Holiday Glee Club

The Examiner asked The City’s songbirds and community chorus members to describe their favorite seasonal music and why it inspires them.


Dec. 24, 2009
Sherlin Chan director, Starvalley Children's Choir
Favorite music: “O Holy Night”
Why: It is a very spiritual song and the melody is absolutely poetic. I first heard the piece in high school at a concert in Hong Kong. The beautiful melody captivated me instantly, and I knew that this was a song I wanted to belt out from the rooftops. And over the last 30 years, I’ve been able to sing this very song from Hong Kong to San Francisco in various choruses and as a soloist.

Dec. 23, 2009
Patty Murray, WomenSing
Favorite music: “A Ceremony of Carols”
Why: This mystical masterpiece of ancient Marian poetry written in Middle English is set to the vibrant 20th-century music of Benjamin Britten; the wonderful contrast sets traditional Christmas texts on fire.

Dec. 22, 2009
Linda Liebschutz, American Bach Soloists and other groups
Favorite music: “What Sweeter Music”
Why: My favorite experience is recording “What Sweeter Music” with the American Bach Soloists. It was an eclectic mix of songs and a joyous experience. Seven years later, I still enjoy listening to the CD.

Dec. 21, 2009
David Perry Public relations consultant for arts groups
Favorite music: “Once in Royal David’s City”
Why: It’s from my days as a boy soprano with All Saints Choir in Richmond, Va. Every Christmas season, All Saints would send their best boy soprano to sing at various Christmas Eve services around town. I was that rare singer: a boy soprano whose voice didn’t change for two seasons. I’ll never forget a Christmas Eve looking down at my proud mother as I sang the opening for several services in my hometown. It is a memory emblazoned on my soul, and one which that song still calls to mind.

Dec. 18, 2009
Susan Crosman Jazz pianist and teacher
Favorite music: “Christmas Time Is Here”
Why: My favorite Christmas song to play and listen to is by Vince Guaraldi (the “Peanuts” cartoon music composer). It has an easy slow-waltz feel and gorgeous chord changes. Plus, it has one of my favorite lines, “Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year.”

Dec. 17, 2009
Cheryl North
Music journalist
Favorite music: “Coventry Carol”
Why: This carol from the 1500s, in its a cappella choral setting, transports me into an almost altered state of being. I feel as though time melted away and I am linked into something universal and profound.

Dec. 16, 2009
Gelyna Price, San Francisco Girls Chorus
Favorite music: “The Christmas Song”
Why: My dad compiles a CD of favorite Christmas music every year, and this song by Nat King Cole is always the first piece. I remember singing along with it even when I was really little.

Dec. 15, 2009
Chloe Veltman
San Francisco Renaissance Voices
Favorite music: “Ceremony of Carols”
Why: I've been in love since my childhood with this masterpiece Benjamin Britten wrote in 1942 on an Atlantic journey. The piece feels as timeless as Santa Claus and yet as fresh as new-fallen snow.




















Dec. 14, 2009
Elisabeth Eliassen
Many groups, including American Bach Soloists, Pacific Mozart Ensemble, San Francisco Renaissance Voices
Favorite music: “Messiah”
Why: I love performing “Messiah” annually. During the holiday season that becomes ever more about consumerism, I experience this oratorio as an extended musical meditation on life’s journey — a tale of birth, growth, encounter with the divine [and] service.

Dec. 11, 2009
Jerome Lenk
Music director, Mission Dolores Basilica Choir
Favorite music: Various hymns and carols
Why: They are the perfect vehicle to bring people together in music making and bring everyone closer in community. Choirs from all over the world sing at Mission Dolores because of its acoustics, and it's very inspiring to make music in the space. [The choir performs its Candlelight Christmas Concert at 3321 16th St. at 5 p.m. Sunday.]

Dec. 10, 2009
Nicole Wong
Hoopdance instructor, educational psychology doctoral candidate  
Favorite music: “All Through the Night”
Why: It was the first song in the book of carols that my twin sister and I sang when we were little. Every year, Michelle and I would sit together in the living room and sing our way from “All Through the Night” to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” There were no fewer than 40 songs in the book, and we sang every verse of every song. I'm sure my parents wished that they had never purchased that book!


Dec. 9
Jesse Antin
Founder/director, a cappella ensemble Clerestory
Favorite music: “Hymn to the Virgin”
Why: Benjamin Britten's unique work for is for two choirs – four parts each – one in English and one in Latin, singing a 12th-century hymn to Mary; it is my favorite Christmas choral piece.


Dec. 8, 2009
Jeffrey Thomas
Music director, American Bach Soloists
Favorite music: “Messiah”
Why: “Messiah” is not specifically “Christmas music,” but it’s performed for the holidays around the world — and for good reason. Only the greatest masterworks remain fresh year after year; Handel’s genius always shines through every performance.

Dec. 7, 2009
Heidi Moss
Pocket Opera
Favorite music: Harry Nilsson’s “Without You”
Why: It may not sound like a Christmas song, but it was played every year religiously in my family. We had what we called “talking lights” on our Christmas tree. Each light represented a different part of the harmonic spectrum, and this song had such a dramatic buildup that when Nilsson starts screaming “I CAN’T LIIIIIIVE …” the tree lights just went wild.

Dec. 4, 2009
Elise Kent
Peninsula Women’s Chorus
Favorite music: Old English carols and wassail songs
Why: Boisterous, celebratory old English wassail songs such as the Gloucestershire Wassail are favorites. They’re all about raucous merry-making and toasting good health — a good way to end the year!


Dec. 3, 2009
Michelle Blackman
San Francisco Girls Chorus
Favorite music: “Silent Night”
Why: “Silent Night” is so amazing when 300 voices of the Chorus and Chorus School sing it together. It’s calming music, and shows the Chorus’ family feel. “Joy to the World” has an upbeat melody and joyous lyrics.


Dec. 2, 2009
Katherine McKee
American Bach Soloists
Favorite music: “Messiah”
Why: For almost two decades my favorite Christmas musical experience has been singing Handel's “Messiah” with ABS. Each performance brings something new and exciting to this amazing work, which comes to life under Jeffrey Thomas' direction.


Dec. 1, 2009
Alice N. Ko
San Francisco Renaissance Voices
Favorite music: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
Why: This carol is especially meaningful seeing everyone fighting fatigue and sleepiness in church to celebrate midnight Mass. When the church bells ring at midnight and we start singing this beautiful hymn, the moment is magical.


Nov. 30, 2009
Vance George
Choral Director Emeritus, San Francisco Symphony
Favorite music: An old madrigal
Why: My favorite is Luca Marenzio’s 16th-century madrigal, “Qual mormorio soave” (“That soft murmuring”), with the text “the Virgin has concealed God within herself.” It’s part of our “Christmas by the Bay” CD.

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