Ragazzi Beats the Holiday Rush With an Ecumenical Program

Janos Gereben on November 7, 2017
The chorus will sing Dec. 2 in Palo Alto, Dec. 3 in Burlingame, and Dec. 10 in San Francisco | Credit: David Allen

Most stores don’t seem to start playing “Jingle Bells” in September as they once annoyingly did, but some performing arts organizations sure get on their holiday bandwagon in the fall. Considering that Nutcracker income covers the biggest chunk of a dance company’s budget, it’s understandable ... even if the ads pile up too much.

Beyond the Messiah blitz, music organizations usually refrain from an early start, and then there is the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, which waits until November and makes the announcement just a month before the concerts. More to the point, Ragazzi doesn’t rely on traditional Christmas fare alone. No, when Ragazzi presents “Ubi Caritas: Where There Is Love,” the sky is the limit on variety and inclusion.

Ragazzi Boys Chorus’s holiday concert series begins Dec. 2 | Credit: Curtis Finger

The Latin part of the title, “ubi caritas,” (where love is) refers to a church hymn long used as one of the antiphons for the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus celebrated his final Passover. The concert includes four different settings of the ancient plainchant, but the Ragazzi program ranges far beyond the Christian setting.

There are also choral works from the Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, with the boys singing in Hindi, Latin, Urdu, Hebrew, Yoruba, Khemitic ... and English.

The Peninsula youth chorus, celebrating its 30th anniversary, and famous far and wide, has more than 200 singers from over 100 schools in some 30 Bay Area communities. Chorus members reflect the same ethnic/national variety that they present at these concerts, including a Hindu devotional song, A.R. Rahman’s “Zikr,” a Muslim chant, Michael John Trotta’s version of the ancient chant, “Veni, Veni Emmanuel,” contemporary works by Paul Halley, and much more.

With consideration for young audiences and singers, the concerts are all in the afternoon, beginning on Dec. 2, at 5 p.m., in the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto. Next is Dec. 3, at 3 p.m., in the First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame; and Dec. 10, at 4 p.m., in Old First Church, San Francisco.