Christmas inevitably means "Messiah," and this week's Minnesota Orchestra performances will please those who like an annual dose of Handel's masterpiece. For a refreshing alternative, why not try Bach's Christmas Oratorio? It covers many of the same biblical events, and the Bach Society of Minnesota is offering three of the oratorio's six cantatas in its holiday program. Twin Cities-based mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski is among the soloists, and Bach Society artistic director Matthias Maute leads the choir and orchestra in Bach's joyful telling of the Christmas story. (7:30 p.m. Fri., Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Rochester; 7:30 p.m. Sat., St. Thomas More Catholic Church, St. Paul; 3 p.m. Sun., St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Corcoran; $5-$30,

Buzzworthy debut

In 2016 cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason became the first black artist to win the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year award, and a year ago he broke the classical internet with his performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This week he makes his Schubert Club debut in a recital where he's partnered with his pianist sister Isata, one of seven musically gifted siblings. Rachmaninoff's fulsomely romantic Cello Sonata is the main item, with the less well known Sonata by American composer Samuel Barber also featured. Look for a story about Kanneh-Mason in Tuesday's Variety section. (7:30 p.m. Thu. & 10:30 a.m. Fri., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul; $28-$75, 651-292-3268 or

Albers anniversary

Julie Albers became principal cello of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra five years ago. To mark the anniversary she plays Haydn's Concerto in C for the instrument, in a cello-centric concert that also features recently appointed SPCO cellist Richard Belcher playing Chen Yi's "Sound of the Five." (7:30 p.m. Thu., Temple Israel, Mpls.; 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul; $11-$50, 651-291-1144 or

Music of the Nativity

Sospiri is a Twin Cities-based baroque ensemble organized around the voices of mezzo-soprano Nerea Berraondo and soprano Janna Kysilko. In "Sospiri di Natale" it presents a recital inspired by Nativity stories, with a spicy mix of Spanish, Latin American and Italian composers including Monteverdi and Merula. (7:30 p.m. Fri., St. Clement's Episcopal Church, St. Paul; 7:30 p.m. Sat., the Art Gallery, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Mpls.; $16,

North by VocalEssence

There's a Nordic slant to VocalEssence's Christmas program this year, with pieces by Otto Olsson, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi and Jan Sandström, and a premiere by the Norwegian composer Kim André Arnesen. Works by Stephen Paulus and Jocelyn Hagen also feature, with Philip Brunelle and G. Phillip Shoultz sharing the conducting duties. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley; 4 p.m. Sun., Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls.; $12-$40, 612-371-5656 or