Of Chorus 

Lift up your ears

12/17, 12/23

Though the names can be confusing, the song is the same. Cantare Con Vivo, a 117-member auditioned volunteer chorus comprising the 100-voiced Cantare Chorale and smaller Cantare Chamber Ensemble, is set for the holidays. The organization will be performing Christmas concerts in Oakland (December 7) and Moraga (December 13). With wind, brass, and organ accompaniment, all under the direction of founder David Morales, the collective cantares are serving up some hearty fare: Respighi's Laud to the Nativity, Pinkham's Christmas Cantata, Gorecki's gorgeous Totus Tuus, Biebl's Ave Maria for men's voices (a Chanticleer favorite), and the Kyrie from Bruckner's E Minor Mass. Musical surprises and carol sing-alongs are designed to make the program ideal for the whole family, or at least those who are comfortable with the notion of Christmas to begin with. The music is the important thing.A recent study reveals that choral singing has become the first choice for Americans who wish to take an active part in performing arts. There are now more than 250,000 choruses nationwide. Of equal interest, choral singers tend to have a higher rate of community volunteerism, support for nonprofits and arts organizations, and political awareness. For Cantare Con Vivo, this manifests through the activities of yet one more Cantare, the Cantare Samaritan Singers. Founded in 1999, this free after-school music program, based in West Oakland, gives any child in grades 3 through 5 who wishes to participate the chance to sing in two concert programs each season. The children also present a combined choral concert with the adult cantares.

For anyone familiar with Morales' work, his community involvement should come as no surprise. With 33 years' professional conducting experience, he was the first director of the Oakland Youth Chorus. Other credits include music director for several churches and WomenSing. Currently a music instructor at Merritt College, Morales fervently believes that music can "put us keenly in touch with what we believe, what we feel, who we are." Because the Bay Area is overflowing with talented musicians, many local choral ensembles offer remarkably high-quality performances. Check it out. Cantare Con Vivo performs Sunday at 3 p.m. in Oakland's First Presbyterian Church, and Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Moraga's Saint Mary's College Chapel. Securing advance tickets by calling 925-798-1300 is highly recommended. -- Jason Victor Serinus

FRI 12/5

V-Day

The Vagina Dialogues

Ricky Leyva went through pregnancy and childbirth while transitioning to male. Julia Serano is a pre-op, male-to-female transsexual lesbian crossdresser. The pair join Danielle Castro, Brooklynne Michelle, and Jay Walker for spoken word during "Vaginas in Transition: Transgender Perspectives on Vaginas, Violence, and Gender." The event at UC Berkeley's 155 Dwinelle also features a drag show by reigning SF Drag King Max Voltage and many more. 6:30 p.m. $2-5, sliding scale. 510-407-0974. -- Stefanie Kalem

12/6-12/28

Didn't Know He Was Sick

Vsevolod Meyerhold was a Soviet Russian theater director and early Communist revolutionary whose stage techniques and outspokenness influenced a wide range of creative types (including Anton Chekhov and Clifford Odets) both in and outside Russia before his untimely demise in 1940 -- by firing squad on the orders of Stalin. The political upheavals of the times undoubtedly shaped his craft. Certainly they were a major inspiration for playwright Mark Jackson's stage drama, The Death of Meyerhold, in a new production directed by Jackson for Shotgun Players. The play previews December 6 and 7, then runs December 11 through 28, at Berkeley's Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. ShotgunPlayers.org -- Kelly Vance

SAT 12/6

The Pink and the Black

The first Fire & Ink festival, held this past September in Chicago, was almost a total success. The "celebration of the black gay literati aesthetic" had star power, stirring performances, and packed houses. But the fest ended its run several thousands of dollars in debt, so local wordsmiths Michelle Tea, Tim'm West, Gwendolyn Bikis, and many others are reading to raise funds at ChangeMakers (6536 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), starting at 7 p.m. More details: 510-655-2405. -- Stefanie Kalem

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