday, Dec. 16, it's the Rock My Soul Holiday Concert complete with a brass section.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, local Grammy winner Ed Gerhard will perform his annual Christmas Concert, the only show he's doing here this holiday season.
On Sunday, Dec. 18, it will be Zachariah Hickman's Handsome Holiday Happening, featuring Mike Block Trio and special guests.
The series wraps up on Wednesday, Dec. 21 with two sessions, both sold-out, of the Orchard Chapel Candlelight Carol Sing. That makes for a total of a dozen shows, the 12 Nights of Christmas.
"There is nothing quite like bringing the community together and enjoying events like this in the same space, especially one as magical as the Orchard Chapel," Anderson said. "And knowing these events are supporting those less fortunate or down on their luck makes it extra rewarding."
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit thewordbarn.com. The Orchard Chapel is located at 143 Exeter Road in Hampton Falls.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: 12 Nights of Christmas series at Orchard Chapel in Hampton Falls, NH