A Guide to Holiday Music Around the Bay By JANOS GEREBEN Reprinted from San Francisco Classical Voice

Friday December 02, 2005

Music can turn any old day into a celebration, but the holiday season is a special time for concerts, with Messiah, Messiah & Messiah (not a law firm), dancing Sugar Plums, and other traditions that often provide a significant first experience of classical music.  

Any guide to holiday music in the Bay Area is fraught with difficulties: No such list can ever be complete, and the choice of what’s most important is subjective. San Francisco Classical Voice has deftly sidestepped these pitfalls by disclaiming anything approaching completeness, and listing events in chronological order.  

Just to keep things interesting, we also present three categories of concerts: traditional, offbeat, and coincidental. The first two relate to the holidays, to various degrees. But the third category contains events that just happen to take place in December, while also promising some jolly good musical merrymaking. For more information about tickets, locations, phone numbers, performance times, and other details, please visit the Web sites listed.  

And if this guide doesn’t satisfy, you’ll find a comprehensive listing of classical music performances, many holiday-related, at SFCV’s Performance Calendar at www.sfcv.org. 


Traditional Holiday Music 

• Lorraine Hansberry Theatre: Black Nativity gospel celebration, through Dec. 24, various times, $16-$27. www.lorrainehansberrytheatre.com. 

• San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Final performance of the school’s traditional “Sing-It-Yourself Messiah,” conducted by Bruce Lamott, Dec. 2, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, S.F. $20-$49. www.sfcm.edu. 

• California Bach Society: Brit- ten’s A Ceremony of Carols and selections from Piae Cantiones of 1582, Dec. 2, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Dec. 3, 8 p.m., All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 4, 4 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, S.F. $10-$25. www.calbach.org. 

• American Conservatory The-ater: A new musical version of A Christmas Carol, Dec. 2-24, various times, Geary Theater, S.F. $18-$80. http://act-sf.org. 

• San Francisco Ballet: Tchai-kovsky’s Nutcracker, Dec. 2-29, War Memorial Opera House, S.F. $10-$175.www.sfballet.org. 

• San Francisco Bach Choir: “Psallite,” a candlelight Christmas, Dec. 3, 8 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, S.F.; Dec. 4, 4 p.m., Calvary Presbyterian Church, S.F. $15-$26. www.sfbach.org.  

• Sacred & Profane: Christmas and Advent motets by Rheinberger and Poulenc, Dec. 3, 8 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church, Walnut Creek; Dec. 10, 8 p.m., St. Ambrose Church, Berkeley; Dec. 11, 2 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Church, S.F. $12-$15. www.sacredprofane.org. 

• UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus: Concert of French Christmas music and carols, Dec. 7, noon, Hertz Hall, Berkeley. Free. Also, “Holiday Music with a French Accent and Southern Twist,” Dec. 10, 8 p.m., St. Mary’s College, Moraga. $12-$25. http://ls.berkeley.edu/dept/music/calendar.html. 

• San Francisco Guitar Ensemble: A holiday guitar concert, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., Old First Church, S.F. $12-$15. http://www.oldfirstconcerts.org. 

• Voci: “Psalms and canticles of praise and comfort,” Dec. 9, 8 p.m., Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, Oakland; Dec. 10, 3 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley. $15-$20. www.coolcommunity.org/voci.  

• Philharmonia Baroque Orche-stra: Handel’s Messiah, as orchestrated by Mozart, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F.; Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 11, 7 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley. $33-$67. www.philharmonia.org. 

• Magnificat: Charpentier’s Nativity Pastorale, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 10, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Dec. 11, 4 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, S.F. $12-$25. www.magnificatbaroque.org. 

• Mark Morris Dance Group: The Hard Nut, Dec. 9-18, various times, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. $32-$60. www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. 

• Black Repertory Group: They Sing Christmas in Harlem, Dec. 9-20, various times, Berkeley. $7-$20. www.blackrepertorygroup.com. 

• San Francisco Girls Chorus: “Et in Terra Pax” concert of holiday music and sing-along Christmas carols, Dec. 9, 8 p.m., Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette; Dec. 16, St. Raphael’s Church, San Raphael; Dec. 21, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, S.F. www.sfgirlschorus. org. 

• Oakland East Bay Symphony: Singalong Messiah, featuring an unusual lineup of soloists, including “American Idol” finalist LaToya London and Mexican mariachi star Juanita Ulloa, Dec. 10, 8 p.m., Paramount Theatre, Oakland. $15-$28. www.oebs.org.  

• Pacific Boychoir: “Harmonies of the Season,” with the music of Britten, Elgar, and Rutter, Dec. 10, 7 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Oakland; Dec. 11, 5 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland; Dec. 17, 7 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere. $15-$20. www.pacificboychoir.org. 

• San Francisco Choral Artists: “A Medieval Christmas,” featuring Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and world premieres of works by Aprahamian and Mollicone, Dec. 10, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 17, St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, S.F.; Dec. 18, 4 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland. $12-$25. www.sfca.org.  

• Piedmont Choirs: Candlelight concert, Dec. 11, 3 p.m., Old First Church, S.F. $12-$15. www.piedmontchoirs.org. 

• San Francisco Symphony: Messiah has passed already, but remaining holiday concerts include the Deck the Halls Children’s Party, Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; Colors of Christmas, Dec. 13-15 at 8 p.m.; Choral Christmas Spectacular, Dec. 16-17 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 18 at 2 p.m.; Peter and the Wolf, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.; The Wondrous Sounds of Christmas, Dec. 18, 2 p.m.; A Gospel Christmas, Dec. 18, 7 p.m.; and the Count Basie Orchestra, Dec. 22, 7 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall. $18-$77. www.sfsymphony.org. 

• Chanticleer: Sacred and traditional choral music of the holidays, Dec. 11-23, in a half-dozen Northern California locations. $25-$42. www.chanticleer.org.  

• American Bach Soloists: Messiah, Dec. 14, Mission Dolores, S.F.; Dec. 15, Grace Cathedral, S.F.; Dec. 16-17, Mondavi Center, Davis; all at 7:30 p.m. $18-$50. www.americanbach.org. 

• San Francisco Early Music Society: “El Mundo—music of the season from Italy, Spain, and Latin America,” Dec. 16, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 17, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Dec. 18., 4 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, S.F. $22-$25. www.sfems.org. 


Offbeat Performances 

• National Jewish Theatre: Meshuga Nutcracker, “a new Chanukah musical,” Dec. 1-4, various times, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage; Dec. 13-18, various times, University of San Francisco, Presentation Theater, S.F. $18-$36. www.njtf.org. 

• Other Minds: A New Music Séance of “spiritual and hypnotic classical music,” Dec. 3, 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. (three distinct concert sets), Swedenborgian Church, S.F. $20-$50. www.otherminds.org. 

• San Francisco Conservatory of Music: The Opera Theater presents Hansel & Gretel, Dec. 10-11, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Hellman Hall, S.F. Free, but reservations needed. www.sfcm.edu. 

• Theatre of Yugen: The originator of the memorable kabuki Christmas Carol some years back now presents the Tori-no-ichi, or “Lucky Rake” Festival, which is held in Japan before New Year’s. The event features the Kyogen comedy Persimmon Mountain Priest and experimental Noh dances to Christmas music. Dec. 11, 2 p.m., NOHspace, S.F. $5 (adults), kids free. www.theatreofyugen.org. 

• San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus: “Home for the Holidays,” marking the 40th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., and Dec. 24, 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m., Castro Theatre, S.F. $15-$20. www.sfgmc. org. 


Coincidental Music Around the Holidays 

• San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Student recitals and ensemble concerts, Dec. 1-16, various times. Free. www.sfcm. edu. 

• Trinity Chamber Concerts: Rova Saxophone Quartet, Dec. 3, 8 p.m., Trinity Chapel, Berkeley. $8-$12. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com. 

• San Francisco Lyric Opera: Mozart’s Abduction From the Seraglio, Dec. 9-17, 7:30 p.m., Palace of the Legion of Honor, Florence Gould Theatre, S.F. $15-$28. www.sflyricopera.org. 

• San Francisco Contemporary Music Players: “Dazzling New Music From France,” including U.S. premieres of works by Philippe Leroux and Philippe Hurel, Dec. 12, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre. S.F. $12-$27. www.sfcmp.org.  

• San Francisco Performances: “The Monumental Brahms,” with the Alexander String Quartet and Robert Greenberg, Dec. 17, 10 a.m., St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley. $29. www.performances.org. 


This article originally appeared in San Francisco Classical Voice (www.sfcv.org), the Bay Area’s most complete source of classical music news and reviews. Janos Gereben is a regular contributor to San Francisco Classical Voice.