Having turned to the December calendar page, we are fast approaching the solstice holidays. In a month that is stuffed like a stocking with Christmas performances, two stalwarts in the area vocal scene are especially noteworthy.
Magnitude and glory will be close associates when the Santa Barbara Choral Society’s 100 singers, orchestra, and special guest soloists sing Part 1 of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. This ambitious work — practically an hour in length — does not include the signature (if overplayed) “Hallelujah” chorus from Part 2, but it does feature wondrous settings of prophecy and nativity texts, instrumental interludes, and extensive solos. Artistic Director and Conductor JoAnne Wasserman has recruited several stars to hang on this Christmas tree: soprano Celeste Tavera, mezzo-soprano Diana Tash, tenor and UCSB Head of Voice Area Ben Brecher, and bass and Music Academy alum DeAndre Simmons. The program will leap from the 18th century to a decisively modern second half, featuring holiday works by Francis Pott, Alan Bullard, Randol Bass, and John Rutter.
Santa Barbara Choral Society concerts take place Saturday, December 15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 16, at 3 p.m. at San Roque Catholic Church (3200 Calle Cedro). Come early for a preconcert discussion by Dr. Steven Dombek. Call (805) 965-6577 or visit sbchoral.org for tickets and info.
On a smaller — but no-less-lustrous — scale, SBCC’s 25-member Quire of Voyces will present Mysteries of Christmas in that intimate asylum of blessed reverb, St. Anthony’s Seminary Chapel. The a cappella ensemble directed by Nathan Kreitzer, now in its 20th year, will summon a Tudor sensibility as it performs Western Wynde, the infrequently heard mass of English composer John Taverner (c. 1450-1545). The choir will also sing two traditional Appalachian carols set by tenor and composer-in-residence Michael Eglin, In Judah’s Land and The Cherry Tree of Cumberland. Christmas works by Renaissance masters Praetorius and Victoria are also on the program.
Mysteries of Christmas takes place Friday-Saturday, December 14-15, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 16, at 3 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Sanctuary Seminary Chapel (2300 Garden St.). Call (805) 965-5935 for tickets.