So we come to the close of another year. This always seems as if it should be a peaceful time for contemplation, but instead I always find myself trying even more desperately than usual to stay afloat. It's an odd month for performances; like most of American society since around Halloween, most of what we get here has some link, outright or indirect, to Christmas – or at least to feelings of good fellowship and a cherishing of light amid the darkness; this will appeal strongly to you, or not. In any case I wish you all a happy merry joyous [whatever you celebrate, even if it's nothing], and as you think about gifts to give, to yourself or others, or donations to make before year's end, please remember to support the artists and organizations that persist in trying to light a candle to show a way through the night.
Messiah (Great was the company of the preachers!)
The splendid American Bach Soloists kick off their season with their popular presentation of Messiah in Grace Cathedral on 16, 18, and 19 December (there are also performances in other, far-flung locations on 14 and 21 December). Check here for more information.
Jane Glover leads the San Francisco Symphony in Messiah on 18 - 20 December, with soloists Yulia van Doren, Leah Wool, Nicholas Phan, and Troy Cook (and of course the Symphony Chorus); more information here.
Philharmonia Baroque offers some Christmastime rarities: a recently discovered Dixit Dominus by Vivaldi, the Missa Nativitatis Domini (Mass for Christmas Eve) by Zelenka, the Sonata natalis by Vejvanovsky, and Ave Regina Coelorum by Haydn. Nicholas McGegan leads the band along with excellent soloists Dominique Labelle, Christopher Ainslie, Dashon Burton, and Thomas Cooley on 3 and 5 - 7 December in their usual various locations (though the San Francisco venue this time is Calvary Presbyterian, easily reached on the #3 Jackson bus). More information here.
Cal Performances marks both Christmas and the World War I centennial with All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 performed by nine-man vocal ensemble Cantus and actors from Minnesota's Theatre Latté Da. As you can probably tell from the title, the program commemorates the impromptu Christmas Eve cease-fire, which has become well-known through the film Joyeux Noel and Kevin Puts's Pulitzer-Prize winning operatic version, Silent Night, which somebody local needs to do soon *hint, hint*. That's 4 December at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, more information here.
The Oakland East Bay Symphony, led by Music Director Michael Morgan and joined by the Oakland Symphony Chorus, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the Mt Eden High School Concert Choir, the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir, and Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir, presents Let Us Break Bread Together, a celebratory holiday extravaganza that this year pays special tribute to the late folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger. That's 14 December at 4:00 at the Paramount in Oakland; details here.
In a co-production with the San Francisco Early Music Society, Magnificat joins with members of The Whole Noyse to present a Christmas mass by Francesco Cavalli; that's 19 - 21 December, in a different location each performance, so check here for details.
SFJazz presents the Blind Boys of Alabama in a Christmas program on 20 December, details here.
The San Francisco Girls Chorus gives a winter program called Northern Lights, featuring Nordic and Nordic-inspired music as well as some traditional Christmas carols (I guess you're supposed to sing along with some of those? My gift to the world is to spare it my singing voice); that's 8 December at Davies Hall; details here.
The San Francisco Symphony, in addition to the Messiah performances mentioned above, has a wide selection of holiday and family concerts, with something for (almost) every taste, ranging from Peter & the Wolf with Rita Moreno to a Disney concert to mariachi to what you might call sophisticated pop; you can check out their offerings for December here.
SFJazz presents the Klezmatics, performing music from their album Happy Joyous Hanukkah; that's 21 December; details here.
Shotgun Players present Thornton Wilder's Our Town, directed by Susannah Martin, 4 December to 11 January at the Ashby Stage; more information here.
Cutting Ball Theater's Hidden Classics Reading Series presents Calderón's Life is a Dream in a new translation by Andrew Saito, directed by Paige Rogers. That's 7 December at 1:00; more information here.
San Francisco Performances presents Yuja Wang playing Schubert (as arranged by Liszt and just plain Schubert), Scriabin, and Balakirev at Davies Hall on 1 December; details here. They are also presenting Garrick Ohlson in an all-Scriabin program at the SF Jazz Center on 7 December; details here.
This year's fine crop of Adler Fellows give their final 2014 concert on 4 December, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, a venue which unfortunately does not seem particularly convenient for non-drivers. Nonetheless it might be worth it to hear more from Hadleigh Adams, Julie Adams, AJ Clueckert, Erin Johnson, Noah Lindquist, Jacqueline Piccolino, Efraín Solís, Zanda Svede, Maria Valdes, Philippe Sly, and Sun Ha Yoon. Details here.
Cal Performances presents the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band and Amy X Neuberg in They Will Have Been So Beautiful: Song & Images of Now, a series of new compositions inspired by Diane Arbus. The composers are Lisa Bielawa, Jay Cloidt, Conrad Cummings, Paul Dresher, Fred Frith, Guillermo Galindo, Carla Kihlstedt, Amy X Neuberg, Ken Ueno, and Pamela Z. Sounds like fun! That's 5 - 6 December at Zellerbach Playhouse; more information here.
The Center for New Music in San Francisco has a constant stream of new and exciting music. Check out the whole schedule here; some things in December that caught my eye are Michael Mizrahi playing new piano music on 7 December; Splinter Reeds & Wiener Kids on 12 December (no idea what they play, but the names are entertaining); Pamela Z and Shinichi Iova-Koga on 15 December; and the Double Negative Ensemble (again, just love the name) on 17 December.
Cal Performances presents the Takács Quartet in Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 130. They are joined by violist Erika Eckert for Mozart's String Quintet in G minor. That's 7 December; details here.
The International Orange Chorale of San Francisco celebrates its tenth anniversary with a concert of music written for the ensemble by Robin Estrada, Jeremy Faust, Zane Fiala, Elizabeth Kimble, Noah Luna, Shaffer McGee, Caroline Shaw, and Nicholas Weininger, along with premieres by Nico Muhly and Caroline Shaw. That's 13 December at 7:30 at All Souls Episcopal in Berkeley and 14 December at 6:00 at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco. More information here.