Superlist no. 788

Handel's 'Messiah'
Bay Area performances and sing-alongs.

By Laura Paskell-Brown

SO THE TREE and the fairy lights are up, you have enough booze and unhealthy snacks to sink the Titanic, and your TV is about to explode in a flurry of consumerism and romantic schmaltz. But there's something missing. That's right, folks: it just wouldn't be a happy holiday without some singing about God. And for that, there's no beating Handel's Messiah, a piece for choir, orchestra, and soloists that has delighted audiences worldwide for more than 250 years. As 18th-century music historian Charles Burney once said, "Messiah has fed the hungry and clothed the naked, fostered the orphan, and enriched succeeding managers of Oratories more than any single musical production in this or any other country." We're not totally sure what that means, but here's the lowdown on where to watch (or even sing) the cracking Christmas classic this holiday season. (Note: We recommend calling in advance for tickets.)

The American Bach Soloists will be staging the Bay Area's "only period-instrument performance" of the Messiah this season. Wed/10-Thurs/11, 7:30 p.m., Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, S.F. $18-$50. (415) 621-7099,

The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, which specializes in major classical works, will be ending its performance of the Messiah with a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah chorus that audience members are free to join. Sat/6 and Sat/20, 8 p.m.; Sun/7, 4 p.m., St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison, Berk. Free.

Masterworks Chorale joins the Solaris Chamber Orchestra and soloists to bring you the Christmas portion and favorite choruses from Handel's Messiah. Join the fun with the sing-along version Thurs/11 or sit back and enjoy the concert version Sun/14. Sing-along version Thurs/11, 7 p.m., College of San Mateo, 1700 West Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo; concert version Sun/14, 4 p.m., United Methodist Church, 1443 Howard, Burlingame. $16-$19. (650) 579-5568.

Combine singing and goodwill to all men (another holiday theme) with the Redwood Empire Sing-Along Messiah. The performance benefits Hospital Chaplaincy Services, a "non-sectarian, interfaith agency providing caring listeners to nearly 20 Sonoma County hospitals and skilled nursing facilities." Wed/17, 7:30 p.m., Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $12-$16. (707) 546 3600,

Take part in the "Sing-it-Yourself Messiah" with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Weekly classes at the Conservatory started Nov. 5 (7:30-9:30 p.m.), and there's just one left. However, those brave enough can learn it all in one day at "Extreme Messiah" Sun/7, 1-5 p.m., and the extremely cocky can just turn up the day of the performance. Mon/8, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, Grove between Van Ness and Franklin, S.F. $20-$49 (discounts for parties of 10 or more). (415) 864-6000 (tickets); (415) 759-3401 or email for info.

Join the San Francisco Symphony in its annual performances of the Messiah. Conductor Martin Hasalböck leads a distinguished lineup of soloists and the Grammy Award-winning orchestra in two performances. Fri/19-Sat/20, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, Grove between Van Ness and Franklin, S.F. $15-$80. (415) 864-6000,

December 17, 2003