A Bay Area tradition returns, as Chanticleer gets back from touring the country with A Chanticleer Christmas, for their final performances of the program back near home. Music Director William Fred Scott says because the calendar had Thanksgiving as early as it could possibly be, there was room for even more concerts in the weeks before Christmas. They’ll be bringing the program to Berkeley tonight, and Palo Alto tomorrow, with more performances in Petaluma, Oakland, Carmel, Santa Clara, and of course, San Francisco. This Sunday night at 8, we’ll present a special broadcast of selections from the program, recorded live in New York earlier this month.

There’s more information about the performances at the Chanticleer website.

William Fred Scott says even though one piece — Biebl’s Ave Maria — and the overall format of the concert are the same from year to year, the other repertoire consistently changes. “If you have been to 15 Chanticleer Christmas concerts, chances are you will not have heard the same five pieces, even.  That’s a great challenge for me, but I think it’s what keeps it energized and vital to the audiences.” So, for example, this year, they’ll be including a brand new work by composer Peter Bloesch, called Behold a Simple, Tender Babe along with the early music, traditional carols and spirituals. The theme of the concert never strays too far from the Nativity story, Scott says. “Every year it seems to me, we have the opportunity to paint in music a picture of that scene. And this year, our picture centers mostly on the Virgin Mary and the little baby Jesus, and the shepherds. There are no wise men that intrude into our program this year. We did a lot of wise men last year… In the same way that you would go to any great art museum and you would see all sorts of Renaissance masters painting the scene at the manger, in some of those pictures, you know, the clothes are very elaborate. And others it’s simpler, it’s a more sort of human maybe approach, a less rich approach.” They’ll be ending the program with a popular medley arranged by former music director Joseph Jennings. Much of this year has been finishing up the celebration of the ensemble’s 40th anniversary, which included several galas, as well as a recent CD release of their anniversary repertoire, called Then and There, Here and Now.