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Bay Area Holiday Music, Part I

With retailers putting up ornaments, it is already time to think about the holidays. The best Christmas concerts sell out, so avoiding the rush involves planning ahead and buying tickets early. Most ensembles present lighter fare around the holidays, yet there there are still many offering inventive yet festive programming without relaxing standards. Here is my selection of the Bay Area’s most promising holiday concerts:

Magnificat Baroque: Sch├╝tz’s Christmas Story
December 16-18 in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and SF
This world class ensemble joins forces with The Whole Noyse and Sex Chordae Consort of Viols to perform Schutz’s rarely-heard work.

Music at Kohl Mansion: Musicians from the SF Symphony
December 18, 2011 7:00 PM, Burlingame
Chamber music by Mendelssohn, Wolf, and Mozart in the intimate great hall of this historic mansion decorated for the season is sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit.

New Century Chamber Orchestra: Celebrate the Holidays
December 13-18th in Berkeley, SF, and San Rafael
This conductorless NCCO is one of the tightest orchestras around. Guest concertmistress Krista Bennion Feeney leads a program of Brahms, Haydn, Corelli.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale: Handel’s Messiah
December 10, 2011 7:00 PM, Berkeley
This period instrument organization takes Messiah seriously, and those who tire of Messiah may hear the piece anew in PBO’s hands.

Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble: Wintersongs
December 4-11, Menlo Park, Oakland, SF
This Eastern European Women’s ensemble doesn’t sound like your average chorus, nor are their concerts average concerts.

Volti: Winter Music
December 2-4, Mill Valley, SF, and Berkeley
Tired of the same carols? How-about a whole concert of new choral music including several premieres.