COURTESY DAVID ALLENRagazzi Continuo – a group of alumni from Ragazzi Boys Chorus – presents its holiday concert “Tidings of Comfort” this weekend.

Ragazzi singers grow into Continuo

Ravi Raval was just 8 years old when he joined Ragazzi, the acclaimed Bay Area-based boys’ chorus. It was, he says, a life-changing experience – one that gave him an unshakable commitment to music.

Raval, who started with the chorus in 1998 as a boy soprano, stayed with the group until 2006. But he’s still singing with some of the friends he met there. Now 24, the Belmont-based Raval currently serves as music director of Ragazzi Continuo, the men’s choir drawn from alumni of the boys chorus.

This weekend, he’ll join the group in its annual holiday concert. “Tidings of Comfort,” a program of a cappella works for men’s chorus, will be performed Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Redwood City.

Continuo was formed in 2010 as a natural outgrowth of the singers’ work in Ragazzi. “We’d all gone off to college,” explains Raval, who graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in music. “Then we were all back in the Bay Area, and we all really missed singing.” Their prior history gave them a distinct advantage: audiences often remark on Continuo’s seamless vocal blend.

“I think people sing better when they have that underlying social connectivity,” says Raval. “I’m singing with guys who have been my best friends since I was a kid.” Today, Raval boasts a resonant bass voice. But he recalls starting with Ragazzi as a boy soprano – his voice was so high and pure, he could sing the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Ragazzi gave him a strong foundation – the chorus toured to Europe, and sang locally with the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas.

“It gave us not just the passion of singing, but an emotional depth we got to at a very young age,” he says. “Because of that, a lot of us became professional musicians. I know very few Ragazzi alum who don’t have music in their lives.” Raval has a full-time job as a test prep instructor. But he’s never lost his love for singing. And he loves putting together programs; this week’s concerts include music from Palestrina to Paul Simon, as well as American spirituals and holiday favorites.

As he prepare for the performances, Raval says he plans to keep singing with Continuo as long as possible.

“Really, I can’t imagine not doing it,” he says. “It’s very much a part of who we all are.”

IF YOU GO

Ragazzi Continuo

Where: St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20

Tickets: $15 to $20

Contact: (650) 342-8785, www.ragazzicontinuo.org

Note: The concert is also being presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 178 Clinton St., Redwood City .

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