As the holidays begin, so do the special performances that feature the kinds of song associated with the season, and other musical events that accent its profundity. This coming Sunday, Dec. 3, is Advent Sunday; many concerts are scheduled, some spilling over into the following week. All are an antidote to the canned Christmas music that provides a soundtrack to the rounds of shopping.
If you’re a singer, and Davies Hall is too vast, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, is hosting their Messiah Sing-A-Long this Sunday evening at 6 p.m., something of a local tradition. Led by musical director Brian Baker, who oversees a distinguished music program throughout the year, with orchestra and new organist Chris Nordwall accompanying, the church invites all to join in an ensemble to sing Handel’s masterwork. Bring scores or borrow them at the Sing-A-Long for this more intimate local event that also features plenty of free parking.
East Bay favorite Cantare Con Vivo will combine two children’s choirs from their after-school musical programs with their Chamber Ensemble and 40-voice chorale, accompanied by full orchestra, at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church, 27th Street and Broadway, Oakland, and at 7:30 p.m. Monday, at the Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church, in a program including Gabrieli’s “Jubilate Deo,” Bach’s “Singet dem Herrn,” The Credo from Robert Ray’s “Gospel Mass,” selections from Grieg, Howells, Poulenc, Rutter, Carol Jennings, Mervyn Walter and others--and, by popular demand, a repeat performance of last year’s “A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas.” And the audience is invited to join choirs, orchestra and organ in singing carols and other seasonal songs.
The other towering monument of choral music for Christmas, rivalling Handel’s “Messiah,” Bach’s “Passion According To St. Matthew,” will be the basis for the Philharmonia Baroque’s “A Bach Christmas,” featuring the Bay Area’s premiere early music ensemble playing period instruments, conducted by artistic director Nicholas McGegan, with the Philharmonia Chorale, directed by Bruce LaMott, Saturday and Sunday Dec. 2 and 3. 7 p.m., at the First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, with soloists Suzanne Ryden (soprano), Elizabeth Turnbull (mezzo-soprano), Michael Colvin (tenor, The Evangelist), Thomas Cooley (tenor), and Nathaniel Watson (baritone).
The California Bach Society will present In Dulci Jubilo, music by Charpentier and Buxtehude, English carols, French noels and German Wemachtslieder, Sunday at 4 p.m. at St. Marks, 2330 Bancroft Way. Conducted by artistic director Paul Flight, the program features Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Mess de Minuit pour Noel,” based on noels.
Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble, conducted by Jude Navari, will perform their sixth annual Voices In Peace, “Music of Passion, Mystery and Joy from the Americas,” on Sunday at 3 at the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church and Friday Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal, 2330 Bancroft Way, featuring Villa-Lobos’ “Mass in Honor of St. Sebastian,” traditional Latin carols, shape note hymns from North America, and premieres of local composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s newly-arranged “Shouts and Lullabies, American Folk Songs for Christmas.”
The Takacs Quartet, whose Decca recording of Beethoven’s cycle of quartets was just hailed by Gramophone magazine as “a modern-day benchmark,” will perform Quartet in A Minor, Opus 18, Number 5; Quartet in C Minor, Opus 18, Number 4; and Quartet in A Minor, Opus 132, at 3 p.m. Sunday in Hertz Hall on the UC campus, presented by CalPerformances ($42; discounts available. 642-9988 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Founded by students of the Franz Liszt Academy in Hungary in 1975, the Quartet has been in residence at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1983, and presently features cofounders Karoly Schran (violin) and Andras Fejer (cello), as well as Edward Dusinberre (violin) and, newly appointed on viola, Geraldine Walter, long principal with the San Francisco Symphony.
Temescal Trio—Madeline Prager (viola), Karen Wells (clarinet), John Burke (piano)—will perform a benefit, Music For Marfan, Sun. Dec. 3, 3:15 p.m. at St. John’s Church, 2727 College Ave., with selections from Shostakovich, Brahms and Mozart, followed by a dessert buffet. Marfan is an inheritable condition that affects the connective tissue in one in five Americans. Admission for concert and buffet, $20. (415) 665-7244.
Altarena Playhouse on High St. in Alameda is presenting an unusual Christmas musical, The Man Who Saved Christmas, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. through Dec. 17. With book, music and lyrics by Ron Lytle, who wrote last year’s local smash hit, Oh My Godmother!, The Man Who Saved Christmas tells of toy baron A. C. Gilbert, who manufactured Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, and his crusade against a World War One government ban on toy sales. (Tickets $15-18. 523-1553.)
The second weekend of Advent, Dec. 8-10, features the California Revels at the Oakland Scottish Rite Theater by Lake Merritt, with a program featuring song and dance of 19th century Quebec, and the Revels’ popular singalong and line dancing. The Berkeley Ballet Theater presents The Nutcracker Dec. 8-10 at The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave.
And in San Francisco, Other Minds, founded by former KPFA programmer Charles Amirkhanian, presents their 12th Festival of New Music at the Jewish Community Center, featuring Emeryville composer Daniel David Feinsmith, as well as composers from Australia, Scandinavia and France, and instrumentalists and ensembles from the Bay Area (Del Sol String Quartet, Feinsmith Quartet) and around the world. For more information, see www.otherminds.org or call (415) 292-1233.
Photograph Courtesy of Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble
Members of the Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble preparing for the Voices In Peace holiday concert this Sunday at the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church and on Friday, Dec. 8, at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Berkeley.