'Tis the season for a child to be born unto us and for the government to be upon his shoulder. Poor little guy.
Bella Voce is the first out of the gate, presenting their spry and slender version the weekend before Thanksgiving. Theirs is presented complete with a period band and thirteen soloists who step forward from this city's premiere chamber choir. Conductor Andrew Lewis and concertmaster Martin Davids have enough charisma and flair to make this a very watchable two-and-a-half hour concert. Two performances Saturday November 19th in Evanston and Sunday November 20th at Fourth Presbyterian Church on the Magnificent Mile.
University of Chicago's Rockefeller Memorial Chapel may have a slight advantage being on the first Sunday in December and in one of the most beautiful spaces in the country. James Kallembach leads a choir comprised of students and professionals with the orchestra of Haymarket Opera Company and soloists including bass-baritone Dashon Burton of Roomful of Teeth. Sunday December 4th.
The giant (125-member choir) and traditional (orchestra tuned to A=440) version of this ubiquitous oratorio is well-served by Stephen Alltop and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. They perform at the Harris Theater on Saturday December 10th and Sunday December 11th with Chicago's reigning queen of coloratura and other graces Josefien Stoppelenburg and opera star baritone Levi Hernandez.
The Messiah that will command the largest audience is the one that they get to sing themselves. The original International Music Foundation's DIY Messiah is the one that sells out hours after tickets go on sale. They also perform twice at the Harris on Tuesday December 20th and Wednesday December 21st. It's hard to deny the fun of this event – only alcohol could improve it, which is for sale in the lobby. Soprano Michelle Areyzaga with her deluxe tone quality is a luxury for this type of affair. Having a countertenor as the alto soloist may be the first time many of the audience will be exposed to one. Luckily, they will get to hear the inimitable Ryan Belongie.
Finally, if you like the idea of a DIY Messiah but you forget to buy your tickets to the one above, or you just don't want to pay for parking and fight the traffic, there is a quaint, lovely one at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest on Sunday December 18th. Scores are available to rent for five dollars but admission is free. This is a charity concert for Harmony Food Pantry with an orchestra comprised of Oberlin Conservatory students and alumni. The soloists include Bach and Beethoven Ensemble's Thomas Aláan, countertenor; neurosurgeon and baritone Douglas Anderson, and Liederstube co-director/host of Opera Box Score radio Oliver Camacho, tenor. Unfortunately, alcohol will not be served.