Did you hear that? That was the sound of Christmas exploding. There’s always a weekend in September we call Everything Weekend in our house because so many events land on the same few days. Looks like we’ve just found another one here in early December. There’s an absolute embarrassment of arts and culture options this week – especially if you’re a music fan. Better get right to it.
SING A SONG OF CHRISTMAS
Among our holidays, Christmas is by far the greatest inspiration of music – particularly vocal music. It helps that Christmas combines a 2,000 year religious tradition, and that it’s also a season of personal reflection and secular celebration. Here are some of this week’s best bets for the sounds of the season. (There’s more non-holiday music, too, in the usual spot farther down.)
Cincinnati Camerata: ‘Mystical Rose‘
Saturday, Dec. 7, 4 p.m. | St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Drive, Cincinnati OH 45202
Sunday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. | St. Catharine Church, 2848 Fischer Place, Cincinnati, OH 45211
The rose was a common medieval symbol for the birth of Jesus (you probably already know “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”), so it’s a perfect theme for Camerata’s annual Marian concert. Two performances of music by Mozart, Pärt, Paulus, Tavener (that’s no misspelling; Taverner is different) and Vivaldi, conducted by new music director Trevor Kroeger.
Cincinnati Men’s Chorus: ‘A Queen City Christmas‘
Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. | The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, KY 41011
Cincinnati has been the source of plenty of holiday music, either through songs written here, their performers or both. The Men’s Chorus pays tribute to hometown greats including Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day and Ruth Lyons.
cincinnatimenschorus.org or 513-542-2626
Collegium Cincinnati: ‘Messiah‘
Saturday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m. & Sunday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. | Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. Fourth St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
First things first: Handel’s most famous oratorio is titled just “Messiah,” not “The Messiah.” (It’s like the group Eurhythmics that way.) Also, it’s not a Christmas piece; it’s an Easter piece. That said, it’s still a great piece, and Collegium’s annual performance will sound more like the 1742 (Easter) premiere than most local offerings: just 16 singers and a small orchestra – led by Kent Tritle, music director of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Musica Sacra – will make the stunning counterpoint that much more clear.
collegiumcincinnati.org or 513-428-2224 (BACH)
CCM: ‘Feast of Carols‘
Saturday, Dec. 7 & Sunday Dec. 8, 2 & 5 p.m. | Corbett Auditorium, UC College-Conservatory of Music, 290 CCM Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45221
It’s the annual, all-hands-on-deck holiday extravaganza that revels in the plenitude that CCM boasts. Four university choruses, the Cincinnati Youth Choir, guest high school choirs and the Concert Orchestra all take a bow on the stage of Corbett Auditorium – and you can join in on several carols.
ccm.uc.edu or 513-556-4183
Treasures of the Lloyd
Opens Friday, Dec. 6 | Lloyd Library and Museum, 917 Plum St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
In the spirit of the holidays, the Lloyd Library is sharing its most treasured items in this exhibit. Founded as the reference library by brothers John, Nelson and Curtis Lloyd to help their pharmaceutical business, the Lloyd has grown into a wide-ranging collection that includes rare treasures of manuscripts, photographs, art and other artifacts. As I’ve mentioned before, this museum is a local gem, but it’s a small-staffed one, so be warned that the hours are not long. Check the website for details.
lloydlibrary.org or 513-721-3707
‘The Art of Motion’
Thursday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 8 | Patricia Corbett Theater, UC College-Conservatory of Music, 290 CCM Blvd., Cincinnati, OH 45221
The year’s first dance performance in the CCM On Stage series features mostly new choreography by CCM dance faculty to music by Pergolesi, Satie, Shostakovich and more. Daily performances are at 7:30 p.m., except Sunday, which is 3 p.m.
ccm.uc.edu or 513-556-4183
Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 8 | SCPA Corbett Theater, 108 W. Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45202
We know you’re expecting to hear about a certain Tchaikovsky ballet about a certain young girl who receives a certain magical doll at Christmas. You might not have known, though, that there is more than one production to choose from. This weekend it’s the Queen City’s stars of tomorrow, as the School for Creative & Performing Arts mounts “The Nutcracker” just a block from where the more well-known production opens later this month. Choose from four performances: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday or 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
scpa.cps-k12.org or 513-363-8100 x2
Saturday, Dec. 7, & Sunday, Dec. 8 | Springfield Township Civic Center, 9150 Winton Road, Springfield Township, OH 45231
ArtsConnect, the arts and culture nonprofit created by Springfield Township, hosts its marquee event this weekend. This year’s WinterFest Re-Imagined comprises a variety of activities – indoor and outdoor – over its two days, including a parade (which will briefly close Winton Road, so don’t be late), breakfast with Santa, Madcap Puppets’ take on “A Christmas Carol,” fireworks and the Cincinnati Civic Orchestra’s holiday concert. There’s a Winter Village for shopping and concessions, too. Check the website for full details and schedule.
theartsconnect.us or 513-522-2108
Thursday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. | Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202
If you’re already feeling an overdose of holiday cheer, here’s an antidote. The latest work in the Art Museum’s Women Breaking Boundaries Film Series is Ida Lupino’s unflinching 1950 look at sexual assault and its aftermath – made when the Hays code forbade even the word “rape.” A discussion with film experts follows the screening.
cincinnatiartmuseum.org or 513-721-2787 (ARTS)
‘386_By Les Blank’
Thursday, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m. | The Mini Microcinema, 1329 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
With the year winding down, we’re running out of chances to enjoy the Mini in its longtime Main Street home in Over-the-Rhine. Thursday night offers just another example of the Mini’s importance in town, with another film you will not see, even from the city’s other art-film presenters. It comprises two works by Les Blank, who has made documentaries for nearly 50 years, most focusing on cultural spots rarely seen on-screen. Cued up are “Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers” from 1980, an ode to the ubiquitous herb, and “Gap-Toothed Women” from 1987, in which Blank questions our commonly accepted standards of beauty.
Vintage holiday screenings
Various dates and times | Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220
Not surprisingly, Christmas has been a favorite topic in Hollywood for as long as there’s been a Hollywood. The Esquire’s present to you is a variety, some of them you may not know (but should). So grab a bag of popcorn and relax for these classics:
- “Remember the Night”: Barbara Stanwyck plays a shoplifter whose trial has to wait until after Christmas. Fred MacMurray, as the assistant district attorney prosecuting her, takes her to visit his loving family for the holiday. How will she react to warmth she’s never known? From 1940.
- “Scrooged”: Bill Murray relishes his inner Scrooge in this 1988 “Christmas Carol” adaptation, set in the soulless world of network television. It’s highly underrated (IMHO), with a strong supporting cast (Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum) and a priceless cameo by Miles Davis, Paul Shaffer and David Sanborn jazzing up “We Three Kings.”
- “White Christmas”: When “White Christmas” (the song) became the breakout hit from “Holiday Inn” and a nostalgic lifeline for GIs fighting far from home in World War II, Hollywood saw opportunity and in 1954 built a new movie around the song – along with Army nostalgia and a sense of duty. Bing Crosby was back to sing the song, joined by the new girl singer of the day, Rosemary Clooney (fresh from the airwaves of WLW), and Danny Kaye. It’s the Esquire’s annual interactive showing, so sing along, enjoy the snow and may all your Christmases be white.
- “Christmas in Connecticut”: It’s another holiday episode with Barbara Stanwyck, this one from 1945. Dennis Morgan plays the war hero who wins a Christmas dinner at the Connecticut home of a famous housekeeping expert (Stanwyck) – except the “expert” has no such house, no family and has never cooked. It’s Christmas, though, so don’t expect a sad ending.
An Evening with Leslé Honoré
Thursday, Dec. 5, 6:30 p.m. | Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The blaxican – mixed African American and Mexican American – poet and author Leslé Honoré works to empower youth to find their voices through the arts and to inspire people to stand in the gaps that inequity creates. She’s also executive director of Chicago’s K.L.E.O. Center.
mercantilelibrary.com or 513-621-0717
You’d think we’d already listed enough music, but you’d think wrong this week.
CSO: ‘Das Paradies und die Peri‘
Friday, Dec. 6 & Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. | Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Cincinnati Symphony quotes Sir Simon Rattle calling this the “great masterwork you haven’t heard,” and, indeed you haven’t heard it here. The last CSO performance was in 1898, and most other orchestras have treated the 1843 Schumann oratorio with similar neglect. Despite that relative obscurity, the composer was quite proud of it, and it was highly regarded for much of the 19th century. If all you know of Schumann’s vocal music is his lieder, you should hear one of these performances. Conductor Paolo Bortolameolli and all six soloists are making their CSO debuts; Robert Porco prepared the May Festival Chorus.
cincinnatisymphony.org or 513-381-3300
Linton Music: N.Y. Philharmonic Quartet
Sunday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. | First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St., Cincinnati, OH 45219
Monday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. | Congregation Beth Adam, 10001 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, OH 45140
Some chamber ensembles come to town via the road less traveled, bearing little-known gems to lure audiences. Not the New York Philharmonic Quartet. For their return to the Queen City, they’re bringing a program that Jeff “The Cowboy” Brantley would call “a hard fastball right down Broadway.” And, yes, you’ll want to hear them play it all. There’s Mozart’s “Spring” Quartet, K. 387, the Ravel Quartet and the Dvorak “American” Quartet.
lintonmusic.org or 513-381-6868
Xavier University: Marika Bournaki
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2:30 p.m. | Gallagher Theater, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207
It’s a very busy week, but Marika Bournaki is ready to make the case that she deserves your attention, too. The dynamic young pianist, subject of the Bobbi Jo Hart documentary “I Am Not a Rock Star,” performs a recital of heart-of-the-repertoire works by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Poulenc (OK, not quite all heart-of-the-repertoire) and Schumann.
xavier.edu or 513-745-3000
Opens Saturday, Dec. 7 | Word of Deliverance, 693 Fresno Road, Forest Park, OH 45240
Cincinnati Black Theatre Company’s annual staging of Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” is updated each year but retains its core theme – telling the story of the birth of Jesus with gospel music, including gospel arrangements of traditional carols, and an all-black cast. Five performances through Dec. 14, including two Saturday (2 & 7:30 p.m.).
cincinnatiblacktheatre.org or 513-241-6060
‘Miracle on 34th Street’
Opens Thursday, Dec. 5 | Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45238
Macy’s doesn’t have to worry about its Santa telling kids they can find the presents they want at Gimbels any more. You might even have a tough time finding a Macy’s Santa these days. But what if that guy really is Santa? The 1947 film isn’t just a sentimental favorite: It won three Oscars and inspired a 1961 musical by Meredith Willson (he of “Music Man” fame). You may not know the show, but I guarantee you know its hit song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” That’s the version Cincinnati Landmark Productions offers as its holiday showcase. Through Dec. 29.
cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com or 513-241-6550
‘The Frog Princess’
Opens Wednesday, Dec. 4 | Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Prince Ivan’s betrothed, Vasilisa, is a frog, but, of course, she actually is a princess under a curse. When she’s kidnapped, Ivan sets off to find her. Along the way, he discovers love that’s more than skin deep. It’s ETC’s family-friendly holiday musical, running through Jan. 4.
ensemblecincinnati.org or 513-421-3555
Last chances … through Saturday, Dec. 7
- “The Merry Wives of Windsor”: The women of Windsor, moved to 1919, still have Sir John Falstaff hopelessly outwitted in this Cincinnati Shakespeare Company production. Budig Theater, 1195 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-381-2273.
- “Marjorie Prime”: If you had the chance, what would you choose to remember … and what would you choose to forget? It’s an exploration of human identity and the limits, if any, of technology. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport, KY 41071; 513-479-6783.
Works of Henry Lawrence Faulkner
Saturday, Dec. 7, 5-8 p.m. | Caza Sikes, 3078 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209
This exhibition shares 21 paintings by Henry Lawrence Faulkner, plus a group of ephemera related to his friend Tennessee Williams. Faulkner, born in Kentucky in 1924, died in a car accident in Lexington in 1981. He was known in his time as much for eccentric acts as for his art, but his reputation is growing. His work has echoes as eclectic as Chagall and American folk art. Runs through Jan. 14.
cazasikes.com or 513-818-9527
Friday, Dec. 6, 5 p.m. | Gallery 708, 2643 Erie Ave. #3, Cincinnati, OH 45208
Same gallery, but the address isn’t in the name any more. Gallery 708 has moved from downtown to Hyde Park, and the grand opening in the new digs is Friday. Stop by, check the place out and say hello.
gallery-708.com or 513-551-8171