HOLIDAY GUIDE '11: Music preview 

Sounds of the season: A guide to Rochester’s holiday concerts

Tear your holiday shopping list in half, right down the middle. Keep the left-hand list of names of loved ones, ditch the right-hand list of whatever you were thinking about buying. I've got your holiday-shopping solution, and it is a perfect fit for 99 percent of the people who are on your list.

This holiday season there are more than 40 choral and classical concerts taking place between December 1 and January 15. Why not actually spend time with those you love while supporting local musicians and non-profit music organizations?

Start on Friday, December 2, as the Eastman Rochester Chorus with the Eastman Philharmonia performance of Schubert's Mass No. 5, D678, in A-flat and Schumann's "Scene's from Goethe's Faust -- Part III: Faust's Transfiguration" (8 p.m.; Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater, 26 Gibbs St.; free). In addition to its Eastman School of Music, located on Gibbs Street downtown, the University of Rochester at its River Campus has a separate music department, including a Wind Symphony that also performing the same night (8 p.m.; Strong Auditorium; free). Another area college, RIT, will also hold its "Let RIT Snow Christmas Concert" by the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (7 p.m.; Webb Auditorium; free).

On Friday and Saturday, December 2-3, the Rochester Gay Men's Chorus will make the yuletide -- well, you know -- with its annual holiday show (8 p.m.; Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; $6-$15). That Friday is also the opening night of "A Time to Rejoice!" by chamber chorale Madrigalia, which will also be performed December 4, 7, 16, 17, and 18 at various area venues (visit

Don't stray far from UR because on Saturday, December 3, the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra will present Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, under the baton of conductor David Harman (8 p.m.; Strong Auditorium; free). Also performing that Saturday night is WolfGang, one of the choirs of the Amadeus Chorale, with the Spencerport Community Chorus at the First Congregational Church (7 p.m.; 65 Church St., Spencerport; free). Concentus Women's Chorus will perform a holiday program at White Haven Chapel (4 p.m.; 210 Marsh Road, Pittsford; free). Also, get involved with Hochstein School of Music and Dance on December 3 with a performance by its Finger Lakes Concert Band (7:30 p.m.; Middle School, 215 Granger St., Canandaigua; free-$5). If you're determined to go to the mall, at least go to the Eastview Mall on Saturday and Sunday, December 3-4, to support Hochstein students in their annual "performathon" of instrument and vocal ensembles (noon-6 p.m.; BonTon Court; free/donation).

On Sunday, December 4, treat yourself to a full day of music at area churches. Following the 9:30 a.m. service at the Church of the Incarnate Word, Michael Unger will give an advent organ recital, including J.S. Bach's "Schübler Chorales" (9:30 a.m.; 597 East Ave; free). That afternoon, Grace Notes, another of the choirs of the Amadeus Chorale, will perform with the Spencerport Concert Choir at the First Congregational Church in Spencerport (3 p.m.; free). Or hop in your car and go to hear and sing Handel's "Messiah"at the First Congregational Church in Canandaigua (1 p.m. rehearsal, 3 p.m. sing-along; free). The Greece Choral Society will give its Christmas concert at the St. CharlesBorromeoChurch (7 p.m.; 3003 Dewey Ave., Greece; free/donations). The Brockport College-Community Chorus will present its "Holiday Harmonies" concert at St. Luke's Episcopal Church (7:30 p.m.; 14 State St.; $5). Also that evening, ephemeral chamber group Ad Hoc will present Mozart's E-flat Serenade, K. 375 as part of the Christ Church Candlelight Concerts (8:30 p.m.; 141 East Ave; free); Compline and a reception will follow.

Monday, December 5, the Penfield Symphony Orchestra with the Penfield High School Chorale offers a "Spice Up the Holidays" concert (7:30 p.m.; Penfield High, 25 High School Drive; $12-$14). On Tuesday, December 6, it's back to core classics when the UR Chamber Orchestra performs Prokofiev's "Classical Symphony" (8 p.m.; Strong Auditorium; free).

Madrigalia performs again on Wednesday, December 7, in its annual "A Cup of Good Cheer" concert, which will be broadcast live on WXXI 91.5 FM (12:10 p.m.; Hochstein, 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; free).

Thursday, December 8, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 10, at 8 p.m., the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will perform holiday classics, including Pachelbel's "Canon" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 "Winter Dreams" (Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre; $15-$77). Also on December 8, the UR Percussion Ensemble continues to pull out all the stops with a performance (8 p.m.; Strong Auditorium; free).

On Friday, December 9, chamber orchestra Cordancia begins its four performances of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," also held on December 10, 11, and 16 at multiple venues (check for details). Friday afternoon includes a holiday celebration featuring the UR Gospel Choir and Brass Choir (3 p.m.; GoergenBuilding; free). That evening also includes the first of two performances by a cappella group Musica Spei of the medieval liturgical drama "The Son of Getron, a St. Nicholas Play," which continues December 10 (check for details). A chamber music holiday concert takes place Friday at Hochstein (6 p.m.; 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; free). Also on December 9 is a concert of "Brass, Bells, and Candlelight" performed by the Rochester Oratorio Society, the Empire State Lyric Theatre Children's Chorus, Cantorei Singers, and the Church of the Transfiguration Bell Choir (7:30 p.m.; Third Presbyterian Church, 4 Meigs St.; $25). The performance will include a sing-along.

Saturday, December 10, the RIT Music Department will put on its holiday concert (7 p.m.; Ingle Auditorium; $2), and on the same night the UR Men's Glee Club and Chamber Singers will perform (4 p.m.; Interfaith Chapel Sanctuary; free). On Saturday and Sunday, December 10-11, Pegasus String Band offers a concert featuring the music of Bach, featuring Elizabeth Wallfisch on violin and Michael Beattie on harpsichord (different locations; check for details; $10-$25). Also on Saturday and Sunday the Lyric Chorale will present concerts with traditional and Spanish carols in Pittsford and Fairport, respectively (check for details; $12-$18) and Roberts Wesleyan Chorale will host its Christmas gala (Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.; Hale Auditorium; $8).

Sunday, December 11, is the biggest of the season's concert dates with at least seven different shows. Third Presbyterian Church starts the day with an offering of "Choral Music for Advent" (11 a.m.; free). The Eastman Repertory Singers and Women's Chorus will perform at ChristChurch (3 p.m.; free). The Rochester Boys Choir will perform its Christmas concert at St. John the EvangelistChurch (3 p.m.; 55 Martha St., Spencerport; donations). The Rochester Chamber Orchestra, in conjunction with the Bach Children's Chorus, will perform Handel's "Messiah" at Hochstein (4 & 6 p.m.; 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; $10-$25). At the Irondequoit United Church of Christ, you'll find the 75-voice Irondequoit Chorale performing the classic arrangement of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (3 p.m.; 644 Titus Ave.; $8-$12). Also that afternoon the UR Women's Chorus will perform with the Eastman School of Music choirs at Christ Church (3 p.m.; free). Over at the Church of the Incarnate Word, you will find its annual service of advent lessons and carols, including Francesco Durante's "Magnificat" (7 p.m.; free).

Wednesday, December 14, through Sunday, December 18, the RPO performs its annual Gala Holiday Pops program, directed by Jeff Tyzik, which will also feature the Festival High School Chorale (Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, $15-$77). December 14's performance will benefit  MonroeCommunityHospital, while December 15's will benefit Rochester Rotary Charitable programs.

The VoxLumine chamber choir performs a three-day run of "What Sweeter Music" Thursday, December 15, through Saturday, December 17 (check for details; $10). And on December 15 you can enjoy a "Holiday Prism Concert" at Hochstein, followed by an artists' reception (7 p.m.; 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; $5).

On Saturday, December 17, Empire State Lyric Theatre and the Amadeus Chorale will present a holiday family concert, including "Custard the Dragon" by visiting Broadway performers and "The Polar Express," at the Aquinas Institute (2 p.m.; 1127 Dewey Ave.; $10). On both December 17 and 18, you'll find the Genesee Valley Orchestra & Chorus presenting Handel's "Messiah" in Fairport and Henrietta, respectively (check for details; $10-$12).

Sunday, December 18, make sure to hear the sounds of the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ during the Rochester Theater Organ Society's "Christmas Follies" show at the Auditorium Center (2:30 p.m.; 885 E. Main St.; $15). Afterward stay in the Neighborhood of the Arts for the Baroque Organ Showcase at the Memorial Art Gallery, featuring Eastman School of Music students and faculty performing holiday music (5:30 p.m.; 500 University Ave.; $7-$10). You can also get your ESM fix with the Eastman at St. Michael's Concert Series, which will feature organist Annie Laver and others for a special advent concert (2:30 p.m.; 124 Evergreen St.; free).

Hopefully you'll have recuperated by Saturday, January 7, andSunday, January 8, to enjoy the Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival at the Third Presbyterian Church. It's a musical program of carols with a processional cast, costumes, and props, dating back to the Holy Roman Empire in the 900's for the serving up of the boar's head, the lighting of the Yule log, and, by English traditions begun in the 1300s, the feasting on the mince pie and plum pudding. For details visit

By Thursday, January 12, we'll start to see the bridge between holiday and the rest of our winter concert season with a Hochstein faculty concert by Tamari Gurevich and AllaKuznetsov titled "Adventures for Two Pianos: Works of Brahms, Bizet, and Piazolla" (7 p.m.; 50 N. Plymouth Ave.; $5-$10).

I'm designating Sunday, January 15, as the grand finale of the holiday concerts as the Church of the Incarnate Word brings us "Pageantry for the Festival of Epiphany," a concert of Medieval poetry and pageantry, combined with music from "The First Nowell" by Ralph Vaughan Williams (7 p.m.; East Ave; free). And, just so that our calendar list is complete with holiday cheer, also being offered that Sunday at Christ Episcopal Church are the Mozart string quintets by PublickMusick (3 p.m.; 36 S. Main St., Pittsford; Free-$15), followed by a reception featuring local wines.

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