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San Francisco Symphony’s run-up to Christmas

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With just under a week to go until Christmas, San Francisco Symphony celebrates the holiday season in style with a program which has something for everyone.

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Tradition leads the way, as Ragnar Bohlin conducts the Symphony and Chorus in Handel’s magnificent oratorio, Messiah, with soprano Katie Van Kooten, contralto Claudia Huckle, tenor Sean Panikkar and bass-baritone Joshua Hopkins.

The oratorio, written between August 22 and September 14, 1741, was originally intended as a thought-provoking work for Easter and Lent, and the composer led the first performance on April 13, 1742, at Neale’s Music Hall in Fishamble Street Dublin. Over time, the work developed into a Christmas tradition, and became so popular during the 19th century that various musicians started writing parts for additional instruments and bringing in larger numbers of performers, losing the core of the original in the process.

Over the past 50 years, Handel’s Messiah has returned to a format more in keeping with the composer’s direction, however - as former SF Symphony program annotator, the late Michael Steinberg, wrote - there are two approaches to performing the work. “You can reconstruct one of the forms in which it was actually given by Handel between 1742 and 1759 (or, for that matter, the 1741 score), or you can treat the score with its variants as a sort of kit from which to build an edition of your own. Like most modern conductors and editors, Ragnar Bohlin takes the latter, synthetic approach.”

Ragnar Bohlin leads the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus in Handel’s Messiah from December 19 to 21 at 8.00 pm at Davies Symphony Hall. For tickets and further information, please visit the SF Symphony website.

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Raymond Briggs’ enchanting story of The Snowman, or Howard Blake’s memorable score for the animated film about the friendship between a young boy and the Snowman he built, who comes to life to take him to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus.

In A Christmas Matinee with The Snowman, Randall Craig Fleischer leads the San Francisco Symphony as it accompanies this much-loved film, telling of the magical journey on which the Snowman takes the boy, and the many wonderful sights that they see.

The performance - which features the Pacific Boychoir - also includes seasonal songs, carols and a holiday sing-along, and takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on December 20 and 21 at 2.00 pm. Details on ticketing can be found on the San Francisco Symphony website.

On the last few days before Christmas, you’re invited to join conductor Ragnar Bohlin, members of the San Francisco Symphony’s brass section and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in a warm and intimate program of seasonal favorites and carols, accompanied by the sumptuous Ruffatti organ. ‘Twas the Night has become a Christmas tradition at Davies Symphony Hall - decked out in all its holiday finery - a concert to be enjoyed by the whole family, which truly embraces that sense of togetherness which the Christmas season brings. The Symphony and Chorus are joined by soprano Lisa Vroman, with pianist Joan Cifarelli and organist Robert Huw Morgan.

‘Twas the Night takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on December 22 at 4.00 pm, December 23 at 8.00 pm and December 24 at 11.00 am. For tickets and program details, please visit the SF Symphony website.

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