This round-up was nearing completion when my Internet problems set in, and though my access has been restored (and will soon be improved, I am assured), it wasn't in quite enough time for me to finish this before the first of the month. I'm going to go ahead and post it now, not quite completed, as most of the interesting events are crowded early in the month (and sadly some have already passed), which is typical of Decembers, which are mostly given over to Nutcrackers and Messiahs and the pretense that this drought-stricken land on the edge of the Pacific Ocean is seasonally and magically a land of sleigh rides and fir trees and snow falling gently, gently, so gently, over our sorry years. Merry whatever you celebrate, and peace on earth, good-will to all!
You can hear Chanticleer's Christmas program at many Bay Area venues from 10 to 23 December. Old First Concerts has a whole month's worth of holiday-themed (or -tinged) concerts: guitarist Lawrence Ferrara and cellist Shiqi Li play festive and wintry music on 7 December; Ragazzi Boys Chorus sings For the Beauty of the Earth on 9 December; Golden Bough plays Celtic songs for Christmas and the solstice on 14 December; Kitka sings eastern European seasonal songs on 21 December; and pianist Sandra Wright Shen plays a Christmas-centered program ranging from Bach and Liszt to Messiaen and Crumb on 23 December.
Guest Conductor Derek Tam leads the San Francisco Renaissance Voices in Christmas motets and carols from medieval times up to a wet-ink work by local composer Kyle Hovatter at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco on 10 December; the concert is free but you'll need to make a reservation here or by calling 415/564-2324.
Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in its annual holiday concert, Let Us Break Bread Together, on 16 December at the Paramount.
If you're looking for an interesting twist on an old favorite, Theater of Yugen presents A Noh Christmas Carol from 7 to 30 December.
The African-American Shakespeare Company presents the holiday treat Cinderella, written by company members and directed by Mark Allan Davis, from 21 to 23 December at Herbst Theater.
As mentioned last month, Ars Minerva is reviving Giovanni Porta's Ifigenia in Aulide at the ODC Theater on 30 November and 1 December.
San Francisco Opera's annual Adler Fellows concert, The Future Is Now, will take place on 8 December at Herbst Theater.
Opera Parallèle presents Rachel Portman's The Little Prince at the Marines' Memorial Theatre in San Francisco on 7 - 9 December, with Nicole Paiement conducting and staging by Brian Staufenbiel.
One Found Sound plays works by Reena Esmail, Frank Martin, and Mozart on 7 December at Heron Arts in San Francisco.
Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf (with narrator Richard Dreyfuss) on 9 December at Davies Hall.
The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra explores the Viennese classical school with works by Haydn (the Overture to L'isola disabitata), Mozart (three concert arias performed by soprano Christina Brandes), and Beethoven (the Triple Concerto); you can hear the results on 30 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 31 December at Hertz Hall in Berkeley, or 1 January 2019 at First United Methodist in Palo Alto.
Modern / Contemporary Music
Other Minds presents Gloria Cheng and Terry Riley playing The Heaven Ladder and other piano works by Riley at the YBCA Forum on 5 December.
Early / Baroque Music
Guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley leads Philharmonia Baroque in a program meant to show both the fancy Italianate side of Bach and his more severe Lutheran demeanor; in addition to two Bach cantatas, there are choral works by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and Purcell (the magnificent Frost Scene from King Arthur). The soloists are soprano Margot Rood, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Steven Soph, and baritone Steven Eddy, along with the Philharmonia Baroque Chorale. Performances are 5 December at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, 7 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 8 - 9 December at First Congregational in Berkeley.
Guest Conductor Don Scott Carpenter leads the San Francisco Renaissance Voices in La Pastorela (The Shepherd's Story), a traditional Mexican version of the Nativity story told from the point of view of the shepherds. The group will also perform Cristóbal de Morales's Missa Queramus cum pastoribus (Mass of the Quaking Shepherds); that's 15 December at the Hillside Club in Berkeley and 16 December at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco.
American Bach Soloists has a special concert on New Year's Eve (wisely beginning at 4:00 PM; they know their audience); Jeffrey Thomas leads countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen and soprano Mary Wilson in a program of operatic arias as well as instrumental pieces by Handel and Gluck.
Jeffrey Thomas leads American Bach Soloists in its annual performances of Messiah at Grace Cathedral on 12 - 14 December, with soloists Mary Wilson (soprano), Eric Jurenas (countertenor), Aaron Sheehan (tenor), and Jesse Blumberg (bass).
Jane Glover conducts the San Francisco Symphony's Messiah on 14 - 15 December, with soloists Ying Fang (soprano), Elizabeth DeShong (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Joshua Hopkins (baritone).
Urs Leonhardt Steiner leads the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a sing-along Messiah on 10 December at Herbst Theater; soloists are Yi Triplett (soprano), Chrystal Philippi (alto), William Wiggins (tenor), Kittinant Chinsamran (bass), and Franklin Beau Davis and Stephen Harris (trumpets). There are also pub-crawl versions of the concert on 16 December at the Southern Pacific Brewing Company and 17 December at the Homestead.
The San Francisco Symphony (in chamber group formation) has two concerts this month: Mozart and Brahms at the Gunn Theater up at the Legion of Honor on 2 December and Mozart, Beethoven, and Taneyev at Davies Hall on 16 December.
San Francisco Performances presents the Telegraph Quartet in works by Schulhoff, Dvořák, and Weinberg on 9 December at Herbst Theater.
Keyboards & Strings
Cal Performances presents pianist Shai Wosner in an all-Schubert recital on 2 December at Hertz Hall.
The San Francisco Symphony presents pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Gautier Capuçon playing Debussy, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff at Davies Hall on 2 December.
San Francisco Performances presents violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Polina Leschenko in works by Bartó, Poulenc, Enescu, and Ravel on 12 December at Herbst Theater.
Cal Peformances presents Pavel Zuštiak and his Palissimo Company in the west coast premiere of Custodians of Beauty from 7 to 9 December at Zellerbach Playhouse.
Ink, Paper, Silk: One Hundred Years of Collecting Japanese Art opens at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive on 12 December and runs until 14 April 2019.
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival has its annual Day of Silents at the Castro Theater on 1 December, featuring six films with live musical accompaniment.