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STEPPING OUT: Choral music events for the holidays

“The human voice,” composer Richard Strauss once said, “is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.” He could have added the words, “at Christmas time,” and few would have blinked an eye, because it’s true. At Christmas time, there’s nothng more beautiful than the human voice lifted in song. In ancient days, as the Solstice drew near and the nights grew longer, communities would gather together around fires and hearths to sing together, joining their voices to drive away their fear of the dark. That tradition has never faded. From Christmas carolers on the street to vast choirs singing Handel’s Messiah, there’s just something about human voices joined in unison that makes the holidays seem even more beautiful, warm, and magical.

Should you be looking for some of that vocal magic this winter season, we’ve compiled a list of local choral concerts and events designed to lift our spirits and send us into the night with a song in our hearts.

MUSIC FOR A WINTER’S EVE

(Tuesday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 9, 3 p.m.)

The Petaluma Chorale presents its joyous annual holiday concert, with choral favorites performed under the direction of Linda Evans Manuilow. Petaluma Valley Baptist Church, 580 Sonoma Mountain Parkway. Admission $12 (general), $10 (seniors and students), free for children 12 and under.

Tickets available at the door. Proceeds from this concert will go to help those affected by the fires.

CINNABAR SINGERS HOLIDAY CONCERT (December 10, 2 p.m.)

Featuring a performance of Rachmaninoff’s transcendent “All Night Vigil” – which does NOT last all night, and has sometimes been mistranslated as “Vespers” – this stirring concert by the Cinnabar Singers also showcases a spicy surprise-pack of other holiday pieces. Those will possibly include French carols, some holiday tunes by Robin Eschner, instructions for putting together a bicycle, and a recipe for figgy pudding (all set to music, of course). The Cinnabar Singers are conducted by musical director Michael Shahani, with accompaniment by Chris Alexander. Elim Lutheran Church, 504 Baker St. $15 (general), $10 (youth). Purchase tickets through CinnabarTheater.org.

A CHANTICLEER CHRISTMAS (Friday, December 15, 8:30 p.m.)

The stellar voices of the award-winning all-men’s chorus Chanticleer return to St. Vincent Church for an evening of vocal precision and jaw-dropping musicianship. In Chanticleer’s new holiday show, the legendary journey of the wise men is followed across the ages and around the world. Joining them are a mismatched assemblage of folks from many nations and cultures. A candle-lit Gregorian chant, music by Poulenc, Sweelinck, and others, plus traditional carols and spirituals, will all be part of the perfor-mance. Tickets $35 to $75. 35 Liberty St. Chanticleer.org.

PACIFIC EMPIRE CHORUS HOLIDAY JUKEBOX SHOW (Sat., December 16, 3 p.m.)

The celebrated barbershop-style all-female acapella chorus presents its annual holiday show at the first Presbyterian Church, 939 B St. An array of “jukebox favorites” will be sung by various local choruses and barbershop quartets, with plenty of Christmas-y razzle dazzle tossed in like extra cinnamon in the holiday punch. Bring a toy for the chorus’s toy drive, and plan to stay for dessert. Tickets $10. PacificEmpire.org.

ANNUAL CHRISTMAS CHOIR CONCERT (Sunday, December 17, 6:30 p.m.)

The choir of Petaluma’s First Presbyterian Church, 939 B St., presents its own annual holiday performance of gorgeous songs and hymns. Joining the choir is the church’s bell choir, worship ensemble, and various small groups, performing Gregorian chants and carols, pieces by Vivaldi and works by John Rutter. This event is free, though donations will be gratefully accepted.