The San Francisco Girls Chorus’ annual Holiday Concert and Sing-Along is one of The City’s delightful traditions.
Warming up with a 40-voice group at a concert in Lafayette tonight, the full 300-member choir is getting ready for the big one in Davies Hall on Tuesday, called “Tidings of Great Joy.”
Just as the 32-year-old chorus is a San Francisco institution, the holiday concert is a perennial celebration of young voices, parents’ pride, alumna nostalgia — an electric environment of artistic excellence and a jolly good time.
Many of the parents are singers themselves, some even veterans of the Girls Chorus, so there is a true family atmosphere at these concerts, especially when alumnae join the chorus onstage.
Present and former chorus members come from some 160 schools in 48 Bay Area communities. Parents and children are veterans of concert tours ranging from Asia to the Baltics.
Year after year, the chorus fills the 2,743-seat Davies Hall with programs that run the gamut from traditional carols and sing-alongs to contemporary compositions by Benjamin Britten, David Brunner, Daniel Pinkham, Eleanor Daley and others.
The organization is also responsible for the commissioning of new works. Such notable composers as Augusta Read Thomas, David Conte, Jake Heggie, Chen Yi, Libby Larsen, Herbert Bielawa and his daughter, Rome-Prize winner Lisa Bielawa (Lowell High School and SFGC alumna) have contributed to the chorus repertory.
The Lafayette concert includes a Brahms “Psalm,” Michael Haydn’s “Magnificat,” and other works, in addition to carols and audience sing-alongs.
Preparations for the holiday concerts start almost a full year ahead, says Elizabeth Avakian, director of the chorus school, and a member of the faculty for 28 years.
Rehearsals begin as early as summer because even the youngest singers are expected to perform the program from memory. Members of the chorus are as young as 6, so memorization of the texts alone takes much work.
“I know I am not the only one in the concert hall who becomes emotional when seeing and hearing these young women singing such beautiful music straight from the heart,” says Avakian.
Artistic Director Susan McMane conducts the concerts. Guest instrumentalists include a brass quintet, percussionists and organist Rudy de Vos.
IF YOU GO
Where: Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, 49 Knox Drive, Lafayette
When: 8 p.m. today
Tickets: $18 to $35
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $28 to $65
Contact: (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com