“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” So says the song, at least. Best is subjective, of course, but it’s indisputably the busiest – and especially for the bustling arts and culture community of our fair metropolis. After last week’s overflowing offerings, one might think there wouldn’t be much left to tout this week. One would be wrong.
This week also marks my last picks for 2019. Mr. Thom Mariner, our benevolent leader, will offer a year-end wrap-up next week, then the teeming staff at the M&M headquarters will take a break to catch its collective breath before undertaking the 2020 campaign. In the meantime, allow me to extend my wishes to you for a fulfilling holiday season, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the solstice or even Festivus you celebrate. (If it’s the latter, try to keep the Airing of Grievances short this year.)
See you next year; back on Jan. 8.
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 14-15, noon-4 p.m. | Heritage Village Museum, 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, OH 45241
Tradition is already the key ingredient for Christmas celebrations; mixing in history adds even more depth to the experience. Visitors to this weekend’s Holly Days will see Christmastide of the Queen City’s past brought to life. There’ll be music at Somerset Church, traditional crafts, period decorations on the village’s buildings and a reenactment both days of our region’s first Christmas dinner, in 1788, with period food and clothing. (The main settlement then was Columbia, for the record, not Losantiville that became Cincinnati.)
Also this weekend at the village is Breakfast with Mother Christmas, with two rounds each day (10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.). Besides a nice meal, the family-friendly event offers story times and opportunities for photos with Mother Christmas. Combination tickets for both events are available.
heritagevillagecincinnati.org or 513-563-9484
Cincinnati Art Book Fair
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 14-15, noon-5 p.m. | The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, KY 41011
Now in its third year, the Cincinnati Art Book Fair is an artist-run print market that brings together local and national artists, publishers and projects. In addition to the two full weekend afternoons at the Carnegie, the fair includes performances Friday of “Untitled (Pink Tube)” by Miller & Shellabarger and a talk with the artists at the 21C hotel (609 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202); an exhibition-opening reception Saturday (5 p.m.) at the Carnegie; and a Sunday afterparty starting at 7:30 p.m., again at the Carnegie.
cincinnatiartbookfair.com or 859-491-2030
Saturday, Dec. 14, 4-9 p.m. | Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Maybe you’re a late holiday shopper, or maybe you’ve just been waiting for the annual holiday incarnation of City Flea, the city’s original, curated urban flea market. It’s the opportunity to buy the perfect gift that you never even knew about. There’ll be plenty of hot beverages to keep you warm, so come on down and enjoy the park at night.
Friday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. | Esquire Theatre, 320 Ludlow Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45220
You may remember a mention last week that “White Christmas” (the film) was not the source of “White Christmas” (the song). Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people argue with me about that. Well, here’s the proof: 1942’s “Holiday Inn,” starring perhaps the two greatest entertainers of their generation, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. They play partners in an entertainment venue and rivals for Virginia Dale’s affection. Additional showings at 4 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday.
Note: The Esquire includes a disclaimer about “outdated cultural depictions” in its description. That means they’re leaving in “Abraham,” the Lincoln’s birthday production number performed in blackface and with some extremely condescending lyrics. Aside from that, though, the melody is pretty good.
esquiretheatre.com or 513-281-8750
The Mini Microcinema, 1329 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
“Animalia 2” | Thursday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Lil’s + Lils | Saturday, Dec. 14, 11 a.m.
“The Third Man” | Sunday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.
It seemed like we had so much time left to enjoy the Mini Microcinema on Main Street. Now, we turn around, and it’s the last weekend for the city’s regular refuge for creative and thought-provoking cinema. The weekend’s offerings are one, last mini-microcosm of the breadth of its screenings. “Animalia” is a selection of short experimental and animated films about animals, a favorite subject from film’s earliest days. Lil’s + Lils includes its usual eclectic mix of short films for children, either in English or without dialogue. (Arrive early to enjoy free Lil’s Bagels and free coffee from Iris BookCafe.) For their farewell, the folks at the Mini turn to one of the great postwar thrillers, featuring Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli and Orson Welles in one of his greatest roles. And, of course, the zither.
The Mini promises not to disappear from our lives completely, with occasional pop-ups possible. We hope that’s not just a cinematic fantasy.
CCJO: “Have a Funky Christmas”
Thursday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m. | The Redmoor, 3187 Linwood Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208
The Godfather of Soul (he of “Sex Machine” fame) may not be your first thought for Christmas music, but James Brown released “A Soulful Christmas,” an album of original songs, in 1968 through – you guessed it – Cincinnati’s own King Records. Instead of the more touchy-feely music we’re used to these days, the album is a defiant celebration of the black holiday tradition he knew firsthand. (Among its tracks: “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud.”) His 1999 “Merry Christmas Album” is a more traditional take on the holiday. The Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra unveils all new arrangements of Brown’s Christmas music and other festive holiday favorites. Learn more about new CCJO artistic director and chief arranger Eric Lechliter from our December/January print issue.
cincinnatijazz.org or 513-280-8181
Cincinnati Pops: Holiday Pops
Friday, Dec. 13, through Sunday, Dec. 15 | Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
John Morris Russell has gotten the band back together for another trademark Cincinnati Pops holiday spectacular. Special guest this weekend is Megan Hilty, who has starred on Broadway in “Wicked” and “9 to 5” and on TV’s “Smash.” As any Pops-goer knows, though, she’s hardly the only attraction: Expect choirs, dancers, costumed characters and, of course, Santa himself to make appearances. Five performances through the weekend.
cincinnatisymphony.org or 513-381-3300
Musica Sacra Cincinnati
Sunday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m. | Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 2944 Erie Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208
Another weekend, another fine chorus presenting its holiday best. Brett Scott and Jennifer Jun lead music by Charpentier, Gruber and the ever-popular Anonymous (because it turns out “Uns ist ein Kind geboren” is not by Bach after all). The Cincinnati Boychoir appears as special guest.
musica-sacra.org or 513-374-8249
Friday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m. | Garfield Theater, 719 Race St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
We’ve mentioned No Promises before. You can think of them as Cincinnati’s answer to Pentatonix, but Manhattan Transfer may be a better comparison. The group is now undertaking its 2019 Christmas tour, which includes performances across the region. We’ve included the downtown performance for convenience, but check the website to see if there’s a show closer to your corner of the world.
nopromisesvocalband.com or 859-957-3456
VAE: ‘The Gift of Song’
Saturday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15, 5 p.m. | Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Last but most assuredly not least is the Vocal Arts Ensemble, which celebrates its 40th season with two performances of its annual Christmas show. Assistant conductor Stephanie Nash conducts inspiring sounds of the season, from classic favorites to your next, newfound favorite. Among the debonair gentlemen on the Memorial Hall stage will be none other than M&M co-publisher Thom Mariner, proving again that he comes by his arts credentials honestly.
‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told’
Opens Friday, Dec. 13 | Budig Theater, 1195 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
To be honest, no traditional theater, even one as nice as Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Budig Theater, can offer quite the ambiance as Arnold’s courtyard for a raucous romp of spoofing Christmas tales (with love). Neither, though, does it offer the logistical resources CSC would like to bring to this hilarious holiday favorite. Three actors and Santa team up to take on everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss in 90 minutes. Runs through Dec. 29.
cincyshakes.com or 513-381-2273
Opens Friday, Dec. 13 | 2727 Woodburn Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45206
The latest collection of exhibitions in Manifest’s 16th season includes the finalists and winner of the 10th Manifest Prize, a $5,000 award given each year “to reward, showcase, celebrate and document exceptional artwork being made today by working artists.” The final 11 works were winnowed from nearly 900 submissions. Also opening Friday is another three-in-one group of exhibitions, running through Jan. 10:
• “Time Bombs”: 24 works by 19 artists on the theme of anxiety or impending disaster.
• “Bug-Insectum”: Speaking of anxiety, this parallel exhibition includes 11 works by nine artists on bugs, including insects and spiders, large and small, real or imagined.
• “10th Annual Tapped”: 16 works by 16 artists that show the artistic connections between artists and the current or former professors who inspired them. (Some of the “students” are now professors in their own right.)
manifestgallery.org or 513-861-3638
Taft Museum: ‘Journey to Freedom’
Thursday, Dec. 12, 5-8 p.m. | Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Taft remains open after hours for a House Party Thursday evening, “‘Tis the Season to Celebrate,” including an early-access preview to “Journey to Freedom.” Just in time for holiday viewing, renowned fiber artist Cynthia Lockhart brings six large-scale creations to the Taft, designed to tell stories of her African American ancestors, brought as slaves to this country 400 years ago. Lockhart will debut a work inspired by the Taft’s celebrated Robert Duncanson murals, created by the first African American artist to achieve international acclaim. The exhibit runs Dec. 13 through March 15.
taftmuseum.org or 513-241-0343