Ring In Season With Winter Classics

Symphony to showcase timeless holiday favorites


Merced’s world-class symphony embraces the majesty of the Christmas season with the return of “Holiday Candlelight” to the Merced Theatre stage on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m.

The 2019 rendition of this uplifting concert earned the highest walk-up ticket sales in the Symphony’s 64-year history.

Get your tickets now since this season’s Holiday Candlelight is not to be missed!

Enjoy holiday classics featuring excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate K 165, and a sing along to Christmas-time favorites like Oh Come All Ye Faithful and The First Noel.

This festive concert also marks the Merced debut of superstar soprano Nikki Einfeld and special guest conductor Derek Tam.

The evening begins with Water Music, Suite No. 1 by Georg Friedrich Händel, a work commissioned by King George I for a concert on the River Thames in 1717. Concertmaster Ilana Blumberg Thomas’s violin wisks us through the popular Suite No. 1 with the French-style Ouverture, the robust Minuet, and grand Alla Hornpipe among eight other selections.

Next they turn to selections from Handel’s beloved oratorio Messiah. Today a Christmastime staple, Messiah premiered in Dublin, Ireland on Easter in 1742. Ms. Einfeld’s entrancing voice takes center stage for Overture, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, and Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion. Together these movements reflect the Christian story of Jesus’s life.

Holiday Candlelight’s second act opens with Exsultate, Jubilate K 165 composed by a teenage Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1773. This motet bundles the joyful Exsultate, Jubilate (“Rejoice, Be Glad”), the recitative Fulget Amica Dies, and the virtuosic Alleluia around sacret text sang in Latin.

We then experience the glory of Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams as arranged by Ralph Greaves. This miniature orchestra (it spans four minutes!) is well-known for lyrical strings and descriptive flute passages that evoke a pastoral countryside.

Matthew Naughtin’s A Christmas Feast: Five Ancient Carols For Strings accelerates our symphonic sleigh ride with this festive holiday medley. Ding Dong! Merrily on High, Verbum Caro Factum Est, Gaudete, Carol of the Bagpipers’, and Coventry Carol sound like pure Christmas rushing past. You will swear you heard these Christmas tunes in movies or on your radio, and chances are you have.

Soprano superstar Ms. Einfeld concludes the evening with the much anticipated (and heavily requested) Holiday Carol Sing-A-Long! The audience will know all the words to this traditional arrangement by Mollie Budiansky of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night, and Joy to the World.

Praised for her “high flying virtuosity,” lyric coloratura soprano Nikki Einfeld has mesmerized audiences with her interpretation of repertoire spanning from the baroque to contemporary. Notable performances from the operatic stage include the title role in the world premiere of Death with Interruptions by Kurt Rhode, Curley’s Wife in Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro with Vancouver Opera and New Orleans Opera, Papagena in The Magic Flute, Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro with San Francisco Opera, and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance with Edmonton Opera. A champion of contemporary music, Ms. Einfeld regularly performs premieres by modern composers and was recently appointed to the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. She is a former Adler Fellow and Merola Alumnus with the San Francisco Opera.

Praised for his “deft” conducting (San Francisco Chronicle​), cheered as “a master” of the harpsichord (San Francisco Classical Voice), and revered as “the fortepianist of the beguiling fingers” (Bloomington Herald-Times), Derek Tam appears regularly throughout the Bay Area and beyond as a conductor and historical keyboardist. He is the executive director of the San Francisco Early Music Society, a major advocate for early music in the United States, and serves as the artistic director of the biennial Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, an internationally-renowned celebration of early music. Upcoming performances include conducing An English Christmas for the Vallejo Choral Society on December 11, 12, and 19.

Following her debut with the San Francisco Symphony, violinist Ilana Blumberg Thomas is in demand as a chamber musician, collaborating with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Earplay, and Ensemble for these Times. Ms. Thomas has worked with Philip Glass and Opera Paralelle, has recorded for film and television, including in Wynton Marsalis’ award-winning educational series Marsalis on Music, and performs and tours with bands on five-string electric violin. She has supported an array of musicians from Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti to electronic duo ODESZA, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, Warren Haynes and countless others.

Special thanks to concert sponsors Shane Smith and Katrina Hoyer, Jane and Pope Lawrence, and Ron and Kathy Hansen. The Merced Symphony Association thanks all its patrons for their continued support of live symphonic music in Downtown Merced.

Tickets for Holiday Candlelight are $40 for adults and $10 for students with ID, and can be purchased online at tickets.mercedtheatre.org or at the Merced Theatre Box Office, 301 W Main Street. Box Office hours are Tuesday-Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased at the door the evening of the concert. All seats reserved.

The Merced Symphony Association recognizes the collaboration of Heather Holt, managing director of The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre, as well as the entire Merced Theatre Foundation Board.

For more, please visit mercedsymphony.org.

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