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Pre-First Night Bach

Founded in 1990 as an organization dedicated to the performance of Bach’s cantatas, the Berkshire Bach Society has expanded its repertoire over the years to include the full range of works by Bach as well as those of Handel, Vivaldi and other Baroque composers. In 1993 the society’s instrumental arm, the Berkshire Bach Ensemble, began what has become a holiday tradition: the “Bach at New Year’s” performances of the Brandenburg Concertos led by harpsichord virtuoso Kenneth Cooper.

This year celebrating the 20th anniversary of its signature event, the ensemble has planned a particularly rich program for Sunday afternoon at the Academy of Music in Northampton as the city’s first-ever “pre-First Night” concert. In addition to Brandenburgs No. 1 and 2, the lineup will include Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Horns, Two Oboes and Violin (with celebrated violinist Joseph Silverstein as soloist); Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe (in a new reconstruction by Cooper); and Handel’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 15 in D minor (whose theme Handel swiped from Telemann).

3 p.m. $20, $35, $45. 584-9032 ext.105 or academyofmusictheatre.tix.com

Bad elf

David Sedaris first came to the realization that “Santa” is an anagram for “Satan” when, as an aspiring and near-penniless writer living in New York City, he accepted a job as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s. Thereafter, his mind couldn’t help applying the switch to overheard comments by Macy’s shoppers: “What do you think — does Macy’s have the real Satan?” “Don’t forget to thank Satan for the Baby Alive he gave you last year.” “I love Satan.” “Who doesn’t? Everyone loves Satan.”

First broadcast as a reading on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in 1992, Sedaris’ essay “The Santaland Diaries” catapulted the unknown author to the best-seller status he occupies today. While it’s by no means an anti-holiday screed, the humorist’s chronicle of his days as Crumpet the Elf is rife with acerbic observations about the holiday-cheer industry, as Sedaris ponders an interview question about why he wants to be an elf, considers the situation of segregated changing rooms (Santas gets personal quarters; elves must use a flooded bathroom) and encounters all manner of strung-out parents, disgruntled employees and exasperated shoppers. As some of Crumpet’s fellow elves cynically confide to children that they are actors

(“Wise up, kid”) and various parents turn maniacal when faced with the task of arranging a perfect photo of Satan, er, Santa with their hysterically crying progeny, a quasi-poignant theme emerges: “It’s not about the child, or Santa, or Christmas, or anything,” Crumpet muses. “But the parents’ idea of a world they cannot make work for their children.”

Actor/director Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris’ essay for the stage as a one-man, one-act play in 1996, and it’s since settled in as a seasonal staple of college and regional theater. Featuring David Josef Hansen, Shakespeare & Company’s current production continues through Dec. 30 at the company’s Bernstein Theatre in Lenox. Remaining shows are tonight at 7; Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 7 p.m. $15-$50. 637-3353, shakespeare.org

— Dan DeNicola

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