A celebration of French song
French art song, for all its exquisite subtleties, still struggles for parity of recognition with the Austro-German tradition exemplified by Schubert, Schumann and others. Twin Cities soprano Maria Jette and pianist Sonja Thompson are on a mission to change that with the Minnesota premiere of "Contes Mystiques," a little-known cycle of 12 songs by late-19th-century French composers. Fauré, Massenet and Saint-Saëns are among those contributing settings, and translations of the song texts will be read by actor Katherine Ferrand. (5 p.m. Sun., Plymouth Congregational Church, Mpls., free, plymouth.org)
Vinikour leads 'Messiah'
Performing Handel's "Messiah" is like baking apple pie — there are many different recipes for producing approximately the same end product. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has embraced this multiplicity of possible interpretations in recent seasons by engaging different guest conductors to lead its annual presentation of Handel's choral masterpiece. Chicago-born, Paris-based Jory Vinikour is this year's choice, and his background as both harpsichordist and conductor should ensure an authoritative performance. Guest soloists include soprano Yulia Van Doren and countertenor Reginald Mobley, with Twin Cities choir the Singers handling the choruses. (7:30 p.m. Thu. & 8 p.m. Fri., Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls.; 8 p.m. Sat. & 2 p.m. Sun., Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul; $12-$50, 651-291-1144 or thespco.org)
The voices of Lumina
Away from the commercial scramble of Christmas, the three women of vocal ensemble Lumina are offering "Calling All Angels" as a place of sanctuary. Chill out to a diverse selection of music from the medieval period to the present, rendered in euphonious three-part harmony. (7:30 p.m. Fri., St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, Minnetonka; 7 p.m. Sat., Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, Carondelet Center, St. Paul; $0-$15, luminawomensensemble.com)
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols portrays Christ's birth in words and music, and became hugely popular when King's College, Cambridge began broadcasting it to a global audience. The choir of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral presents its own version, led by Cambridge-educated director of music Ray Johnston. (7:30 p.m. Fri. & 5 p.m. Sun., St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Mpls.; free, ourcathedral.org)
For a shot of home-state creativity try "Songs of the Season," a holiday recital in the Schubert Club's year-round Courtroom Concert series. The program concentrates on works by Minnesota composers, with performances by soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw, mezzo Laura Betinis Healy, tenor Nicholas Chalmers and bass Timothy Takach. (Noon Thu., Landmark Center, St. Paul; 7:30 p.m. Thu., Central Presbyterian Church, St. Paul; free, schubert.org)