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The Advent of Austin arts

Myriad Austin groups – from the ballet to Bruce and Kelly – offer plenty of ways to heighten your holiday spirit

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
At the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, the music can be as much of an attraction as the art.

MUSIC

DEC. 4

'Wynonna: A Classic Christmas.' Wynonna Judd sings holiday classics including 'Ave Maria.' 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $25-$115. 866-977-6849, www.austintheatre.org.

DEC. 4-17

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 'Advent Noon Concert Series.' Handel's Concerto No. 9 in B flat for Organ and Orchestra and women's a cappella quartet Full Circle are on the lineup of free concerts. Noon Thursdays. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive. www.stmattsaustin.org.

DEC. 5

Holiday Choral Concert. UT Butler School of Music's choirs sing a variety of sacred and secular holiday music that spans the centuries. 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Bates Recital Hall, Music Building, UT campus. $5-$10. 471-5401, www.music.utexas.edu.

Round Rock Symphony, 'Holiday Spectacular.' Texas State University Choirs joins the orchestra for secular and sacred holiday favorites. 8 p.m. Anderson Mill Baptist Church, 10633 Lake Creek Parkway. www.roundrocksymphony.org.

DEC. 7

'Christmas at the Carillon.' Grammy-nominated choir Conspirare's annual holiday concert showcases artistic director Craig Hella Johnson's blending of music old and new. This year's special guest is Patrice Pike. 8 p.m. Long Center. 701 W. Riverside Drive. $20-$75. www.conspirare.org.

DEC. 8

Handel's Messiah. Guest soloists Nancy Curtis, Lori Bade, Don Hill, David Small and the vocal forces of the Parish Choirs of St. David's Episcopal Church join the Austin Symphony Orchestra. 8 p.m. Riverbend Centre, 4214 Capital of Texas Highway. $15-$35. 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org.

DEC. 11

Austin Handbell Ensemble, 'Christmas Bells are Ringing.' Favorite holiday tunes played on more than 100 bells and chimes. 8 p.m. Covenant Presbyterian Church,3003 Northland Dr. Free; donations welcome. 415-4245, www.austinhandbells.org.

'A Child's Christmas In Wales.' Dylan Thomas' classic poem gets a jazz accompaniment with music by Suzi Stern and Rich Harney. Alex Coke and Buddy Mohmed play. St. David's Episcopal Church, 304 E. Seventh St. $10.

DEC. 11-12

Texas Early Music Project, 'An Earlier Christmas.' A festival of 13th- to 17th-century carols and lullabies from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the British isles for solo voices, small chorus, harps, violin and continuo. 8 p.m. Dec. 11-12. First English Lutheran Church, 3001 Whitis Ave. $15-$20 371-0099, www.early-music.org.

Conspirare Youth Choirs, 'Lost in Light.' Young singers perform music by Fauré, Saint-Saëns and Britten. 7 p.m. St. Martin's Lutheran Church, 606 W. 15th St. $10. www.conspirare.org.

DEC. 11- 13

Texas Choral Consort, 'Winter on the Wing.' Ring in the holidays with the music of Bach, Buxtehude and Charpentier, along with seasonal selections. 8 p.m. Dec. 11-12, 3 p.m. Dec. 13. Central Christian Church, 1110 Guadalupe St. $15-$20. 372-3233, www.txconsort.org.

DEC. 12

Holiday Organ Concert. UT Butler School of Music's 'Great Organ Series' features Gerre and Judith Hancock on the massive Visser Rowland pipe organ. 7:30 p.m. Bates Recital Hall, Music Building, UT campus. $5-$15. www.music.utexas.edu. 471-5401.

'A Holiday Revel.' A classical chamber ensemble plays Beethoven and Brahms along with music from 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and other holiday favorites. 6 p.m. Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive. $5-$15. www.revelmusic.org.

Williamson County Symphony Orchestra. 'Carol of the Bells', 'Hark the Herald Angels,' 'Sleigh Bells,' 'The Christmas Song' and a special arrangement of Nessun Dorma are on the program. 7:30 p.m. Hutto ISD Performing Arts Center. 101 FM 685. Free. www.williamsoncountysymphonyorchestra.org.

DEC. 15

Austin Symphony Orchestra Christmas Sing-Along. Led by guest conductor Carlton Dillard, this family-friendly community event invites the audience to sing along on favorite carols. 8 p.m. Riverbend Centre, 4214 Capital of Texas Highway. Free, but tickets required. 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org.

DEC. 18-19

'Celtic Christmas at the Cathedral.' The Celtic Cultural Center of Texas presents an evening of contemporary and classic holiday Celtic songs with Schola Cantorum of St. Mary's Celtic artists including the Tea Merchants, the Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums and Ed Miller. 8 p.m. St. Mary Cathedral, 203 W. 10th St. $25. www.celticcenter.org.

DEC. 19

Chorus Austin, 'On A Winter's Eve.' The collective ensembles of Chorus Austin come together for Ralph Vaughan Williams; 'Fantasia on Christmas Carols.' 7 p.m. Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Drive. $15-$20 719-3300, www.chorusaustin.org.

Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison Holiday Show with the Gourds. Singer-songwriter husband-and-wife duo will perform songs from their Christmas album, 'Happy Holidays,' along with holiday-themed classics and more. 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $30-$75. 866- 977-6849, www.austintheatre.org.

DEC. 20

'Sing-Along Messiah.' Hallelujah. Now you can express the spirit of the season as conductor David Stevens - a sing-along Messiah veteran - leads a chorus of everyone in Handel's glorious oratorio. 4 p.m. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive. $15. 345-8314, www.stmattsaustin.org.

DEC. 29-JAN. 3

'A Texas Christmas Carol.' A new all-Austin holiday musical revue brings an eclectic array of talent including the Amazing Grace Gospel, Austin Lyric Opera, Austin Classical Guitar Society, Ballet Austin, James Bowie High School Silver Stars, River City Brass Quintet, Tapestry Dance Company and the Zachary Scott Theater Showstoppers. The Biscuit Brothers and Tish Hinojosa star. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29-30, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 1-2, 1 and 6 p.m. Jan. 3. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. $20-$65. 474-5664, www.thelongcenter.org.

DEC. 30-31

Austin Symphony Orchestra, 'Holiday Pops with Duke Ellington Orchestra and Freda Payne.' The Ellington Orchestra keeps the spirit of 'The Duke' alive. Joining the orchestra will be singer Freda Payne, known for such hits as 'Band of Gold.' 8 p.m. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. $30-$45. 476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org.

THEATER AND DANCE

THROUGH DEC. 13

'Inspecting Carol.' In Daniel Sullivan's comedy, everything goes goofy when a small theater company prepares for its annual money-making production of 'A Christmas Carol.' Wimberley Players Theater. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 13. 450 Old Kyle Road, Wimberley. $15. 512-847-0575, www.wimberleyplayers.org.

FRIDAY THROUGH DEC. 27

'Rockin' Christmas Party.' Featuring Rebecca Schoolar, Judy Arnold and Felicia Dinwiddie, Zach reprises its popular Motown-inspired holiday musical extravaganza with a new sparkling 1960s set. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 4. Kleberg Stage, Zach Theatre, West Riverside Drive and South Lamar Boulevard. $38-$46. (discounts for seniors and students). 476-0541, www.zachtheatre.org.

FRIDAY THROUGH JAN. 10

'The Santaland Diaries.' Actor Espie Randolph of Esther's Follies and star of Zach's 'Sheer Madness' plays Crumpet, the sardonic writer who takes a job at Macy's as one of Santa's helpers in David Sedaris' wry observation on the painfully festive holiday season. Meredith McCall sings. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 11. Whisenhunt Stage, Zach Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road. $33-$43 (discounts for seniors and students). 476-0541, www.zachtheatre.org,

SATURDAY THROUGH DEC. 19

'Do You See What I See?' In this original comedy, the motley and goofy crew at fledgling television station WSPR in Salado has its hands full when the New York-Chicago-Los Angeles-Salado Christmas Eve simulcast falls on the tiny operation to provide the entertainment because of technical difficulties. Opens 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Shows continue 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 20. Salado Silver Spur Theater, 108 Royal St., Salado. $8-$15. (254) 947-3456, www.saladosilverspur.com.

SATURDAY-DEC. 20

'A Christmas Carol.' Adapted by D.H. Thompson, with original music and songs by Michael McKelvey, this children's version of the Dickens tale of miserly Scrooge and the true meaning of Christmas will be presented using historic hand-painted scenery from the 1880s. 10 a.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Scottish Rite Children's Theatre, 207 W. 18th St. $3-$10. 472-7247, www.scottishritechildrenstheatre.org.

SATURDAY- DEC. 26

'Charles Dickens Unleashed: Improvised Tales of Bleak Victorian England.' A new twist on the holiday show. The comedic actors of the Hideout Theatre present a fully improvised play set in Dicken's dark Victorian world where good and justice must do battle with evil and discrimination. And there's a children's version of the play, too! 8 p.m. Saturdays. (Family-friendly shows 6 p.m. Saturdays.) $11. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. www.hideouttheatre.com.

DEC. 1-20

'Sister's Christmas Catechism.' This sequel to the interactive stand-up routine 'Late Nite Catechism' finds the outrageous Sister enlisting the help of a choir, as well as a gaggle of audience members, to create a living nativity scene. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Rollins Studio Theatre, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. $29-$34. www.thelongcenter.org.

DEC. 3-17

'American History X-Mas.' Did you know that Christmas was founded by Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton in an attempt to get Jefferson's wife off his back after a bender? That's just one of the nuggets revealed in Austin comedy troupe Midnight Society's holiday sketch show. 10 p.m. Thursdays. Coldtowne Theater, 4803 Airport Blvd. www.coldtownetheater.com.

DEC. 3-19

'La Pastorela: A Shepherd's Story.' A traditional yuletide play that has been performed in Latino communities since the late 16th century when Spanish priests first introduced it to Americas, 'La Pastorela' follows the magical story of the shepherds' journey to Bethlehem and the obstacles they meet along the way. This modern production by Austin Latino Theater Alliance features music by Brian Ramos of the band Charanga Cakewalk. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Mexican-American Cultural Center, 600 River St. $8-$15 (Thursdays pay-what-you-wish). 241-9799, www.lapastorela.org.

DEC. 4-19

'It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.' Joe Landry's adaptation of the beloved American holiday classic staged as a 90-minute live 1940s radio broadcast. The story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee 2:30 p.m. Dec. 13. Bastrop Opera House, 711 Spring St., Bastrop. $5-$10. 512-321-6283, www.bastropoperahouse.com.

'The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge.' A year after his miraculous transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge is back to his old ways and suing the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. 216 S. Main St., Lockhart, $12. 512-376-5653, www.gaslightbakertheatre.org.

'Farndale Townswomen's Guild's Christmas Carol.' In a festive mood, the ladies mount another assault on the classics with their stage version of 'A Christmas Carol.' They enthusiastically portray a dizzy array of characters from the Dickensian favorite (and a few who aren't), engineer some novel audience participation while bravely contending with an intrusive PA system and a real Farndale first and wrap their vocal cords and feet around two original songs. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Dec. 13. Way Off Broadway Community Players, 10960 E. Crystal Falls Parkway, Leander, $8-$15. 259-5878, www.wobcp.org.

DEC. 4-20

'I'll Be Seeing You' Tex-Arts reprises its original 1940s-themed musical revue from by Todd Dellinger. 'I'll Be Seeing You' weaves the narratives of two now-grown neighbor children of World War II with letters to and from the home front. Slides, videos and popular holiday tunes of the 1940s augment the sweet and cheerful show which last year played to sold-out houses. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 Sundays. Tex-Arts, 2300 Lohman's Spur, Lakeway. $30-$56. www.tex-arts.org.

'A Christmas Carol.' Award-winning actress and storyteller Bernadette Nason brings Charles Dickens' classic yuletide tale to the stage portraying more than 30 characters. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Austin Playhouse, Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress Ave. $10-$20.

DEC 5-23

'The Nutcracker.' Now re-staged in the Long Center, Ballet Austin's 'The Nutcracker' is sparklier than ever. The lavish production complete with a live orchestra features the beloved role of Mother Ginger with a different celebrity starring in the role for each performance. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, Dec. 11-12, Dec. 18-19, Dec. 21-22; 2 p.m. Dec. 6, Dec. 13, Dec. 19-20. Dec. 23. Dell Hall, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. $15-$71. 476-2163, www.balletaustin.org.

DEC. 11-20

'Austin Children's Nutcracker.' The Austin City Ballet presents the holiday ballet danced by young dancers. 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Dougherty Arts Center Theatre, 1110 Barton Springs Road. $17-$22. 496-5987.

DEC. 12

'Dance-Along Nutcracker.' Possibly the most Austin original event of the holiday season, classically-oriented rock band the Invincible Czars reprise Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite' with charging heavy metal style. And best of all you can dance to it. Folks from Wicked Cricket Dance Theatre will help you get in touch with your inner Sugar Plum Fairy. Costumes OK. Golden Arm Trio joins the Czars for the most rocking 'Nutcracker' you've ever danced to. 3 p.m. family-friendly children's show. 9 p.m. adult show. Jovita's, 1617 S. First St. Children's show: $8 adults, $4 children. Adult's show: $10. www.invincibleczars.com.

'A John Waters Christmas.' Like a wayward Santa for the Christmas-obsessed, legendary filmmaker and raconteur John Waters ("Pink Flamingos," Hairspray," "A Dirty Shame") rides into town on his sleigh full of campy wit to spread his own outrageous brand of yuletide cheer with his critically acclaimed one-man show. 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. $35-$50. 866- 977-6849, www.austintheatre.org

DEC. 14-17

'Of Mice & Music: A Jazz Nutcracker.' Tapestry Dance Company starts a new holiday tradition with a modern tap dance version of the classic holiday ballet performed to an original jazz score by the band Blue J. 7 p.m. Dec. 14-17. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road. $15. www.tapestry.com.

DEC. 19

'Hollie Day's Wonder Winterland.' Austin Children's Theater and Vortex present a family-friendly interactive show. Fanciful hostess Hollie Day entertains another unusual cast of party guests and some funny, over-the-top audience participation. Plus, everyone gets to make a fabulous party hat. 4 p.m. Vortex, 2307 Manor Road. $5-$30. 478-5282, www.vortexrep.org

DEC. 25-JAN. 2

'12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Christmas.' Happy holidays? Or perhaps neurotic. Rob Nash returns with his hilarious one-man show that finds three generations of the dysfunctional Smith family trying to make it through the holidays. 8 p.m. Vortex, 2307 Manor Road. $10-$30. 478-5282, www.vortexrep.org.

HOLIDAY ART MARKETS

DEC. 3-24

Blue Genie Christmas Bazaar. The annual shopping extravaganza hosted by Blue Genie Art Industries features some of the most outrageous and creative jewelry, toys, accessories, clothing and crafts by dozens of local artists. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursdays, 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Monarch Event Center, Lincoln Village, 6406 N. Interstate 35, Suite 3100; Free. 371-1711, www.bluegenieart.com.

DEC. 5-6

Holiday Art Festival. More than 60 regional artists set up booths around the grounds in front of the historic 1916 Driscoll Villa and sell ceramics, wood, painting, fiber, sculpture, photography, jewelry, and glass, including the Driscoll Villa Christmas Ornament. Food, music and refreshments along with silent auction and free tote bags complement the festival. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 5-6. Austin Museum of Art-Laguna Gloria, 3806 W. 35th St. $7. 495-9224 www.amoa.org/

holidayartfestival.

Travis Heights Art Trail. One neighborhood, 19 locations, 38 artists. Peruse ceramics, paintings, fiber art, wearable art, jewelry and more. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 5-6. Various locations in South Austin. Free. www.travisheightsart.com.

DEC. 11-24

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. Ranked nationally as one of the top arts and craft shows, the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is just about the most Austin-y event of the holiday season. Find eclectic gift items by more than 100 artists and enjoy the sounds of Austin's favorite musicians - this year 40 different acts are featured, including lunch time concerts from 12 to 2:20 p.m. Live music starts - every night at 8 p.m. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 11-24; Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. $6 evenings and weekends, $3 weekdays before 7 p.m. 447-1605, www.armadillobazaar.com.

DEC. 12-13

Cherrywood Art Fair. This totally groovy, totally cool holiday art gathers more than 80 local artisans, jewelry- and handbag-makers, ceramists and artists. All-day live music (featuring the Boxcar Preachers, Joe McDermott and the Coffee Sergeants, among others), children's activities, food and nonstop fun. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 12, noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 13; Maplewood Elementary School, 3808 Maplewood Ave. Free. www.cherrywoodartfair.org.

DEC. 19-20

Bouldin Creek Studio Tour. Jewelry designers Leslie Bonnell, Stephanie Lindsey and Rachel Lavin are among the artists and artisans who open their doors for this popular South Austin event. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec.19-20. Various locations in South Austin. Free. www.bouldincreekstudiotour.com.

First Night Austin 2010

Once again, downtown Austin will percolate with arts activities on New Year's Eve courtesy of First Night Austin, the family-friendly alcohol-free celebration. Participatory activities, live music and theater, site-specific temporary installations and a community parade round out the big arty party. 4 p.m. to midnight Dec. 31. 6 p.m. Grand Procession. 8 p.m. family finale. 9 p.m. aqua parade. Fireworks at midnight. Various locations downtown. Free. www.firstnightaustin.org.