01 December 2015

fun stuff I may or may not get to: December 2015

And another year comes to a close. As usual, this month is dominated by holiday-themed events, most of which I've omitted, on the grounds that the best ones are the ones you make a personal tradition, so you already know if your solstice is incomplete without The Nutcracker in any of its various forms (if it's not The Hard Nut, I can skip it) or without one of the Symphony's festive pops concerts. Nonetheless I do begin with a list of Messiahs, because I love it, and I end with some new or unusual holiday concerts. And in-between are various other holiday treats, like ABS's performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, NCCO's Christmas / Hanukkah concert, and the Lacuna Arts Chorale singing for the Virgin Mary. I guess it's inescapable; you might as well enjoy it.

Merry / Happy / Blessed Whatever You Celebrate, and thanks to all who come by regularly or even occasionally to read.

Ragnar Bohlin leads the San Francisco Symphony in Messiah with soloists Sarah Coburn (soprano), Lauren Segal (mezzo-soprano), Brian Stucki (tenor), and Adam Lau (bass), along with the fabulous San Francisco Symphony Chorus (and the orchestra!) on 17 - 19 December.

Nicholas McGegan leads Philharmonia Baroque in the "Foundling Hospital" edition of Messiah, with soloists Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Meg Bragle (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone). That's 19 December at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

American Bach Soloists give their annual performances of Messiah in Grace Cathedral on 16, 17, and 18 December. Jeffrey Thomas conducts, with soloists Hélène Brunet (soprano), Agnes Vojtko (alto), Kyle Stegall (tenor), and Jesse Blumberg (baritone) – the same quartet who will be performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the group (see below).

Early & Baroque Music
Jeffrey Thomas conducts the American Bach Soloists in Bach's Christmas Oratorio in St Ignatius Church in San Francisco on 12 December, with soloists Hélène Brunet (soprano), Agnes Vojtko (alto), Kyle Stegall (tenor), and Jesse Blumberg (baritone). This is the first event in a season that will see the group performing all three of Bach's oratorios.

Philharmonia Baroque, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, plays works by Handel (the Ode for St Cecilia's Day and Tra amplessi innocenti from Cecilia, volgi un sguardo) and Purcell (the Te Deum and Jubilate in D and the Suite from Distressed Innocence), with soloists Sherezade Panthaki (soprano) and Isaiah Bell (tenor); that's December 2 (in Palo Alto), 4 (at Herbst Theater in San Francisco), 5 and 6 (at First Congregational in Berkeley; the Sunday show is at 4:00).

The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Magnificat Baroque Ensemble in a program that attempts to recreate what a contemporary of Bach's might have experienced while attending the weekly liturgy. Warren Stewart will lead the group in works by Buxtehude and Hammerschmidt and Bach himself. That's 11 December at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 12 December at First Congregational in Berkeley, and 13 December at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco (the Sunday concert is at 4:00).

New Century Chamber Orchestra, joined by the San Francisco Girls Chorus and klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, presents what they call a "Chrismukkah" celebration, featuring holiday songs both beloved and obscure from both traditions. That's December 17 in Berkeley (First Congregational), 18 in Palo Alto (First United Methodist Church), 19 in San Francisco (Herbst Theater), and 20 in San Rafael (Osher Marin Jewish Community Center).

Joana Carneiro leads the Berkeley Symphony in brass music by Gabrieli, the US premiere of Gubaidulina's Fachwerk (with Geir Draugsvoll on bayan), and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on 3 December in Zellerbach Hall.

Modern / New Music
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents the Del Sol String Quartet in a world premiere work by Terry Riley (part of a year-long celebration of the composer's 80th birthday): Dark Queen Mantra for string quartet and guitar (Gyan Riley will be playing the guitar). The program also includes The Wheel and Mythic Bird Waltz by Riley, Huang Rao's Calligraffiti, and Stefano Scodanibbio's Mas Lugares (su Madrigali di Monteverdi).  That's 5 December.

See also Lacuna Arts Chorale under Choral below. And there's always something intriguing listed at the Center for New Music.

The Bad Plus perform with Joshua Redman at the SF Jazz Center on 10 - 13 December.

At Old First Concerts, Lacuna Arts Chorale sings Hymns to the Virgin: A Lacuna Arts Christmas.
Sven Edward Olbash leads the chorus (with soprano soloist Winnie Nieh) in Vincent Persichetti's Mass, Christmas motets by Francis Poulenc, and works by David Conte, Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, and Pierre Villette. That's on 11 December, and this may be the entry this month that covers the most categories: choral music, new music, and holiday music.

Cal Performances presents Garrick Ohlsson playing Beethoven, Schubert, and Granados, on 6 December at Zellerbach Hall.

San Francisco Performances presents mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton in recital, with pianist Robert Mollicone and cellist Emil Milland. They will perform songs by Turina, Chausson, Schubert, Dvořák, and the west coast premiere of Heggie's The Work at Hand. That's 16 December at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

San Francisco Opera presents a double-bill: two adaptations (Gordon Getty's Usher House and Robert Orledge's "reconstruction and orchestration" of Debussy's La Chute de la Maison Usher) of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. It should be interesting to see how two versions of the same story play off each other. That's 8, 10, 11, and 13 December. The Opera's fall season closes out with a few more performances in December of The Magic Flute, the Barber of Seville, and the one and only matinee of Die Meistersinger, and let me mention again how bizarre I find it that the Opera scheduled a five-hour-plus work with only one matinee. Good luck finding information on the Opera's crappy new website!

The annual farewell concert of the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, The Future Is Now, will take place 12 December at Herbst Theater. You may buy tickets on-line or by calling the Opera Box Office at 415-864-3330.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents La tragédie de Carmen, the chamber-opera adaptation by Peter Brooks of Bizet's classic. That's December 4 and 6 (matinee); it's free, but reservations are required.

Shotgun Players continues its tradition of offering something unusual but somehow appropriate for the holiday season with Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, directed by Patrick Dooley, running 4 December to 10 January.

Repurposed Theater presents the premiere of Megan Cohen's The Horse's Ass and Friends, directed by Ellery Schaar; that's 3 - 19 December at the Exit Theater.

SHN presents A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, the 2014 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical. The book and lyrics are by Robert L Freedman and the music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak; it is based on the hilarious movie Kind Hearts and Coronets, and, as in the movie, all the murder victims are played by one man. That's 1 - 27 December at the Golden Gate Theater.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents A Day of Silents on 5 December at the Castro Theater, with live accompaniment (by the Alloy Orchestra or Donald Sosin, depending on the film). Their events are always fun and they have another terrific line-up, including a film starring Houdini that was previously thought lost, The Grim Game. When Kino released a Houdini box set a few years ago (now apparently out of print), they included all that remained of the film: a five-minute sequence involving the hero moving from one airplane to another mid-flight (those are 1919 airplanes, by the way). Just thinking about it makes my legs turn to water, especially since the planes crashed, an accident which was incorporated in the final film (fortunately no one was hurt). But if I had to pick just one film to see, it would probably be Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine (The Inhuman Woman), which seems like a notable piece of French Expressionism. Check out the full schedule and buy tickets here.

Holiday Music
The Blind Boys of Alabama perform a holiday Gospel show at the SF Jazz Center on 17 - 18 December.

Also at the Jazz Center, the Klezmatics play a Hanukkah show on 20 December.

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players present Phil Kline's Unsilent Night on 19 December. Participants walk around a designated area (in San Francisco's case, Civic Center) playing one of four pre-recorded tracks by Kline on whatever devices the kids are using these days (though the site says some cassette tape versions will be available in case you're going old school and bringing a boombox). This is the sort of thing that could be either magical or, you know, not. If you'd like to find out which you'll think it is, get more details here.

See also New Century Chamber Orchestra's holiday mash-up, listed above under Orchestral.

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