Around Town/Music: Holidays mean choral music … and more

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
A shorter version of this article was first published today in the above papers.

As the Thanksgiving holiday draws to a close today, there are many reasons to give thanks, but near the top of my list is that we’re nearing the Christmas season, which for music lovers offers incredible gifts day after day. Nothing says Christmas quite like music, from the corniest jingle to the multiple renditions of Handel’s Messiah. Here’s a look at some (but by no means all) of the early holiday offerings in the next couple of weeks:

• Buoyed by a sold-out house last year, the Pasadena Symphony presents a reprise of its “Holiday Candlelight” concert on Saturday at 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper returns to conduct and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Donald Brinegar Chorus, LA Bronze handbell ensemble and vocalist Lisa Vroman will join the orchestra in this festive program. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

• December will be a busy month for the Pasadena-based LA. Children’s Chorus, as the world-renowned organization holds its midwinter concerts at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The Concert Choir, Apprentice Choir and Chamber Singers will sing on Dec. 9, while the Concert Choir, Intermediate Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble will perform on Dec. 16. Both concerts begin at 7 p.m. Information: www.lachildrenschorus.org

Pasadena Presbyterian Church presents the 68th rendition of its “Candlelight and Carols” concert on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. This free-admission concert will feature plenty of audience caroling. The program of secular and sacred music will include performances by Kirk Choir, Trinity Choir, Van Etten Handbell Choir, Pasadena Singers, Rainbow Choir and Carol Choir.

The choral music will be accompanied by harp and brass ensemble, along with Meaghan Smith and Timothy Howard on the church’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. Howard will conduct the Kirk Choir, accompanied by harpist Leslie-Rose Hembriker as it sings Seven Joys of Christmas, a unique blending of traditional carols written in 1964 by American composer Kirke Mechem.

Information: www.ppcmusic.org

• Many groups tackle Handel’s Messiah each Christmas season, which is kind of ironic since only the first third of the oratorio deals with Jesus’ birth (the remaining two-thirds covers Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection).

Musica Angelica, one of the world’s premiere period-instrument ensembles, will offer a change of pace this year when it presents four of the six cantatas that make up Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Performances are Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at the AT&T Center (just east of Staples Center) and Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Santa Monica. Music Director Martin Haselböck leads the Concord Ensemble and four soloists in these concerts. Haselböck has an interesting commentary on this program on Musica Angelica’s Web site HERE.

Information: www.musicaangelica.org

• If you feel like you’re going to be overloaded on holiday music, consider, instead, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concerts on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead his ensemble in Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite (using the 1944 version written for just 13 musicians), and John Adams’ Son of Chamber Symphony. The evening will conclude with Kahane as soloist and conducting Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue from the keyboard, using the original 1924 jazz band version.

Information: www.laco.org

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.