Chanticleer | Credit: Joel Simon

Peace, magic, changing ourselves for the better, turning away from darkness toward light and hope, initiating love. We all believe that music can work these wonders, which is what makes the December holidays so apt for musical expression. Around your community, almost every musical organization will be performing over the coming month, competing to entertain you and snatch you away from the holiday rush for a couple of hours. And so, as ever, SF Classical Voice faithfully submits as full a list as we can muster of every musical event the Bay Area will provide for spiritual refreshment or to tickle the funny bone. Dive in — the madness only comes once a year.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
The SF Symphony plays Danny Elfman’s score for The Nightmare Before Christmas

At Davies Symphony Hall

The San Francisco Symphony’s monthlong holiday schedule has reliable featured favorites and a couple of surprises. Here are the highlights:

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Nov. 30 – Dec. 1) — Tim Burton’s offbeat holiday movie with a great Danny Elfman score is performed live by the orchestra under Sarah Hicks.

“Deck the Hall” (Dec. 3) — The SF Symphony and guests play a family-friendly concert of festive favorites and sing-alongs led by conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser.

Cirque Nutcracker (Dec. 5–6) — Circus arts meet Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic as Troupe Vertigo performs acrobatics, classical dance, and contemporary theater on the Davies Symphony Hall stage, with the orchestra playing excerpts from the great ballet score.

Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 8–9) — The not-to-be-missed holiday staple is led Jonathan Cohen and features a lineup of world-class soloists.

“A Merry-Achi Christmas” (Dec. 10) — José Hernández leads Mariachi Sol de México in a multicultural celebration of holiday music from the Americas.

Jennifer Holliday
Jennifer Holliday | Courtesy of SF Symphony

“The Colors of Christmas” (Dec. 13–14) — Legendary vocalists Oleta Adams, Peabo Bryson, Jennifer Holliday, and Ruben Studdard join the SF Symphony and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir for a thrilling program of Christmas classics and greatest hits.

“Holiday Gaiety” (Dec. 15) — Drag sensation Peaches Christ and conductor Edwin Outwater host this adult-themed holiday variety show that is the height of fabulousness.

Love Actually (Dec. 16) — The go-to holiday rom-com is now 20 years old. Experience it live, with SFS playing Craig Armstrong’s score.

A Charlie Brown Christmas — Live (Dec. 20–23) — The classic holiday TV special comes to life with costumed actors in front of an animated video backdrop, while the orchestra plays Vince Guaraldi’s score.

Holiday Brass (Dec. 21) — Members of the glorious SFS brass section performs a mix of holiday favorites.

Find tickets and more info on the SF Symphony’s website.

The Christmas Ballet
Smuin Ballet’s The Christmas Ballet | Credit: Keith Sutter

Nutcrackers and Other Dance Delights

Smuin Ballet: The Christmas Ballet (Dec. 1–24) — A “not The Nutcracker” holiday ballet, Michael Smuin’s attractive alternative combines classical, contemporary, character, Broadway jazz, and tap in two acts. The show features just as eclectic a roster of music. It’s already played Walnut Creek, is at Carmel’s Sunset Center (Dec. 1–2), and hits the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (Dec. 7–10) before settling into Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Dec. 14–24).

ODC/Dance: The Velveteen Rabbit (Dec. 2–10) — Director and choreographer KT Nelson offers a musical fable based on the beloved children’s book by Margery Williams. The tale is narrated for the benefit of young children and features music by Benjamin Britten. ODC’s dancers are well versed in this seasonal special, long an annual tradition at the company.

Mark Foehringer Dance Project: Nutcracker Sweets (Dec. 2–23) — This is an abridged version of The Nutcracker set to Foehringer’s contemporary dance and ballet choreography. It’s a full-on production at San Francisco’s Cowell Theater, with sets by Peter Crompton, costumes by Emmy nominee Richard Battle, and crucially, a live chamber orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s score.

Marin Ballet: The Nutcracker (Dec. 9–10)Marin Center hosts Marin Ballet for four performances of the holiday classic, with full sets and costumes and 125 dancers choreographed by Performance Director Julia Adam.

The Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet’s The Nutcracker | Credit: Erik Tomasson

Kathy Mata Ballet: Winter Holiday Showcase (Dec. 10)Kathy Mata Ballet performances “are offered free of charge, with an aim to benefit seniors and local community charities in the SF Bay Area.” The Dec. 10 recital at ODC Theater features live piano accompaniment.

San Francisco Ballet: The Nutcracker (Dec. 13–30)Helgi Tomasson’s classic production with beautiful sets and costumes, and backed by the full SF Ballet Orchestra, always introduces new and newly promoted company members to the public, in addition to featuring SF Ballet’s formidable principal dancers. If you love ballet in the grand tradition, this is it.

Oakland Ballet: Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 16–17)In addition to its dancers, Oakland Ballet’s production can boast the participation of the Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. At the Paramount Theatre.

New Ballet: The San Jose Nutcracker (Dec. 16–23)Presented in partnership with History San Jose, this production sets the ballet in the South Bay at the turn of the last century. It features landmarks of the era, including a growing replica of the historic San Jose light tower and a skyline of the city circa 1905. Aside from the setting, the performances showcase New Ballet’s professional dancers, students from the company’s training program, Ragazzi Boys Chorus, and dancers from Los Lupeños Juvenil. And there’s a live orchestra to play Tchaikovsky’s score.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

Baroque and Beyond

California Bach Society: “The Christmas Story” (Dec. 1–3) — One of the Bay Area’s best early-music groups returns to a favorite program of sacred music by the composer Johann Rosenmüller (1619–1684), who, like his contemporary Heinrich Schütz, studied the Venetian polychoral style and brought it, and other Italian innovations, north to Germany. Artistic Director Paul Flight leads 30 choristers, along with local period instrumentalists, in this fascinating concert.

San Francisco Bach Choir: “A (Mostly) English Candlelight Christmas” (Dec. 2–3) — The most beloved of the candlelight concerts, with Artistic Director Magen Solomon’s personal and thoughtful stamp. The processional (to “The Boar’s Head Carol”) leads to a concert of music by William Byrd, Edward Elgar, John Rutter, Christopher Tye, and Chen Yi, plus a world premiere, three choruses from Messiah, and the participation of the Golden Gate Brass Quintet and the grand organ of Calvary Presbyterian Church.

Santa Rosa Symphony: Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 2–4) — Francesco Lecce Chong conducts (from the harpsichord, no less) the orchestra and the Sonoma State University Symphonic Chorus in a performance of the masterwork, with soloists Christina Pier, Abigail Nims, Benjamin Butterfield, and Michael Dean.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale: “Six Centuries of Christmas” (Dec. 7–9) — Richard Egarr leads the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players and Chorale in a concert that reaches all the way from John Taverner (c. 1490–1545) to a world premiere by Roderick Williams. There’s a lot on this concert that you may never have heard, but the choir and the top-notch instrumentalists are reason enough to make room in your holiday schedule.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center visits Sonoma with Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos

Green Music Center: Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Dec. 8) — Some of the best chamber musicians in the world show up at the Green Music Center on the Sonoma State campus without a Christmas or Hanukkah-themed piece in their repertory. But J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos are welcome in any season, and you can imagine they’ll be memorably played here.

Cal Performances: The Tallis Scholars (Dec. 13) — Masters of Renaissance polyphony, The Tallis Scholars return to Berkeley with a concert titled “While Shepherds Watched,” structured around a Christmas-themed mass by Jacob Clemens Non Papa (c. 1510–1556).

American Bach: “A Baroque Christmas” (Dec. 13), Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 14–15), and “A Baroque New Year’s Eve at the Opera” (Dec. 31) — You may know that only part one of Handel’s Messiah is seasonally appropriate in December. The “Hallelujah” chorus culminates the Easter-themed portion of the oratorio. For one of its unmissable Grace Cathedral appearances this year, American Bach do just the Christmas section and replace the second part with Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Midnight Mass for Christmas. And then they do the “Hallelujah” chorus anyway … because who wants to be a pedant? The full Messiah follows the next two days, and save space in your social calendar for a New Year’s Eve performance that features soprano Maya Kherani and bass-baritone Christian Pursell in Baroque opera arias.

New Century Chamber Orchestra, “Christmas Ornaments” (Dec. 15–17) — Trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary is the guest star for NCCO’s holiday concert. The numbers include favorites like J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” but things get interesting on Vary’s half of the show: Johann B.G. Neruda’s rarely performed trumpet concerto (c. 1775), Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, and a medley of Christmas music arranged by Paul Bateman. This is a chance to get your holiday brass cravings satisfied and hear one of today’s premier soloists.

Sonoma Bach: “Early-Music Christmas: Ein Kind ist uns geboren!” (Dec. 16–17)Heinrich Schütz had a flair for the dramatic, and his Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi from 1660, which anchors Sonoma Bach’s Christmas concert, is appropriately colorful and imbued with the drama of the story of the birth of Jesus. It’s also a chance to hear cornets and sackbuts live, in case that was on your bucket list. The Sonoma Bach Choir joins Live Oak Baroque Orchestra in this 17th-century musical feast directed by Robert Worth and Amanda McFadden.

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir
Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

Choruses and Caroling

International Orange Chorale of San Francisco: “Holiday With a Twist” (Dec. 1–2)The forward-thinking choir puts a fresh spin on the holidays with two concerts of new works that reimagine and riff on classic melodies, carols, hymns, and more. Dec. 1 at Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley and Dec. 2 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Marin Symphony Chamber Chorus: “Holiday Choral by Candlelight” (Dec. 2–3) — Kevin Fox conducts these concerts also featuring the Marin Girls’ Chorus and Marin Symphony Brass and Percussion in music by John Rutter, Giovanni Bassano, John Gardner, and Ola Gjeilo, along with traditional and contemporary holiday carols. At the Church of St. Raphael in downtown San Rafael.

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir: Various programs (Dec. 2–24) — Yes, OIGC is participating in the Oakland Symphony’s annual “Let Us Break Bread Together” lovefest (Dec. 10). No, that’s not all the chorus is up to during the holiday season. There’s “Living in Harmony” (Dec. 2 at the Paramount Theatre), the 15th Annual South Bay Holiday Gospel Concert (Dec. 22 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts), and the 34th Christmas Eve Concert (Dec. 24 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco).

Peninsula Women’s Chorus: “A Candlelit Homecoming” (Dec. 7 and 9) — An international program of celebration, from R. Murray Schafer’s “Snowforms” to Veljo Tormis’s “Talvemustrid” (Winter patterns), David Lang’s “i lie,” Michael Bussewitz-Quarm’s “Nigra Sum,” and works by Brahms and Giovanni Gabrieli. These concerts are dedicated to refugees worldwide and all who undertake difficult journeys toward a better life. Dec. 7 at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto and Dec. 9 at Mission Santa Clara.

Symphony San Jose Chorale
Symphony San Jose Chorale

Santa Clara Chorale: Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols (Dec. 8–10) — Scot Hanna-Weir conducts Britten’s festive music, with the participation of harpist Ruthanne Adams Martinez, oboist Meave Cox, and pianist Dan Cromeenes. Also on the program at Mission Santa Clara: Latvian and Spanish songs, nativity carols by Stephen Paulus, and Abbie Betinis’s arrangement of “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus: “Holiday Spectacular” (Dec. 8–24) — You can always count on SFGMC for a dose of warm and heartfelt holiday cheer. This year’s celebration includes Christmas classics and some new surprises, all presented with an embrace of the power of compassion and community. It’s at the Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco (Dec. 8–9), the Green Music Center (Dec. 16), Cal Performances (Dec. 17), and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco (three back-to-back performances on Dec. 24).

WomenSing: “For It Is in Giving That We Receive” (Dec. 9) — Called “a choral concert for the season of charity and good deeds,” Artistic Director Ofer dal Lal’s program features, among other works, William Mathias’s Salvator Mundi, Frances McCollin’s “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and Carrie Newcomer’s “I Give Myself to This.” At St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Orinda.

Symphony San Jose Chorale: “Christmas at the California” (Dec. 9–10) — Under the direction of Elena Sharkova, the chorus performs a holiday concert of many cultures, along with new arrangements of familiar pieces, at the California Theatre, joined by Symphony San Jose.

Grace Cathedral
Musicians in Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral: Various programs (Dec. 9–23) — It’s not an exaggeration to say that Christmas at Grace Cathedral is a big production. “Soulful Joy” (Dec. 9) “celebrates the holiday spirit with jazz, gospel, soul, and a hint of storytelling.” “A Brass and Organ Christmas” (Dec. 18) has The Bay Brass, comprised of the area’s finest brass players, joining the cathedral’s 7,466-pipe organ for a concert of contemporary and traditional holiday music. Grace Cathedral’s Choir of Men and Boys is accompanied by the organ and a full orchestra in “A Cathedral Christmas” (Dec. 10–23). And there’s a sing-along for the entire family, “Sing You a Merry Christmas” (Dec. 16–23).

San Francisco Choral Artists: “Sun, Moon, and Stars: A Heavenly Christmas” (Dec. 10–17) — SFCA looks to the heavens for a celebration of the Christmas story in the glorious lights of our winter sky. With seasonal music of introspection and jubilation, the group highlights composers from around the globe, including Francis Poulenc, Roger Nixon, Francisco Guerrero, Johannes Brahms, Orlando di Lasso, Moses Hogan, composer-in-residence Eric Tuan, and composer-not-in-residence Balázs Kecskés D.

Chanticleer: “A Chanticleer Christmas” (Dec. 11–23) — The one Christmas concert to rule them all. This men’s chorus is one of the best, and its Christmas program is a tried-and-true favorite, featuring an extensive selection of music. “A Chanticleer Christmas” cleaves to Chanticleer founder Louis Botto’s original vision of joy and transcendence through beautifully sung music of all centuries, from classical to carols. The ensemble is taking the program on a national tour, with nine performances around the Bay Area, as well as in Carmel and Sacramento. There’s no excuse to miss it.

Golden Gate Men’s Chorus: “Star of Wonder” (Dec. 14–19) — The venerable men’s chorus continues its 40-year tradition of presenting shimmering winter anthems, joyful carols, and sentimental holiday classics in four performances at San Francisco’s St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church that are a testament to the rich diversity of this city.

Santa Cruz Chorale
Santa Cruz Chorale

Masterworks Chorale: “Carols, Cookies, and Christmas” (Dec. 16) and Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols (Dec. 17) — Carols galore! The full Masterworks Chorale sings two programs, one for younger children and their families at 4 p.m. on Dec. 16 and the other the next afternoon, both at the Congregational Church of San Mateo. The big work on Sunday’s concert is Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, but the program also features traditional sing-along carols and a commission from local composer Nick Carlozzi. Note that the children’s concert is free for everyone, with an option to donate.

Santa Cruz Chorale: “Christmas With the Chorale” (Dec. 16–17) — Accompanied by the Monterey Bay Sinfonietta, the Chorale doles out a generous measure of Christmas carols, along with music by William Byrd, Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, John Tavener, and others. The centerpiece of the occasion is Heinrich Biber’s Magnificat for orchestra and choir. At Holy Cross Church. 

The Choral Project/San Jose Chamber Orchestra: “Winter’s Gifts: Journeys” (Dec. 16–17) — Daniel Hughes’s chorus and Barbara Day Turner’s ensemble get together again for a concert on the theme of journeys. The program features music honoring different faith traditions, with compositions by Conrad Susa, Ola Gjeilo, Joby Talbot, and John Wineglass. And Juanita Harris — voted Best Jazz Vocalist by SFCV readers in 2022 — appears as a soloist.

Ragazzi Boys Chorus
Ragazzi Boys Chorus | Credit: David Allen

Youth Ensembles

iSing Silicon Valley: “Winter Hymns” (Dec. 2–3) — An evening of carols by candlelight, complete with holiday cookies, mulled wine, and music of the season. Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols is the main offering, with the companion piece of Shara Nova’s Winter Hymns, featuring harpist Jieyin Wu and violist Lesley Robertson. Dec. 2 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto and Dec. 3 at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara.

Ragazzi Boys Chorus: “Light and Love” (Dec. 2 and 10) — Ragazzi’s Concert Group, Choral Scholars, and Young Men’s Ensemble perform a holiday program for treble, mixed, and changed voices. Music by Katerina Gimon, Kim André Arnesen, and Susan LaBarr, whose “Where the Light Begins” is both a celebration of Christmas and a call for peace. Dec. 2 at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto and Dec. 10 at San Francisco’s Old First Church.

San Francisco Boys Chorus: “Catch the Spirit, Share the Magic” (Dec. 9) — Preteen and teenage members of the 75-year-old SF Boys Chorus present a program of Baroque masterpieces from Heinrich Schütz and Handel, along with popular holiday songs. The concert at Calvary Presbyterian Church features more than 100 performers between chorus and orchestra.

San Francisco Girls Chorus
San Francisco Girls Chorus

Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir: Candlelight Concert (Dec. 9) — The choir’s annual Candlelight Concert diverts from traditional programming by presenting innovative new works tackling social issues, historical pieces by composers marginalized during their time, and repertoire from around the world. Through music, PEBCC connects to and inspires others to live in harmony. At First Presbyterian Church of Oakland.

Golden State Youth Orchestra: Holiday Concert (Dec. 10) — An ambitious orchestral program at San Jose’s California Theatre, including works by Beethoven, Johann Strauss II, Pablo de Sarasate, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Joe Hisaishi’s “Merry-Go-Round of Life” from Hayao Miyazaki’s film Howl’s Moving Castle. Yun Song Tay and Richard Roper are the conductors for the participating Symphony Orchestra, Camilla Kolchinsky Orchestra, El Camino Wind Orchestra, and Honors Wind Ensemble.

San Francisco Girls Chorus: “Folk Songs of the World” (Dec. 11) — Conducted by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, SFGC’s Premier Ensemble, Chorus School, and alums perform traditional favorites, new works, and lesser-known holiday choral songs at Davies Symphony Hall. The program this year highlights folk-song traditions from around the world, with Oakland accordionist and 2023 Latin Grammy Award nominee Sam Reider as guest artist.

Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco: “Holiday Horizons” (Dec. 16) — All five YWCP ensembles participate in a concert “celebrating the season with a mixture of festive favorites and works exploring light, darkness, and hope.” The highlight of the program at Calvary Presbyterian Church is a new treble arrangement of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols that includes solo baritone and strings.

Valérie Sainte-Agathe
Valérie Sainte-Agathe leads a sing-along for all voices on Dec. 1 | Credit: Tim Hamlin

Sing-It-Yourself Fun

San Francisco Girls Chorus/Amateur Music Network: Holiday Sing-Along (Dec. 1) — A holiday choral workshop for the whole family with SFGC Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe. Attendance can be in person at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center (with COVID precautions) or online via Zoom. Recommended for ages 10 and up. All voices (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) are welcome.

Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra & Chorus: Handel’s “Sing It Yourself” Messiah (Dec. 17–18) — Among its performances in nontraditional venues, GGSOC appears in cafes and in the Benicia Clock Tower, even as it frequents the 900-seat Herbst Theatre. The 2023 “Sing It Yourself Messiah” takes place in the latter two — Dec. 17 and 18, respectively.

Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves | Credit: Jerris Madison

A Jazzy Christmas

SFJAZZ: Various programs (Nov. 28 – Dec. 31)SFJAZZ presents a diverse lineup in its holiday concert series, including classic Mexican music from Tres Souls (Dec. 9), the Trinidadian influences of Etienne Charles’s “Creole Christmas” (Dec. 9), a Hanukkah program from The Klezmatics (Dec. 14), Salsa music from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Dec. 15), A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Adam Shulman Trio (Dec. 16), and more. Many programs are already almost sold out, so get your tickets now.

Maria Muldaur: “Holiday Swing” (Dec. 6–22) — The adventurous, genre-crossing chanteuse brings swinging, humorous, and irreverent Christmas songs to three concerts across the Bay Area, with appearances at Yoshi’s in Oakland (Dec. 6), HopMonk Sebastopol (Dec. 7), and the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley (Dec. 22). As Muldaur promises, there are no “sappy, overdone” tunes here, only her “special collection of rare gems.” All ages are welcome.

Green Music Center: Dianne Reeves (Dec. 9) — The Grammy Award winner and NEA Jazz Master rings in the holiday season with selections from her celebrated album Christmas Time Is Here.

Piedmont Piano Company: Nicolas Bearde and Friends (Dec. 16) — Contemporary jazz and blues renditions of holiday classics and carols are at the heart of this high-energy show from Bearde, who’s joined by a band of some of the Bay Area’s finest jazz musicians.

The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol: “Carolizing Christmas” (Dec. 20 and 23) — Bay Area legend Faye Carol and her all-star trio serve up funky fresh holiday tunes, drawing from blues, gospel, swing, and other genres.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
A scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

Alternative Holiday Traditions

Broadway San Jose: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (Nov. 28 – Dec. 3) — After two stints on Broadway and a handful of national tours, Dr. Seuss’s iconic Grinch makes an appearance at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts. The one-act musical includes the classic songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” (both written by Albert Hague and Seuss) from the original animated special.

Presidio Theatre: Sleeping Beauty (Nov. 29 – Dec. 30) Panto in the Presidio returns with Sleeping Beauty this season. It’s a wildly funny musical mash-up of true love, talking dogs, singing chickens, dancing ghosts, and enough fairy magic for the entire family. Preview performances run through Dec. 1, with opening night on Dec. 2.

Kitka: “Wintersongs” (Dec. 2–17)For more than two decades, Kitka’s “Wintersongs” programs have explored songs from Eastern Europe that summon the return of light and hope in times of difficulty and darkness. This year’s theme is “sustenance,” and the music ranges from rousing Slavic folk carols to lush, meditative Eastern Orthodox sacred choral works and contemporary compositions. Performances take place in various venues across the Bay Area.

Music at Kohl Mansion: “Holiday Roulette: A Mezzo Mash-up” (Dec. 3) — Burlingame’s historic Kohl Mansion hosts mezzo-sopranos and Adler Fellows Nikola Printz and Gabrielle Beteag, who present a tribute to Maria Callas for the legendary diva’s centennial. In addition to classic opera arias and duets, selections include the “Cat Duet,” traditional Christmas tunes, and other surprises. A holiday roulette wheel gives the audience a chance to select songs from a variety of styles for the artists to perform.

Kitka | Credit: William Wayland

California Revels: “Caroling in the Rain” (Dec. 2–23) — Join in the festive spirit this year by taking part in one or more of California Revels’ free events. Community carol-sings are on Saturday afternoons from Dec. 2–16 at John Hinkel Park, and from there, the show goes on the road, Dec. 21-23 only, serenading homes along a preplanned route in Berkeley.

Taste of Talent: “A Very Pacific Holiday” (Dec. 7) — The Samoan-born, New Zealand-raised tenor Pene Pati and pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg deliver a program of traditional Polynesian music, operatic masterpieces, and festive holiday arrangements while sharing memories from their tours around the world. Stick around for an after-party with dessert and wine. At St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Oakland Symphony: “Let Us Break Bread Together With the Hits of Tina Turner” (Dec. 10) — In its annual rollicking holiday bash, the Oakland Symphony pays tribute to the memory of the legendary rock star with a truly monumental array of guest vocalists, choirs, and musicians, including, of course, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Chorus, plus the klezmer band Kugelplex. At the Paramount Theatre.

Freight & Salvage: Various programs (Dec. 13–31)Some of the musical highlights at the Berkeley joint this December: Barbara Higbie’s “Winter Solstice Celebration” (Dec. 17), the weird and wacky Christmas Jug Band and Kathy Kennedy (Dec. 19), a Nordic holiday celebration from Mads Tolling & The Mads Men (Dec. 20), and a New Year’s Eve party with Charlie Musselwhite and Angela Strehli (Dec. 31).

Golden Bough: “Christmas in a Celtic Land” (Dec. 16)Share the music, laughter, and joy as Golden Bough performs rare versions of Celtic songs of winter, as well as the band’s unique take on familiar Christmas carols. At San Francisco’s Old First Church.