The music of the upcoming holiday season’s programs may have a familiar ring, but every presentation aims for a unique spin on this bankable theme.
A version of Handel’s traditional “Messiah” is offered for every taste, and the gamut of performing groups encompasses traditional church and Gospel choirs, the symphony, a community band, early music groups, and even a solo pianist.
If Baroque oratorios are not your cup of tea, the San Diego Symphony’s winter pops concerts at Copley Symphony Hall (Dec. 14-16, 8 p.m.) mingle popular holiday songs with Old Globe Theatre director Jack O’Brien narrating “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” And you can avoid those ubiquitous choirs altogether by attending the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s complete Brandenburg Concerti performance (Dec. 8, 8 p.m.) at UC San Diego’s Mandeville Auditorium.
For “Messiah” lovers who want the whole enchilada, the San Diego Master Chorale and San Diego Symphony under guest director Kenneth Kiesler will traverse the complete oratorio (Dec. 13, 8 p.m. and Dec. 16, 2 p.m.) at Copley Symphony Hall.
Maestro Donald Barra and the San Diego Chamber Orchestra will present a low-calorie, one-hour version of “Messiah” (Dec. 16, 6 and 8:30 p.m.) at the Church of the Nativity in Fairbanks Ranch.
For those who want just a “Messiah” garnish, guest conductor Murry(CQ) Sidlin promises “Messiah” excerpts along with selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” on his San Diego Symphony classical hits program at Copley Symphony Hall (Dec. 8, 8 p.m.).
In East County, the Messiah sing-along survives handily. At El Cajon’s East County Performing Arts Center, Randall Tweed will lead the Grossmont Symphony and Master Chorale in a “Messiah” sing-along (Dec. 14, 8 p.m.), as well as a complete performance of J. S. Bach’s “Magnificat.” The San Diego Lutheran Chorale’s annual “Messiah” sing-along (Dec. 2, 7 p.m.) will be given at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, La Mesa.
Christmas, of course, is not the only December festival. A children’s Hanukkah concert (Dec. 9, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) under the direction of Marcia Berman and Fred Sokolaw is scheduled for the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. At the M. Larry Lawrence branch of the Jewish Community Center (Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.), the Strings of San Diego under Michael Geisler will perform Mendelssohn and Mozart.
Gary Holt, director of the San Diego Men’s Chorus, chose the road less traveled and commissioned composer Conrad Susa to arrange 12 traditional Hispanic carols for men’s voices in a medley that will be premiered in the ensemble’s concert, “Christmas in the Southwest,” (Dec. 15, 8 p.m. and Dec. 16, 7 p.m.) at San Diego’s First Unitarian Church.
Randall Thompson’s infrequently performed “Nativity According to St. Luke” will be sung by the combined forces of the Chancel Choir and Masterwork Chorale (Dec. 2 and 3, 7:30 p.m.) at San Diego’s First United Methodist Church under the baton of Robert Cooper.
Pianist Nicolas Reveles has assembled an unusual array of piano music around Christmas themes--from a Scarlatti “Pastorale” to Liszt’s “Weinachtsbaum” to an excerpt from Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus,” to present a solo recital at the University of San Diego’s Immaculata Church (Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.) and again at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Pacific Beach (Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m.).
Notable events in North County include a performance of Dave Brubeck’s “La Fiesta de la Posada” at Palomar College (Dec. 14 and 15, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 16, 3 and 7:30 p.m.), sung by the Palomar Chorale under the direction of David Chase. The UCSD Gospel Choir, some 500 voices strong, will sing contemporary Gospel music, spirituals and Christmas favorites under the direction of Ken Anderson at Oceanside’s First Presbyterian Church (Dec. 2, 7 p.m.).
At the historic San Luis Rey Mission east of Oceanside, organist Robert Plimpton and the Fallbrook Brass Quintet will join forces in a recital of organ and brass with holiday overtones (Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.).
Aficionados of Renaissance music have two chances to hear the San Diego Early Music Ensemble, first at St. Brigid Catholic Church (Dec. 9, 4 p.m.) and again in a candlelight concert at La Jolla’s Congregational Church (Dec. 12, 8 p.m.). The unique joys of watching a “living Christmas tree” will be offered by the choir, orchestra, and hand bell ringers of the Chula Vista Presbyterian Church (Dec. 7-9, 7 p.m.; also Dec. 9, 2 p.m.) under the direction of Gary Withum.