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Winter Classics, Timeless Carols At ‘Holiday Candlelight’ Concert


Enjoy a rare performance of holiday classics this weekend by Merced’s world-class symphony featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Mozart’s Alleluia, and sing along to Christmas-time favorites like Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night.

This festive concert starting at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, also marks the Merced debut of superstar soprano Maya Kherani.

The evening begins with selections from the Messiah by Georg Friedrich Händel, an oratorio combining orchestral, choir, and solo parts that traces the Christian story of Jesus’s birth.

Kherani’s entrancing voice wisks us through Music Director Ming Luke’s adaptation of Overture, Rejoice Greatly, Pastoral Symphony, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, and How Beautiful Are the Feet?

Next they turn to St. Paul Suite, a string-driven theme written by Gustav Holst in 1913 for his orchestral students at the St. Paul’s School.

Renowned violinist Ilana Blumberg Thomas leads Merced’s symphony through the icy landscape of L’inverno, the wintertime of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons composed in 1723. Hear chill winds and raindrops pursue the concerto’s protagonist before enjoying the warmth of a fireplace safe from the elements.

Then experience the refuge of a glorious winter medley featuring Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams, In the Bleak Midwinter by Gustav Holst (as arranged by John Leavitt), I Wonder As I Wander by John Jacob Nile (as arranged by Bob Krogstad), The Glory of Christmas as arranged by John Leavitt, and Alleluia by Wolfang Amadeus Mozart with Kherani exulting the audience to high jubilation.

Soprano superstar Kherani concludes the evening with a 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 “crystalline tone” by OPERA NEWS, soprano Maya Kherani has sung over 37 roles spanning her seven-year career with companies such as the Houston Grand Opera, Opera Parallèle, Central City Opera, Opera San Jose, West Edge Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Salt Marsh Opera, West Bay Opera, Opera NEO, and the American Bach Soloists. Maya was most recently seen as Gilda in Rigoletto with Opera Modesto, Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera with West Edge Opera, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville with Cinnabar Theater. Upcoming roles include Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Modesto as well as highly anticipated debuts in 2020 at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Boston Baroque. Prior to her singing career, Maya graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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.

Thomas recently 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 Dr. Vikram and Priya Lakireddy, Jim Abbate, Hon. Ron and Kathy Hansen, Dr. Art Kamangar, Shane Smith and Dr. Katrina Hoyer, and Dr. Sam and Dena Traina. The Merced Symphony Association thanks all our patrons for their continued support of live symphonic music in downtown Merced.

Tickets for “Holiday Candlelight” range from $25-$45 for adults and $10 for students with ID, and can be purchased online at 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 are reserved, so please purchase early for best seating.

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