True Concord Voices & Orchestra is spicing up its annual “Lessons & Carols by Candlelight” holiday concert series, adding some Southwest accents with Spanish-texted works and Latin instrumentation.

Tucson guitarist Brad Richter, who enjoys a national touring and recording career, and longtime Tucson Symphony Orchestra principal percussionist Homero Ceron will perform with the choir. Ceron will play marimba and vibraphone.

“These carols come from Spain, Mexico and Catalonia, with Spanish texts and this cool instrumentation that will add a little Southwest flavor to the program,” Conductor Eric Holtan said.

“Lessons & Carols” has been a Christmastime hallmark of the choir since it was founded in 2004, but the programs have traditionally been heavily anchored in Western Christmas carols from the U.S., England, France and Germany.

Those gems are still part of the program, but this year’s concert, to be performed five times this weekend beginning Thursday, Dec. 7, is unwrapping a few Christmas surprises:

  • James Reel, Tucson’s leading voice of classical music as Arizona Public Media’s KUAT-FM 90.5 classical music director and morning announcer, makes his True Concord debut narrating the story of Jesus’ birth as told through excerpts from the King James version of the Bible. Reel, who was a culture editor and columnist for the Star, is president of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.
  • True Concord will perform Tucson premieres of two new works by British composers: David Bendall’s energetic carol “Alleluya. A new work is come on hand,” featuring British-born Guy Whatley on organ; and Will Todd’s quietly optimistic unaccompanied choral piece “I Am Changed.”

“One of the things we are trying to do is present music that is familiar but also present new music,” Holtan said.

  • The audience gets to lend its voice to popular Christmas carols.

Here’s the 411 on “Lessons & Carols by Candlelight: Carols and Lullabies of the Southwest”:

  • When and where: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at Vista de la Montaña Methodist Church, 3001 E. Miravista Lane, on the northwest side; 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, at Green Valley’s St. Francis in the Valley Episcopal Church, 600 S. La Cañada Drive; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave.; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Old Sabino Canyon Road, east side.
  • The program: In addition to excerpts from Conrad Susa’s “Carols and Lullabies,” and the two premieres, the program includes Vytautas Miškinis’ “O Emmanuel” (from “Seven O Antiphons”); Hugo Distler’s “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”; Gerald Near’s “My Dancing Day”; Ivo Antognini’s “O Magnum Mysterium”; and John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music.”

Admission: $25 general, $40 reserved, $5 for students in advance at trueconcord.org or at the door.

Details: trueconcord.org or call 401-2651.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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