“Messiah”, Chanticleer, more concerts in prospect
With events returning in person to the stages of the Bay Area, the classical music scene is feeling the love this holiday season. December brings concerts, operas, recitals and more; here are 10 of the top attractions to come.
A happy noise: Producer, conductor and arranger Damien Sneed, who comes to the Bay Area this week for shows in Berkeley and Livermore, knows how to celebrate the season. Throughout his career – which includes collaborations with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Wynton Marsalis, tenor Lawrence Brownlee and Houston Grand Opera – Sneed has presented musical celebrations across the country. His new concert, âJoy to the World: A Christmas Musical Journeyâ, is a mix of classical, jazz and gospel repertoire; he and a cast of eight will cover holiday favorites, clips from Handel’s âMessiahâ and more. Details: 8 p.m. December 3, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $ 29 to $ 68; 510-642-9988; calperformances.org; also 3 p.m. on December 5; Bankhead Theater, Livermore; $ 20 to $ 98; 925-373-6800; www.livermorearts.org.
San Francisco Symphony: As always, the Symphony Orchestra has a full schedule of events at Davies Symphony Hall this month, including two performances “Messiah” (December 10-11), a “Merry Christmas” (Dec. 12), “Holiday Gaiety With Peaches Christ and friends (December 17) and a very special “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” (December 21), starring Tony Award-winning British actor Alan Cumming telling the story by ETA Hoffmann in a production featuring clips from Tchaikovsky’s iconic film. Goal. Details: December 8-23, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $ 15 to $ 229; 415-864-6000; www.sfsymphony.org.
A “Christmas” by Bach: For many of us, the holidays begin with the music of JS Bach. This month, the composer’s Christmas Oratorio is presented in four performances by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, conducted by musical director Richard Egarr and featuring soprano Lydia Teuscher, contralto Avery Amereau, tenor Gwilym Bowen and the bass-baritone Ashley Riches. Details: December 19, 9, Herbst Theater, San Francisco; 7:30 p.m. on December 10, Bing Hall, Stanford; 7 p.m. on December 11 and 4 p.m. on December 12, First Congregational Church, Berkeley; $ 15 – $ 120; philharmonia.org.
Festive to the max: There’s always a good mood at the annual San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus holiday extravaganza. For their first return to the stage since 2019, the revered ensemble returns with “Holigays Are Hereâ¦ Again!” The show features over 250 singers and special guests performing songs of the season. Details: 8 p.m. December 10, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. December 11, Sydney Goldstein Theater, San Francisco; $ 25 to $ 110; 415-392-4400; www.sfgmc.org.
“Carols” holidays: It has become the best family tradition: every year, “Carols in the California” draws music lovers of all ages to a holiday song program in the beautiful California Theater. Be prepared to sing; Performed by the Symphony San Jose Brass Ensemble and the Symphony San Jose Chorale under the direction of Elena Sharkova, this year’s event – the 14th annual – encourages audience participation. Details: 7 p.m. Dec 11, California Theater, San Jose; $ 36 general, $ 26 26 and under; 408-286-2600; www.symphonysanjose.org.
A poignant farewell: Ian Robertson, who conducted the San Francisco Opera Chorus for 35 astonishing seasons, 375 productions and over 2,000 performances, is retiring at the end of the year. From now on, the company he served with constant excellence will pay homage to him in a special concert. âSan Francisco Opera Chorus in Concert: Celebrating Ian Robertsonâ covers eras and styles with opera choirs by Bach, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Florence Price, Gabriela Lena Frank, Cava Menzies and others. Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 2 p.m. Dec 12; Taube Atrium Theater, San Francisco; $ 39; 415-864-3330; www.sfopera.com.
Ragazzi returns: âMysteries and Miraclesâ is the title of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus holiday concert, marking the ensemble’s first return to the stage in nearly two years. The program includes classics of the season and contemporary works. Details: 2 p.m. on December 4; St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Redwood City ($ 30); 4 p.m. Dec. 12, Old First Church, San Francisco; live broadcast tickets also available ($ 20 to $ 25); 650-342-8785; ragazzi.org.
Sublime a capella: In her regular season concerts, Chanticleer covers a range of repertoire from the 16th century to the present day, all with a silky vocal blend. But “A Chanticleer Christmas” finds the 12-man a capella group at its most sublime. Take in this year’s shows around the bay. December 12-23 in Oakland, Berkeley, Petaluma, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Carmel; $ 35 to $ 79; www.chanticleer.org.
Handel at American Bach: Returning to Grace Cathedral with two programs, American Bach Soloists kicks off their holiday season on December 15 with a concert featuring Corelli’s âChristmas Concertoâ, Charpentier’s âNoelsâ and excerpts from Handel’s âMessiahâ. Two performances of the complete âMessiahâ are scheduled the following evenings. Details: Program 1 7:30 p.m. on December 15; Program 2 7:30 p.m. December 16-17; Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; $ 25 to $ 125; www.americanbach.org.
Mark a milestone: Celebrating two anniversaries – the 25th for the Choral Project under artistic director Daniel Hughes, and the 30th for the San Jose Chamber Orchestra under the musical direction of Barbara Day Turner – these organizations are teaming up for a special evening. âWinter’s Gifts: Starsâ Presents the World Premiere of âThe Singing Bowlâ by Hughes; works by Ola Gjeilo, Henry Mollicone and Randall Thompson complete the program. Details: 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on December 19; Mission Santa Clara at the University of Santa Clara; $ 15 to $ 40; 408-357-4140; www.choralproject.org.
Contact Georgia Rowe at [email protected]