Now in its fourth year, the Santa Barbara Choral Society’s Hallelujah Project has taken a well deserved place among the finest holiday celebrations on stage in Santa Barbara each December. Artistic director/conductor JoAnne Wasserman’s concept is sound and really works: take some classic Christmas music, mix in a few carols and fun pieces, add works by living composers and stir it all up for an evening of good cheer and entertainment. To complement and contrast with the traditional Bach “Gloria” Cantata & Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus, and familiar carols arranged by Ola Gjeilo, Randol Boss this year’s concert featured recent holiday-themed works by Julian Wachner, Robert Sieving, Mack Wilberg, Michael Issacson and Thomas Juneau, and began with a new work by local composer Stephen Dombek. The regular feature celebrity reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” was handled by actor & singer Shirley Jones, accompanied by her grandchildren listening raptly. The campy/fun element was provided by Jeff Tyzik’s “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas,” a sly re-imagining of the well known song substituting instruments of the orchestra for all those birds (except the partridge), milking maids, pipers and drummers.

Reception following the performance