AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Make your holiday season a musical one

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.

Few things better symbolize the Christmas season than music and this year brings an unusually rich assortment of concerts and recitals, beginning with the world-renowned Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presents its midwinter concerts Dec. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. On Saturday, LACC’s Concert and Apprentice Choirs and its Young Men’s Ensemble will perform; the following evening, it’s the Concert and Intermediate Choirs and the Chamber Singers. Info: www.lachildrenschorus.org

The LACC also appears in several other concerts this season, including four performances of the orchestral score for The Nutcracker played by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Dec. 12-15 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. This is the first time that Dudamel has conducted the Phil in December concerts.

For those looking for something other than holiday music, the Phil has two offerings. Next weekend (Thursday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon), Rafael Frubeck de Burgos returns to the Phil podium with two symphonies by Haydn and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Dudamel will lead the Phil in four concerts (Dec. 19-22) that will feature Yuja Wang as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Stravinsky’s score for the ballet Petrushka and Blow bright, a world premiere by Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, are also on the program. Info on the Phil programs above: www.laphil.com

As usual, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will have an ultra-busy holiday season at Disney Hall beginning on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. with its “Festival of Carols, with 115 singers and organ performing traditional holiday works. This program repeats Dec. 14 at 2 p.m., but as you will see below that’s a really jam-packed day so you might want to consider the first program instead. Info: www.lamc.org

Other LAMC holiday programs are
• “Rejoice! Ceremony of Carols” on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., when Music Director Grant Gershon leads a program of music by Respighi, Vaughan Williams and Stephen Paulus, along with Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, performed as part of the Southland’s “Britten 100/LA” tribute to the centennial of Britten’s birth. Info: www.lamc.org
• Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. Gershon leads 48 singers, soloists and a chamber orchestra in this most familiar of Christmas oratorios. Info: www.lamc.org
• “Messiah Sing-Along” on Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Grab your score (or buy one at the door) and join with the Master Chorale and other audience members in singing Handel’s memorable score. Info: www.lamc.org

As noted above, Dec. 14 will be one of those jam-packed evenings that cause concertgoers indigestion because they have so much from which to choose. In addition to the Master Chorale’s “Festival of Carols” listed above, consider:
• The Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday concerts on Dec. 14 at 4 and 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper leads the program that will also feature vocalist Lisa Vroman, members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, and the handbell choir, LA Bronze. Info: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
• The Pasadena Master Chorale will offer its Christmas concert of Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s Magnificat at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Pasadena. Info: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org
Pasadena Presbyterian Church will present the 69th annual rendition of its free-admission “Candlelight and Carols” program at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature the church’s six choirs, two organists and an instrumental ensemble, and will include plenty of audience caroling. The featured work will be On Christmas Night by English composer Bob Chilcott. Info: www.ppcmusic.org
Angeles Chorale will present “Divine Joy: a Christmas Celebration in Music” at 7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena. Artistic Director John Sutton will conduct the program, which will feature the first part of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Info: www.angeleschorale.org

One organization that chose not to join the Dec. 14 clog is Pasadena Pro Musica, which continues its 50th season the following afternoon at 4 p.m. in Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church. Artistic Director Stephen Grimm leads a program of music by Benjamin Britten and Tomas Luis de Victoria. Info: www.pasadenapromusica.org

In addition to what’s listed above, Disney Hall offers a number of varied holiday programs; my favorite would be “A Chanticleer Christmas,” which features the renowned San Francisco-based all-male a cappella choral ensemble. Info: www.laphil.com

And this list doesn’t include the ongoing Los Angeles Opera’s ongoing production of Verdi’s Falstaff, which concludes its run today at 7 p.m., nor the company’s presentation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which runs through Dec. 15. My preview story on The Magic Flute is HERE and a followup article is HERE. Info the operas: www.laopera.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on December 15, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Each Thursday morning, I list five events that pique my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum,
inexpensive tickets). Because of the holidays, this will be my last “Five Spot”
post until January 4, although I do plan on posting columns and other items
over the next three weeks.

 

Here’s today’s grouping:

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Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

A Chanticleer
Christmas

The San Francisco-based, all-male chorus makes what has
become an annual visit to Disney Hall. This is one of those must-see concerts,
particularly if you’ve never seen this group. Information: www.laphil.com

Tomorrow at 11 a.m.,
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Bernard Labadie, conductor

The Qubec native, who is founding director of Les Violons
du Roy and La Chapelle du Qubec, is considered a Mozart specialist so his
all-Mozart program this weekend with the L.A. Phil plays to his strength. It
includes Symphony No. 41 (Jupiter) and
Piano Concerto No. 27, K. 595, with Benedetto Lupo as soloist. These were the
last symphony and last piano concerto that Mozart wrote. David Mermelstein had
a profile of Labadie in yesterday’s Los
Angeles Times
(LINK). Information: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Alex Theatre, Glendale

Gay Men’s Chorus of
Los Angeles holiday program

The 200-voice chorus will perform an eclectic program of
music under the banner of “Naughty and Nice,” led by its new artistic director,
E. Jason Armstrong, and feature Melissa Manchester as soloist. Information: www.gmcla.org

  

Sunday at 4 p.m. at
Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Pasadena Pro Musica:
Christmas Madrigal Music

Music Director Stephen Grimm leads his chorus in a program
of music from the Renaissance. Information:
www.pasadenapromusica.org

 

Note: I would
have listed the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s performance of Handel’s Messiah on Sunday at Disney Hall but the
LAMC Web site says it’s sold out (although a cancellation list is available).

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

It isn’t this weekend and it isn’t a program in the strict
sense, but on December 24, set your alarm clock for 7 a.m. (West Coast time)
for the worldwide broadcast of A Festival
of Nine Lessons and Carols
live from King’s College, Cambridge, England
(locally, it’s on KUSC 91.5-FM and www.kusc.org).  Begun in 1918 and first broadcast 10 years later, this
traditional service features scripture readings, carols and choir anthems that
tell the story of Jesus from creation to his birth. Since 1982, the service has
featured a commissioned carol; this year, it’s Christmas Eve, with words by Christina Rossetti and music by young
British composer Tansy Davies (here’s a LINK to the news release about the new
piece).

 

You can get voluminous details about the service, including
its history, HERE. You can also download the service booklet as a .pdf file but
be forewarned: it’s 50 pages long! The entire service takes about 90 minutes
and it’s one of my holiday traditions (a visit to the service itself has long
been on my “bucket list”).

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.