There's something about holiday music that can cause even curmudgeons to break into song. The Bay Area holiday music scene is a veritable cornucopia of choral singing. One of the most interesting on the calendar is the more than half-a-century old Moscow Boys Choir, performing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., in downtown Livermore.
When one thinks of a boys' choir, one usually thinks of the incandescent treble sounds produced during the prepubescent years. When properly coached, these boys can make singularly pure, rather flutelike sounds. Some folks even go so far as to call them "angelic," and it has been utilized in liturgical music since medieval times.
The Moscow Boys Choir is a bit different. Under the tutelage of Leonid Baklushin, the group's current leader, the youngest lads are joined by the rich tenor, baritone and bass sounds of more mature boys to create a unique timbre, still luminescent but with the same tonal range as a choir of mixed adult male and female voices.
The boys attend a special school that provides both general education and rigorous musical training. The touring group is chosen from the crème de la crème among the school's 400 students.
The Livermore appearance marks the 10th anniversary of the choir's North American touring. The group has also gained critical acclaim during tours to South Korea, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. The
Tickets are $14 to $54. Call 925-373-6800 or go to www.bankheadtheater.org.
KEEPING IT GOING: An up-and-coming group, Ragazzi Continuo, is in the midst of a series of concerts at Bay Area venues. Eight former Ragazzi Boys Choir members, now in their 20s, have perfected techniques that allow them to sing through the whole human vocal range, from soprano to bass. Many who have heard them consider them well on their way to rivaling Chanticleer, the world-famous San Francisco-based a cappella ensemble.
Continuo's aim is to achieve an elite level of musicianship across a broad array of musical disciplines, including the older Renaissance, Baroque, Gregorian chant and Romantic styles, as well as modern, folk, gospel and American spirituals. The group's artistic adviser is Joyce Keil, who also serves as such for Ragazzi itself.
Jesse Buddington, a Continuo member, describes the concerts as "a Christmas show full of Renaissance music presented by a bunch of guys in their mid-20s who used to be choir boys before it was cool." The other members are Daniel Crowley, Calvin Johnson, Zander MacQuitty, Ross Morey, Jeremy Ragent, John Martin and Jansen Verplank.
The concert, called "Songs of Wintertide," is Continuo's collection of carols that the members wish they could hear more often. "In selecting each carol," Buddington says, "we took care to find captivating and beautiful arrangements of each tune -- and where we couldn't find one, we created our own. It's guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind experience." Continuo's complete setting of Josquin des Prez's "Missa Ave Maris Stella," a Mass setting traditionally sung during the Christmas holidays, will also be on the program.
Remaining performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday at Woodside Village Church, 3154 Woodside Road, in Woodside, and at 4 p.m. Sunday at Bethany United Methodist Church, 1270 Sanchez St. in San Francisco. Tickets at the door are $20, or $18 when purchased in advance at www.ragazzicontinuo.org.
A MERRY TRIO: One of the merriest of Christmas concerts possible, "A Celtic Christmas with Golden Bough," is slated for 8 p.m. Friday at Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St. in San Francisco. Golden Bough's members are three versatile and irresistibly congenial musicians who have been celebrating Christmas and the winter season with the music of Ireland, Scotland and other Celtic lands for the past 30 years. All three are vocalists. Margie Butler plays Celtic harp, penny whistle and bodhran; Paul Espinoza is on guitar, octave mandolin and accordion; and Kathy Sierra plays violin and viola. Tickets are $14 and $17. Call 415-474-1608 or go to www.oldfirstconcerts.org.
SINGING FOR OTHERS: Folks who feel inspired to have fun singing in a chorus themselves should check in with the recently formed "Sing for America." The brain child of longtime San Francisco Opera Chorus tenor Erich Wolf Stratmann, it is a volunteer organization geared to give concerts that benefit various charities. After only one season, the singers have donated $100,000 to 46 different charities. According to Stratmann, 100 singers are being sought to join in the next concert on April 14 at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts. Rehearsals begin Jan. 21. Go to www.singforamerica.org for more information.
Contact Cheryl North at firstname.lastname@example.org.