It’s a magical moment – angels, Wise Men, the Christ child… With sheep bells in the distance, shepherds bumping over cobblestones, and a choir of crows cawing, the Choral Artists’ 25 voices shine in a program featuring Daniel Pinkham’s charming “Company at the Crèche,” early music works, and 5 world premieres. Three pieces feature hand bell player David Kashevaroff.

The Pinkham showcases hand bell players David Kashevaroff and Tim Silva with Tom Purtill, and singer Mary Tusa on keyboard. Several Early Music pieces with a focus on ordinary people and animals are programmed: “O magnum mysterium” by Vittoria, “La nuict froide” by Lasso, “Vamos al portal” by Guerrero, “Pastores, dicite” by Morales, “Duo seraphim” by Gallus, and “All Sons of Adam”, a 15-century anonymous Scottish piece for men’s voices only. More contemporary works include Samuel Barber’s stunning “Twelfth Night”, Giles’ “There is no rose”, set for women only, Australian composer Colin Brumby’s gentle carol, “Behold, a silly tender babe”, Skempton’s “To Bethlem did they go”, and Heath’s lovely setting of “I wonder as I wander”.

When Artistic Director Magen Solomon told composer Wayne Eastwood about the themes for this concert, he sent his “Crows on a Certain Evening” as his gift to the Choral Artists. The text – a poem by Julia Cunningham – features a “tempestuous” choir of crows cawing instead of angels singing on the “certain evening,” Christmas Eve. Eastwood’s piece is one of five world premieres written especially for the San Francisco Choral Artists on this program. The other four are by Composer-In-Residence Allen Shearer, Composer-Not-In-Residence Matt Van Brink, and special friends of the Choral Artists Tina Harrington and John Kelley.

Performances

Peninsula

Sun, Dec 4, 2011; 4 PM

St. Mark's Episcopal Church
600 Colorado Avenue, Palo Alto

Marin

Sat, Dec 10, 2011; 8 PM

Montgomery Chapel
Bolinas Avenue, San Anselmo

San Francisco

Sat, Dec 17, 2011; 8 PM

St. Mark's Lutheran Church
1111 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco

East Bay

Sun, Dec 18, 2011; 4 PM

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
114 Montecito Avenue, Oakland