Music News & Reviews

Catch the holiday music spirit in the Sacramento area

Don Kendrick leads the 160-voice Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra during “Home for the Holidays.”
Don Kendrick leads the 160-voice Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra during “Home for the Holidays.” Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra

Don Kendrick appreciates the challenges of holiday programming. During festive concerts, audiences expect to hear certain songs or other musical staples of the season. Mess with tradition and expect some backlash.

“Every time I take off ‘Sleigh Ride’ (from the program), I get hate mail,” said Kendrick, music director of the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra. “Some things, the audience always looks for. That means some things I dare not touch.”

Kendrick kept that in mind while choosing pieces for SCSO’s “Home for the Holidays” concert, set for Dec. 12 at Memorial Auditorium. This marks SCSO’s 20th holiday gala; almost 3,000 patrons attended last year.

“When it comes to selecting music, I ‘redecorate’ around the core,” Kendrick said. “It’s sort of like decorating your home for the holidays – you don’t want to do the tree the same way every year. So, I bring back some things we’ve done before but still keep it fresh.”

Last year’s SCSO holiday concert featured about 75 percent new works and was very well received, he added. The society recorded that concert live, and it became SCSO’s latest CD.

While audiences listen for familiar carols, musicians love the challenge of learning works they hadn’t previously performed, he noted. That creates a delicate balancing act for directors such as Kendrick. For the SCSO concert, Kendrick plans an opening that local audiences have never heard, “Holy Night of Angels,’ which was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony.

“This is the first time it will be performed on the West Coast, and it’s a humdinger,” he said.

SCSO’s 160-voice chorus is joined by the 50-voice Sacramento Children’s Chorus and accompanied by a 65-piece professional orchestra. Tenor Chester Pidduck will be the featured soloist.

Thousands of people singing carols together is really something to hear.

Don Kendrick, music director, Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra

“For the first time, we’re going to open the second balcony (for seating),” Kendrick said. “It’s actually a great place to sit; you can see and hear everything.”

While there will be plenty of new flourishes, those familiar holiday chestnuts are what audiences crave.

“They just go crazy during the singalong,” Kendrick said. “They bring their children and sway back and forth as they sing ‘Away in the Manger’ and other favorites. Thousands of people singing carols together is really something to hear.”

Ready to catch that holiday spirit? Here are some concerts that will warm your heart and your ears:

Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra

▪  “Home for the Holidays,” 8 p.m. Dec. 12, Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St., Sacramento: The 160-voice choir and 65-piece professional orchestra will be joined by the Sacramento Children’s Chorus and featured performer, tenor Chester Pidduck. Tickets: $30-$45.

Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, One Shields Drive, Davis

▪  Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O, 8 p.m., Dec. 2-5: For four shows in the Mondavi’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre Cabaret, jazz drummer Matt Wilson is joined by reedman Jeff Lederer and bassist Paul Sikivie for a jazzy spin on Christmas classics. $25.50-$47.

▪  UC Davis Concert Band, 7 p.m. Dec. 4: The university’s concert band is directed by Pete Nowlen in Jackson Hall. $20.

▪ University Chorus with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, 7 p.m. Dec. 5: These two campus institutions will include Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” and contemporary composer James Whitbourn’s “Son of God Mass.” $20.

▪  Pink Martini, 7 p.m. Dec. 6: Featuring singer Storm Large, this swinging orchestra will include several songs from its “Joy to the World” album. (Also at Grass Valley’s Center for the Arts.) $17.50-$85.

▪  American Bach Soloists, 4 p.m. Dec. 13: Directed by Jeffrey Thomas, this acclaimed choir presents Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” accompanied by a period orchestra.

Harris Center: Three Stages at Folsom Lake College, 10 College Parkway, Folsom

▪  The Ten Tenors, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25: Australia’s “rock stars of opera” belt out seasonal favorites and arias in “Home for the Holidays.” $39-$75.

▪  An Irish Christmas, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, 2 and 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 28; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29: A Christmas celebration, full of traditional Irish song and dance. $25-$49.

▪  Voices of California, 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5: Specializing in four-part harmony, this 80-voice, all-male chorus presents “Comfort and Joy.” $25-$35.

▪  Folsom Symphony, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6: A holiday show with an Italian twist on “Bianco Natale” (White Christmas) with tenor Pasquale Esposito, excerpts from “The Nutcracker Suite,” operatic arias and music from “Frozen.” $25-$59.

▪  David Benoit Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9: Jazz pianist David Benoit brings to life music composed by Vince Guaraldi; with special guest, jazz vocalist Jane Monheit. $45-$65.

▪ Placer Pops Chorale, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 12-13: Chorale and orchestra present “A Holiday Homecoming.” $23-$35.

▪  Sacramento Master Singers, 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13: “Sing We Now of Christmas,” includes candlelight procession, traditional choirs and audience singalong. (Also at St. Francis Church in Sacramento.) $26-$51.

Sacramento Master Singers

▪  “Sing We Now of Christmas,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17; 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20; 7 p.m. Monday. Dec. 21, St. Francis Church, 1066 26th St., Sacramento. (Also 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, at Harris Center) 30th holiday season. $22.

▪  Children’s Holiday Concert, 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, St. Francis Church, 1066 26th St., Sacramento. A performance for youth. $5.

The Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

▪  Pink Martini, 8 p.m. Dec. 4: The multilingual cosmopolitan orchestra presents a swinging holiday show (also at Mondavi Center). $37-$72.

▪  Windham Hill Winter Solstice Celebration, 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18: Grammy-nominated musicians Alex De Grassi, Barbara Higbie, Lisa Lynne, Aryeh Frankfurter, George Tortorelli and Alex Kelly present classic and original holiday music. $30.

Chamber Music Society of Sacramento

▪  Two Mozart and Bach concerts: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Bet Haverim Synagogue, 1715 Anderson Road, Davis; 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, Music Building, CSUS campus, 6000 J St., Sacramento. Included are Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue for String Quartet and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. With soprano Carrie Hennessey. $30.

Sacred Heart Church, 1040 39th St., Sacramento

▪  Procession of Carols, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6: Sacramento State’s chamber, concert and university choirs join voices for the holiday songfest. $15.

Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento

▪  Camellia City Flute Choir, 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13: Twenty musicians play baroque to contemporary. $12.

Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus

▪  “He! Ha! Ho! A Down-Home Holiday Show,” 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 4-5, and Tuesday, Dec. 8; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, First United Methodist Church, 2100 J St., Sacramento. $25-$40.

A Chanticleer Christmas

▪  A Chanticleer Christmas, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11st St., Sacramento. The male chorus sings holiday music from Renaissance to spirituals. $35-$75.

Capistrano Concert Hall, CSUS campus

▪  Winter Jazz Festival, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12: Daylong activities and workshops conclude with the Sacramento Jazz Orchestra performing Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite.” $10.

▪  Camerata Capistrano, 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec 13: The classical ensemble presents “Beyond Baroque,” which includes Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto.” $5-$10.

▪  String Project recital, 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 14: A performance by fourth-grade students and up who are taught violin or cello by CSUS music students. Free.

Capitol Pops Concert Band

Two concerts of seasonal favorites. 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Rusch Park Gym, 7801 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights; and 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10, Christ The King Lutheran Church, 5811 Walnut Ave., Orangevale. Collecting new or used coats for One Warm Coat.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington