March to a different holiday drum 

Assuming you know that the San Francisco Symphony is offering "Messiah" in Davies Hall next week and "Colors of Christmas" from Dec. 17 to 19; the San Francisco Ballet is doing "Nutcracker" starting Thursday; and A.C.T. has started its annual run of "A Christmas Carol," let us explore more unusual examples of holiday entertainment.

On a road less-traveled is Benjamin Britten’s "A Ceremony of Carols" at the center of the concert that opens the Peninsula Women’s Chorus’ 41st season. Besides Britten’s use of plainsong and carols originating in the 15th century, the program includes choral works by Kodály, Jasinski, Olsson and Pablo Casals. The work by the great cellist is "Nigra Sum," which celebrates the beauty of being black. Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park; tickets are $15 to $18. Visit www.pwchorus.org/ for details.

Geoff Hoyle serves up a clown’s holiday memories in "The Christmas Revels," a trip through the English countryside with the story of a "Songcatcher," which collects songs, dances and village traditions that mark the turning of the year. Hoyle’s characters include church wardens, farmers, pub keepers and itinerant music hall performers. Performances are this weekend and next at the Scottish Rite Theater, Oakland; tickets are $15 to $50. Visit www.calrevels.org.

Operafest from Kuala Lumpur is a children’s chorus from Malaysia, apparently having little or nothing to do with opera. At any rate, the singers will join the Piedmont Choirs under Robert Geary’s direction in a candlelight church concert of holiday music from around the world at 4 p.m. Sunday at Old First Church, San Francisco; tickets are $12 to $15. Visit www.oldfirstconcerts.org.

Highlighting 17th-century German sacred music, Philharmonia Baroque is featuring Heinrich Schütz’s "Weihnachtshistorie" ("The Christmas Story"), and works by Johann Rosenmüller and Johann Kuhnau. The guest conductor is the famed lutenist virtuoso Konrad Junghänel. Performances are at 8 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto and at 9 p.m. Dec. 14 in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. Tickets are $30 to $72. Visit www.philharmonia.org.

"Twenty Decembers" is the title of the program and a matter of pride for the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, celebrating its 20th season. The group’s holiday concert spans 10 centuries of music. Performances are at 4 p.m. Saturday at Old First Church, San Francisco; 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, San Mateo; and 5 p.m. Dec. 16 at First Congregational Church, Palo Alto. Tickets are $10 to $25.Visit www.ragazzi.org.

"A Musical Spectrum" by two composers with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is offered in the Faculty Artists Series. Alden Jenks presents works written on computers and synthesizers in the school’s electronic music studio; Mikako Endo’s work includes "music for jazz combo, music for kids, jazz for kids, songs for grownups, two-piano music for J.S. Bach, country music for your broken heart, and one or two surprises for fun." The concert is at 8 p.m. Monday in the Conservatory Recital Hall; tickets are $15 to $20; call (415) 503-6275.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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