Singing with the Christmas spirit

For sheer vocal quality and warmth of presentation, the annual Christmas show by the eight-man vocal ensemble Cantus is hard to beat. This year’s program re-imagines a selection of classic Christmas stories — including “Gift of the Magi” and “A Christmas Carol” — with songs and carols ancient and modern. Another highlight? A brand-new setting of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” by Cantus bass Chris Foss. (7:30 p.m. Tue., St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, Wayzata; 11 a.m. Thu., MacPhail Center for Music, Mpls.; 7:30 p.m. Fri., Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater; 7:30 p.m. Sat., Fridley District Auditorium, Fridley; 3 p.m. Sun., Hamline Church, St. Paul; more concerts through Dec. 22; $10-$40, 612-435-0055, cantussings.org)

Returning ‘To Joy’

The Schubert Club hosts a repeat performance of Minneapolis composer David Evan Thomas’ song cycle “To Joy,” premiered in August at the Source Song Festival. Based on texts from poets and scripture, these 14 songs are shared among four singers, with pianists Mark Bilyeu and Jessica Schroeder accompanying. (Noon Thu., Landmark Center, St. Paul; free, schubert.org)

Christmas in Malta

The Rose Ensemble reprises its popular program that draws upon manuscripts long left in obscurity in the archives of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Malta. The concert features a selection of 17th-century Christmas music including vocal solos, duets, trios and works for full ensemble, performed by the group’s expert consort singers, with a baroque chamber orchestra. (7 p.m. Thu., Pilgrim Congregational Church of Duluth, Duluth; 7:30 p.m. Fri., Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, St. Paul; 7:30 p.m. Sat., Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls.; 2 p.m. Sun., Holy Family Catholic Church, St. Louis Park; $10-$38, roseensemble.org)

A memorable ‘Messiah’

Different performers bring sharply different insights to Handel’s “Messiah,” justifying the annual return of this inexhaustible masterpiece. So what distinguishes this year’s string of performances by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? One is the presence of baroque specialist Jonathan Cohen on the podium. The other is the SPCO debut of Matthew Culloton’s Twin Cities choir, the Singers. Together, they have the potential to make this “Messiah” one to linger in the memory. (7:30 p.m. Thu. and 8 p.m. Fri.; Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls.; 8 p.m. Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul; $5-$50, 651-291-1144, thespco.org)

A festival of carols

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a Christmas carol service invented at King’s College Chapel, at Cambridge University in England, is a uniquely evocative format for meditation and worship. The St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral choir presents its own version of the service, directed by canon musician Raymond Johnston. (5 p.m. Sun., 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Mpls.; free, ourcathedral.org)

TERRY BLAIN