Arts Classical attitude 

News and notes from San Antonio’s other music scene

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From a classical-music perspective, the holiday season means hundreds of years of beautiful carols, masses, motets, and the like. Unfortunately those options are drowned out by the ubiquitous, mind-numbing, canned music we are subjected to in the post office, grocery, gas station, and every retail store from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am NOT a classical-music snob. I like all kinds of music, provided it is interesting, honest, and has some artistic or cultural merit. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” have a relevant place in the holiday repertoire, but if that’s as good as it gets, we’re in serious trouble and somebody better put LOTS of bourbon in the eggnog.

My musical advice to fellow cynics: Robert Earl Keene’s “Merry Christmas from the Family,” that paean to holiday family dynamics, is a gratifying choice when you just gotta have a Christmas tune. Otherwise, as antidotes, I frequently opt for the honest sarcasm of Frank Zappa, the social commentary of David Byrne, or the dark poetry of Tom Waits.

Alternately, there are plenty of classical-music options. I’m not particularly religious, but I do have an enormous respect for the sacred music that forms the basis of the Western classical tradition. If you browse through enough CDs in the classical section, you’ll find legitimate Christmas music ranging from early masses and motets to beautifully arranged, unpretentious carols performed by world-class singers. A little harder to find are the anthologies and recordings of instrumental works, but they do exist.

You can also still catch a few live performances before the season runs out. On December 11, the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio and the San Antonio Symphony join for the annual A Flicker of Holiday Lights at 2:30 p.m at the Majestic Theatre (sasymphony.org, or 554-1010). Later in the afternoon, the San Antonio Choral Society’s Tapestry of Christmas presents carols from around the world at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church (sanantoniochoralsociety.org, or 228-4147). The Alamo City Men’s Chorale opts for Latin American flair on December 15 and 18 with traditional villancicos, Paul Csonka’s “Concierto di Navidad,” and Dave Brubeck’s jazz-mariachi “La Fiesta de la Posada” (acmc-texas.org, or 495-SING). The season closes with the Symphony’s traditional New Year’s Eve Night in Old Vienna, this year featuring soprano Susan Lorette Dunn.

For non-holiday treats, catch the classical guitar of Martin Madrigal at the Instituto de México on December 10 (227-0130 or 223-5100), or world-renowned pianist Leon Fleischer with the San Antonio Symphony, December 10 & 11. On January 8, ring in the New Year with Camerata San Antonio’s Happy Birthday Mr. Mozart!, featuring a divertimento, a horn quintet, and the classic “Musical Joke” (cameratasa.org, or 492-9519)

Diana Roberts


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