Symphony decks halls with holiday music

Davies Symphony Hall is all dressed up for the month of December, and the San Francisco Symphony will be putting on the glitz for its annual array of holiday concerts, parties and special events.

“Holidays with the Symphony,” running through Dec. 31, offers a “something for everyone” lineup, from Christmas carols to contemporary classics, children’s events and masquerade balls.

The series begins with “El Nino (Dec. 2-4.)

John Adams’ evening-length oratorio, which received its U.S. premiere on a symphony program in 2001, revisits the timeless nativity story with a strikingly contemporary score.

Adams conducts three performances, featuring sopranos Dawn Upshaw (Dec. 2 and 4) and Jessica Rivera (Dec. 3), mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, countertenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings and Steven Rickards, bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

The symphony will also perform Handel’s “Messiah” this year (Dec. 15 at Flint Center, Dec. 16-17 and 19 at Davies Hall.) Joining the orchestra and chorus are soprano Kiera Duffy, mezzo-soprano Tove Dahlberg, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and bass Robert Gleadow; Ragnar Bohlin conducts.

New on this year’s schedule is “The Snowman” (Dec. 18), an animated film accompanied by live music; the film tells the story of a boy’s magical friendship with a snowman, and the score includes selections from “Nutcracker” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Donata Cabrera conducts the orchestra and the Pacific Boychoir.

Bohlin returns to conduct “Twas the Night” (Dec. 22-24), a sing-along program of holiday favorites with soprano Lisa Vroman, organist Robert Huw Morgan, and members of the orchestra and chorus.

The holidays wouldn’t be complete without “Deck the Hall” (Dec. 5), the symphony’s annual children’s party; or “Peter and the Wolf” (Dec. 11 at Davies, Dec. 12 at Flint Center.)

Prokofiev’s classic is made for kids, and this year’s narrator, Eden Espinosa, comes directly from performances as Elphaba in the Broadway and San Francisco casts of “Wicked.” Special events include an appearance by Liza Minnelli (Dec. 5), joined by her quartet and accompanied by Billy Stritch in a program of show tunes, American standards and seasonal songs.

Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez (Dec. 12) presents traditional Mexican music and a salute to the Virgin of Guadalupe; “Colors of Christmas” (Dec. 13-15) returns with vocalists Peabo Byrson, Stephanie Mills, Oleta Adams and Ben Vereen.

The Blind Boys of Alabama (Dec. 19) sing “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” a program of gospel, blues and spirituals.

The season ends with the “New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball” (Dec. 31), featuring a concert and post-show party with masks, champagne, and lobby entertainment by Tainted Love and the Peter Mintun Orchestra. It’s a great way to ring in the new year.

IF YOU GO

Holidays with the Symphony

Presented by San Francisco Symphony

When: Now through Dec. 31
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco; and Flint Center, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino
Tickets: $15 to $195
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

 

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