Classically Trained: Do you hear what I hear?

It's the season to be musical in the form of singing, dancing, violin bowing and brass instrument buzzing.

Newport-Mesa is the hub of the county's musical activity, so it's no surprise that many holiday-themed events are happening right here.

The John Alexander Singers will be having two performances this week of their third annual Christmas-themed concert. The 24-voice group is the professional core of the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Chorale, whose conductor, John Alexander, celebrated his 40th-anniversary season this year.

The first performance is 8 p.m. Saturday in the St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church, 18631 Chapel Lane, Huntington Beach. The second is 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 2200 San Joaquin Hills Road, Newport Beach.

Both shows are accompanied by guitarist John Dearman, of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and some piano and percussion. The singers are offering an eclectic program, whose repertoire ranges from the medieval to the works of composers living today. Some are likely new to most listeners, while others — like "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" — will be familiar favorites.

Next week, the Pacific Symphony will be playing several concerts in Costa Mesa's Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall highlighting some of the well-trodden but nonetheless amazing musical paths.

It all begins with a series showcasing Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" Dec. 8 to 10. The Italian Baroque-era work, surely Vivaldi's most enduring, is one of those instantly likable concertos whose listeners will imagine wintry winds and springtime birds within the many notes.

In keeping with the "year of the violin" seasonal theme, Henning Kraggerud will be doing double duty as both conductor and virtuoso solo violinist for the series.

The concerto is "the link to nature, the seasons and how people live in close relation to these," Kraggerud, a native Norwegian, said in a statement. "Four sonnets were written — possibly by Vivaldi himself — to accompany the piece, and every word can be heard in the music."

All three concerts begin at 8 p.m., with a 7 p.m. pre-concert lecture by Alan Chapman. Some carolers from Foothill High School will also be singing before the performances in the decorated concert hall lobby.

On Dec. 10, the Family Musical Mornings series is back. Led by Pacific Symphony assistant conductor Maxim Eshkenazy, the 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. concerts geared for introducing children to classical music will be centered around Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet. High school dancers from the Fountain Valley-based Festival Ballet Theatre will help bring the music to life.

As usual, a carnival — this time with Santa and a ballet-themed museum — will help young attendees get up close and personal to the music-making. One carnival starts at 9 a.m. and the other at 12:15 p.m.

Lastly, the annual production of Handel's "Messiah" is Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. It will be led by guest conductor Christian Knapp, a New England Conservatory alumnus who also led the symphony in 2009. The Pacific Chorale accompanies the Pacific Symphony for the epic masterpiece.

For more information about the concerts and ticket prices, visit or call (714) 755-5799.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at

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