December Classical Roundup: Choral Holiday Music
No disrespect meant to Pandora's fine Christmas stations, as they're one of the many reasons we dearly love the internet, but there’s just something about the rush of human voices filling a cathedral that makes you think of pine trees and candy canes and those hotly-debated red cups. So here’s a roundup of seasonal choral performances in case you need some extra holiday spirit or Pandora goes down.
Schola Cantorum San Francisco
One of the Bay Area’s best local choirs, Schola Cantorum San Francisco is known for its pure sound and rich harmonies. Christmas music is something of a specialty for them - the group’s holiday CD is internationally acclaimed - and they have an exuberant and uplifting live concert. Bach and Handel motets are followed by holiday music from around Europe, with tunes from Germany, France, England, and Sweden.
December 12, 7 p.m. at Saint Mary Episcopal Church, 2325 Union Street and December 14, 12:30 p.m. at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, 660 California Street. Free.
The "Hallelujah" chorus is one of the most beloved pieces of music - seasonal or otherwise - so we would be remiss not to include a Messiah or four. Stellar soloists join the polished choir of American Bach Soloists, along with period instruments, to perform Handel’s Messiah as it was conducted by Handel himself in 1754. We’re not entirely sure how they do that, sans time travel, but those wily classical musicians have their ways.
December 16-17. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street. Tickets are $18-70 at 415-621-7900.
(Other Messiah performances: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, December 3 at Herbst Theatre and San Francisco Symphony, December 16-19 at Davies Symphony Hall.)
“No one does a better choral Christmas than the virtuoso male voices of Chanticleer.” Well, if The New Yorker says so, it must be true. (We concur, by the way.) A beloved Bay Area tradition, Chanticleer lends its precise and soaring melodies to the season. Singing a program of Gregorian chants, American gospel, and Christmas carols, it’s definitely worth the price of admission to hear this Grammy-winning chorus fill a church to the rafters.
December 18-19. Saint Ignatius Church, 650 Parker Avenue. Tickets are $25-52 at 415-392-4400.
Blind Boys of Alabama
They’ve sung for everyone from Dr. Martin Luther King to President Obama, and now they’re singing for you. Living legends of gospel music, the Blind Boys of Alabama bring their famed Go Tell It On The Mountain program to Davies Symphony Hall. A roof-raising blend of blues, country, and gospel, they belt out holiday favorites in their signature soulful style - a style responsible for almost seven decades of music and one hell of an amazing resume.
December 19. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness. Tickets are $15-57 at 415-864-6000.