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Ah, the Holidays. As soon as you breathe a sigh of relief that the hot weather is gone (well, mostly) it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lacking the advantage of clear signals from the climate, you can count on the performing arts world for indicators of the impending Holidays.

UTSA leads the charge with Handel's Messiah on November 20 at 4 p.m. The UTSA Orchestra and choirs will perform the Baroque masterpiece in the 1604 campus Recital Hall, $10. The traditional fare continues with the Trinity University Music Department's annual Christmas Concert on December 2, and the San Antonio Choral Society presents A Tapestry of Christmas on December 11.

Lest music lovers fear the doldrums of standard Christmas repertoire, some ensembles are providing a slight twist. The Texas Bach Choir and Collegium will perform Advent and Christmas Music from the Thirteen Colonies and Nueva Espana, (December 2-4) exploring New World motets by Mexican colonial composers and works from the 13 colonies dating from the American Revolution to the Civil War. The annual UTSA Madrigal Dinner takes a decidedly secular tone with a Roaring Twenties Holiday Madrigal, December 1-3. This year's dinner and entertainment replaces Elizabethan madrigals with Tin-Pan Alley hits and "Instead of dancing the pavane and galliard of the Renaissance, our cast will kick up their heels to the Charleston" to raise funds for music scholarships.

This year is particularly rich for Nutcracker fans, with the Moscow Ballet performing November 13 at Lila Cockrell Theatre, the San Antonio Symphony performing the music live with the Alabama Ballet November 25-27, and Ballet San Antonio's annual performance December 15-18. The San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet provides an alternative Christmas story with La Boutique Fantasque November 19-20.

Fear not, there are alternatives to holiday music. A particularly interesting one for kids of all ages is the Salzburg Marionette Theatre performances of Humperdink's 1893 opera Hansel and Gretel and Mozart's The Magic Flute. The Austrian company has been dazzling audiences since 1913 with traditional marionette performances. Find out more at Tickets are $10-12 and available through the Children's Fine Art Series.

SOLI Chamber Ensemble cellist David Mollenauer and pianist Carolyn True will give a recital on December 6 at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, including Bach's "4th Suite" for solo cello, a Beethoven Sonata for cello and piano, the Rachmaninov Sonata for piano and cello, and Astor Piazzola's "Grand Tango."

Continuing their season salute to Mozart, Musical Bridges Around the World performs "The Impressario" and other works adapted to a jazz style, on November 13. For music lovers looking to the future, the UTSA Composition Studio Recital on November 30 features new compositions by students of local composers David Heuser, James Balantine, and James Syler.

By Diana Lyn Roberts

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