Handel’s Messiah

Ensemble VIII — an Austin-based choir of eight master singers — once again collaborates with Houston’s Baroque period orchestra Mercury to perform Handel’s soaring oratorio with the vibrant and detailed clarity in which Handel himself would have conducted it in the mid-18th century.

Over the years, in the United States, the Messiah has been presented with large modern orchestras and the overwhelming romanticism of huge symphonic choruses. But under the direction of James Morrow, the elite voices of Ensemble VIII will reveal the streamlined sound and brilliant timbres Handel originally imagined.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: St. Louis Catholic Church Chapel, 7601 Burnet Road

Cost: $35-$45 ($10 student ticket with ID)

Information: www.ensembleviii.org

“Charles Dickens Unleashed: Improvised Tales of Bleak Victorian England”

It seems an unlikely mix: Charles Dickens sprawling, episodic, moralistic Victorian storytelling and contemporary improv comedy.

But in the hands of the clever humorists at the Hideout Theatre, the world of Dickens mixes smartly with dolloped with a bit of improvisation.

With just one random prompt from the audience, the troupe is off on a 70-minute winding tale, filled with outsized cariactures, stovetop hats and pocketwatches, orphans rescued from a bad fate, evil criminals, do-gooder citizens and plenty of other classic Dickensian tropes.

“Unleashed” has played to sold-out houses in the past and comes back this year for just one show.

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Hideout Theatre,Congress Ave.

Tickets: $11

Info: www.hideouttheatre.com

“On a Winter’s Eve”

Chorus Austin’s holiday concert features seasonal songs and an audience sing-along with orchestra and featured soloists.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive.

Cost: $15-$20

Info: www.chorusaustin.rog

Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral

An Austin tradition, “Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral” is produced by the Celtic Cultural Center of Texas and century-old St. Mary’s Cathedral. Featuring noted local vocalists including Brett Barnes, Danny Johnson and Stephanie Prewitt along with the Schola Cantorum of St. Mary’s and an ensemble of instrumentalists, the concert features traditional Irish and Scottish music.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Where: St. Mary’s Cathedral, 203 E. 10th St.

Tickets: $27 ($30 at the door)

Info: 472-4540, www.celticchristmasaustin.com

More holiday theater listings or more holiday music listings are available in our holiday events search.