Stephen Burns, who conducts the local new-music chamber group Fulcrum Point (and its parent ensemble, the American Concerto Orchestra), has a fondness for thematically organized programs that embrace a wide range of musical genres, but sometimes his decisions almost defy explanation—last winter’s “Rock ’til You Drop,” for instance, juxtaposed pieces by Frank Zappa and Milton Babbitt, and wrapped up with a “dance party” of rock arrangements. The ecumenical spirit of Fulcrum Point’s annual holiday concert, on the other hand, is a far cry from such crossover gimmickry; this year’s program, subtitled “An Interfaith Concert for Healing,” combines five recent pieces by composers from different ethnic groups and musical traditions with readings by representatives of four major religions. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, built on pealing, bell-like triads and indebted to medieval European liturgical music, will lead into a chant by Sonam Dhargye, a Tibetan Buddhist who moved to Chicago from the famous Gyuto monastery in India. Next will be Aaron Jay Kernis’s Musica Celestis, followed by a reading from an Episcopalian bishop, Victor Scantlebury, which in turn segues into Elegy for Strings by Iranian political refugee Behzad Ranjbaran. Rabbi Steven Lowenstein will take the floor before Toward the Night, a Zen-influenced piece by Japanese composer Somei Satoh, and a meditation by Imam Senad Agic will precede Alan Hovhaness’s mystical, Middle Eastern-inflected Tzaikerk: Evening Song. The 20-piece Fulcrum Point ensemble—which includes local new-music veterans such as flutist Mary Stolper, bassist Collins Trier, and violinists Sharon Polifrone, David Katz, and Teresa Fream—can shift fluently between idioms as disparate as Pärt’s somber, simple rumination and Kernis’s richly embroidered patchwork postmodernism. And Burns exudes a contagious enthusiasm on the podium, exploring each work as if he were a boy in a toy store. Tuesday, December 18, 7:30 PM, Saint James Episcopal Cathedral, 65 E. Huron; 773-722-5463.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.