The Santa Barbara Choral Society and Orchestra promise a virtuoso rendering of Handel’s Messiah at The Granada on Saturday and Sunday for the opening performances of their season.

One of the holiday season’s highlights, the annual presentation of Handel’s timeless masterpiece will include some additional holiday cheer this year: Santa Barbara merchants have donated gifts to enliven the festivities. When audience members receive concert programs, they also will receive an envelope containing special greetings from the Choral Society, and some of the envelopes will contain claim tickets that can be exchanged for the donated gifts, including everything from opera tickets and restaurant gift certificates to golf lessons.

The Choral Society considers Messiah to be one of the pieces in its repertoire, featuring some of the nation’s finest musicians. Soloists Elissa Johnston, Cynthia Jansen, Jonathan Mack and Dean Elzinga join the 100-voice chorus and orchestra, under of the baton of music director and conductor JoAnne Wasserman, in performing Messiah, Part 1 and selections from Parts 2 and 3.

Johnston, a soprano, has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Atlanta Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Rosa Symphony and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

Jansen, a mezzo-soprano, is familiar to Santa Barbara audiences from her stunning performance with the Choral Society in Verdi’s Requiem in May. She has earned critical praise for her performances in both the United States and Europe.

Mack, a tenor, has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Australia as a recital, concert and opera singer. For four years he lived in Germany, where he was the leading lyric tenor for the opera houses of Kiel and Dortmund. Now in his 17th season with the Los Angeles Opera, he has performed more than 40 roles with the company.

Elzinga, a bass-baritone, made his Seattle Opera debut singing the parts of all four villains in Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann. He is one of the country’s most sought-after basses, regularly welcomed on concert and opera stages.

Messiah will be performed at The Granada at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets prices are $20 to $53, with discounts for children, students and seniors. Click here to purchase tickets online or call the Granada box office at 805.899.2222.

The Choral Society’s 2009-10 season at The Granada continues with LoveLoveLove, a song-and-dance tribute to The Beatles, with State Street Ballet on Feb. 13-14, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony on May 1-2.

— Barbara Burger is a publicist.