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Holiday Music Tips With a Twist

November 25, 2008

Religious holidays occur in the context of philosophies favoring the small over the big, the poor over the rich. Accordingly, this report will relegate the usual large and often costly events to an end-of-file roundup. Up front, there will be smaller, less familiar, and less costly events. Also, we are including celebrations by other than established religions, featuring events that are festive and fun, even if without a significant "message."
If with Messiah we must start, let's go to Dublin, but not the city of Handel's premiere of that seminal work in 1742, but Pleasanton's twin city in California. No need to wait until Christmas, this Messiah comes three weeks before the holiday. The venue is nearby Livermore, where the Pacific Chamber Symphony teams up with the Valley Concert Chorale for a performance of holiday music.

Valley Concert Chorale

Photo by Ken Johnson

John Emory Bush conducts; the soloists are Rebecca Garcia (soprano), Jessica Mariko Deardorff (contralto), Darron Flagg (tenor), and Jeffrey Fields (baritone).

Dec. 2, 8 p.m., Bankhead Theater, Livermore Performing Arts Center, Livermore; $7 (students) to $38, (925) 583-2310, www.livermoreperformingarts.

Pacific Chamber Symphony

And now for something completely different: an interethnic holiday concert, for the opening of transPOP: Korea Vietnam remix, an exhibit featuring 16 artists from Vietnam and Korea, and "their respective diasporas in the United States." The concert, by Thomas' Apartment, presents — take a deep breath — an alternative-rock-pop creation fusing hard-driving riffs, euphoric melodies, and lyrical depth. How apt for the holidays!

Dec. 5, 8 p.m., YBCA Galleries, 701 Mission St., San Francisco; $12 in advance, $15 at the door, free for YBCA members; (415) 978-2787,

Thomas' Apartment on tour

Magnificat, voices and instruments of the early Baroque, led by Warren Stewart, presents A Venetian Christmas of vespers services by Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and Massimiliano Neri, composers active in the early 17th century. Participants are sopranos Elise Figa and Jennifer Paulino, Christopher LeCluyse, tenor Paul Elliott, and bass Peter Becker; violinists Rob Diggins and David Wilson, violists Vicki Gunn and Daria D’Andrea, violonist John Dornenburg, and organist Katherine Heater.

Warren Stewart leads the Magnificat

Dec. 5, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 6, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Dec. 7, 4 p.m, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco; $10-$30, (510) 418-4363,

Natale Barocco is the Philharmonia Baroque's holiday offering, conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini, founder of Concerto Italiano, and featuring soprano Marta Almajano. The programs feature Scarlatti's Cantata Pastorale per la nascità di Nostro Signore and Handel's echt-secular Agrippina condotta a morire, HWV 110. Rounding out the program are concertos by Vivaldi, Corelli, Geminiani, and Dall’Abaco.

Dec. 5, 8 p.m., Palo Alto's First United Methodist Church; Dec. 6, 8 p.m., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., Berkeley's First Congregational Church; Dec. 9, 8 p.m., Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church; and Dec. 10, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; (415) 252-1288,

Rinaldo Alessandrini

Peninsula Women's Chorus presents Seven Joys — referring to the number seven's meaning in Hebrew as "complete" or "full." On the program: Matthew Larkin's Adam Lay Ybounden, based on a monastic plainchant describing the events after the seven days of Creation, Kirke Mechem's Seven Joys of Christmas, Gustav Holst's Ave Maria, Josef Rheinberger's Wie Lieblich Sind Deine Wohnungen (How lovely is thy dwelling place), and the seven movements of Autumn Landscapes by renowned Estonian composer and PWC friend Veljo Tormis.

Veljo Tormis

Dec. 6, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 13, 8 p.m., Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara University campus; Dec. 14, 3 p.m., St. Patrick's Seminary, Menlo Park; $15-$20, (650) 327-3095,

How it all began: PWC founders in 1967

Candlelight Concert, an annual holiday concert by the San Francisco State Chamber Singers, is directed by faculty conductors Vance George and David J. Xiques. George is the San Francisco Symphony Chorus' music director emeritus, and Todorov has won the 2006 Crystal Lyre Award, the highest honor for achievement in music and dance in his native Bulgaria.

Dec. 5-6, 8 p.m., Most Holy Redeemer Parish, San Francisco; $15 general, $10 students and seniors; (415) 338-1431,

Vance George

Carols at the California (theater) features the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale, presenting holiday favorites, traditional carols, audience sing-along, music from the Wurlitzer organ, and St. Francis in the Americas: a Caribbean Mass, accompanied by steel drums and percussion.

Chorale Director Elena Sharkova

Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., California Theatre, San Jose; $26-$36, (408) 286-2600,

SSV Chorale members

Time for Three (Zachary DePue, Nicolas Kendall, and Ranaan Meyer) is a classically trained trio of string musicians from the Curtis Institute who "transcend traditional performance genres," including arrangements of shorter classical works and popular hits alike. They are bringing works by Meyer, Lennon/McCartney, Bach, Unger, Monti, Brahms, Rouse, Monroe, and Cohen, along with traditional songs, to their mid-December Morrison Artists Series concert.

Dec. 14, 3 p.m., McKenna Theatre, Creative Arts Building, San Francisco State University, free, (415) 338-1358,

Time for Three

Pacific Mozart Ensemble welcomes winter with Brubeck and Brahms at holiday concerts in San Francisco and Berkeley. The program includes the West Coast premiere of Dave Brubeck's sacred work Canticles, which explores themes around the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ, in both Latin and English; several seasonal Brubeck songs; plus Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes, accompanied by pianists Kymry Esainko and Andrea Liguori.

Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m., War Memorial Veterans Building Green Room, San Francisco; Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., Berkeley City Club, Berkeley; $15-$25, (510) 848-8022,

Clockwork, of PME members

Stars of Wonder is the San Francisco Girls Chorus' holiday offering, traditional carols and audience sing-along. There is a smaller, 43-voice version in Berkeley, then the whole big show at Davies Symphony Hall with 300 voices, the Sonos Handbell Ensemble; and harp in the premiere of Christmas Morn by Eleanor Daley, plus works by Pergolesi, Mendelssohn, Holst, Pavel Chesnokov, Joan Szymko, Ko Matsushita, and Adolph Adam.

Dec. 19, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; $25, (415) 392-4400; Dec. 23, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, $20-$55, (415) 863-1752,

And, at the Majors:

Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie

American Conservatory Theater
Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Dec. 4-27, with music by Karl Lundeberg
San Francisco Ballet
with The Nutcracker, Dec. 11-28

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].