More Nutcrackers:

Baltimore Ballet, Dec. 8-9 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, 1021 Dulaney Valley Drive, Towson. 410-667-7974,

Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Dec. 8-9, 15-16 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. 410-280-5640,

Ballet West, Dec. 5-9 at Kennedy Center, 2700 F. St., N.W. 800-444-1324,

Handel's Messiah

Handel wrote "Messiah" in 1741 to be performed during Eastertide, but the tripartite oratorio has long been a Christmastime fixture, thanks to Part I of the score, which reflects on the Nativity story, and the rousing "Hallelujah" Chorus that closes Part II.

It's common to hear abridged versions of "Messiah," but the Baltimore Symphony's performance is proudly note-complete. This year's 30th annual presentation, featuring the Concert Artists of Baltimore Symphonic Chorale, will be conducted, as every year, by Edward Polochick. Known for some lightning tempos, he typically makes the long work seem much shorter.

"I've noticed that only a few people leave now after the 'Hallelujah Chorus,'" he said. "Those that stay know that the truly great chorus is the one that ends Part III. Every time I sit down at the harpsichord to lead a performance, it's always different. 'Messiah' is not just enduring. It's constantly changing."

The longest-running "Messiah" tradition in town comes from the Handel Choir of Baltimore, which will give its 78th annual presentation of the oratorio this year. Artistic director Melinda O'Neal, who will be leaving her post at the end of the season, will conduct an abbreviated version of the score.

If audiences will not hear all of what Handel wrote, they will hear more of the sounds that he heard.

"We're using an orchestra of period instruments," O'Neal said, "and our vocal soloists are experienced singing with such an orchestra."

The oratorio, which was first performed to raise money for charity, "reflects Handel's compassion," O'Neal said. "He was a very giving person, and he empathized with people incredibly well."

One more reason why "Messiah" fits the Christmas season so well.

BSO's "Messiah," Dec. 7 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. 410-783-8000,

The Handel Choir of Baltimore's "Messiah," Dec. 15 at St. Ignatius Church 740 N. Calvert St.; Dec. 16 at Towson Presbyterian Church 400 W. Chesapeake Ave. 410-366-6544,

More 'Messiah':

Columbia Pro Cantare, Dec. 2 at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake, 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. 410-799-9321,

Annapolis Chorale, Dec. 14-16 at St. Anne's, Church Circle. 410-280-5640,

National Symphony Orchestra, University of Maryland Concert Choir, Dec. 21-23 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F. St., N.W. 800-444-1324,

Holiday concerts