By Kelly Smith

For holiday magic that doesn’t come from a mall, there’s The Florida Orchestra (TFO). From the essential Holiday Pops to special performances of Handel’s divine Messiah, your holidays will be merry and meaningful with TFO concerts. Put these on your list:

Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 (Friday to Sunday, December 1-3): Is there any greater gift than gorgeous live music? These masters of melody don’t disappoint, with Rachmaninoff’s lush Symphony No. 2 and Prokofiev’s soaring Violin Concerto No. 2, performed by Alex Kerr. Now with a Sunday matinee that’s perfect for families. Plus, kids and teens get in free to this and all Tampa Bay Times Masterworks concerts, with Classical Kids tickets in advance. Regular tickets start at $15. Stuart Malina conducts.

Happy Hour Concert: Cheers! (Tuesday, December 7): Say cheers to both the holidays and TFO’s 50th birthday with free drinks, live symphonic music and a musician meet-and-greet after work. It’s the happiest happy hour of the season. Stuart Malina is your merry host and conductor. Bars open at 5:30 p.m., with hour-long concert at 6:30 p.m., at the Straz Center. The cost is $35.

Holiday Pops (Friday to Sunday, December 15-17): Have a jolly good time with the whole family at this annual tradition brimming with holiday favorites, including Sleigh Ride, Carol of the Bells, Let it Snow, Ava Maria and a holiday sing-along. William Waldrop conducts, with Camille Zamora on vocals. Part of the Raymond James Pops series, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $15.

Handel’s Messiah (Friday to Sunday, December 21-23): Just days before Christmas, Michael Francis leads the orchestra and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay in Handel’s Messiah at the Mahaffey Theater, Idlewild Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, featuring the glorious ‘Hallelujah’ chorus. Tickets for churches are $30; Mahaffey tickets are $15, $30, $45, $55.

The Florida Orchestra regularly performs at the Straz Center in Tampa, Mahaffey in St. Petersburg and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Get tickets at or 727-892-3337 and 1-800-662-7286.

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