Holiday happenings abound |

Holiday happenings abound

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Santa Fe Ballets annual presentation of the Nutcracker opens Dec. 16 at the Aspen District Theatre. (Rosalie OConnor)

Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow, sang Andy Williams, concluding that it all added up to the most wonderful time of the year.Throw in long hours of work, shopping for a 7-year-old made overly expectant by a librarys worth of catalogues, schlepping home a tree, visits from vacationing out-of-town friends, throwing a roast beast in the oven, making sure we get to all the right Nutcracker rehearsals, squeezing in some time on the hill, keeping up with the storm of holiday-time movies and concerts and on top of it all, the guilt I feel from the fact Im Jewish, and thus technically shouldnt be doing any of the Christmas thing, but should be concentrating on my Hanukkah latkes and I call it the most hectic-est time of the year.And yet, somehow, various bunches of local folks have been able to scrape together the time and energy to put on some holiday-time entertainments for the rest of us. And, presumably, there are some people out there who will be able to take a break from the cooking, shopping, schlepping and other assorted meshugass to partake in these festive events. If youre one of them, hey, mazel tov. Heres what awaits you (while Im breaking my tuches putting up those fakakta Christmas lights).Merry Christmas Aspen! and SMore SongsProbably the most notable Christmas tradition in Aspen, as far as locals are concerned, is the singing of Handels Messiah. For those from other parts, the holidays here seemed to center around John Denver, who hosted several Christmas in Aspen TV specials.Merry Christmas Aspen! originally released in 1984 by local musicians Tom and Julie Paxton, packages both together. The first half features the Christmas choruses from the Aspen Community Chorus 1983 performance of the Messiah, with Ray V. Adams conducting. The second half is Christmas songs from the Snowmass Dickens Carolers and Aspen Childrens Christmas Choir, who appeared with Denver in several holiday concerts, and on one of his TV shows. The last four tunes including the first recording of The Heart of a Mans Palace (The Magi), co-written by Woody Creeker Joe Henry and Peter, Paul & Marys Peter Yarrow feature Denver himself.The CD available at Carls Pharmacy and through includes Tom Paxtons reflections on the Messiah, how the collaboration with Denver came to be, and the collision between small-town Aspen and big-time network television.Paxton (billed as Tommy Paxton) has also released his first childrens CD, SMore Songs, featuring the Tommyettes, a group of local kids. With songs about animals (hyenas, whales, mice) rather than Santa, its not a Christmas album. But Paxton will have a very Christmas-y release party for the CD: On Sunday, Dec. 10, at 3 p.m., hell bring his guitar and hopefully, his own portable fire pit, to roast marshmallows for Smores at the fire hearth on the Cooper Avenue mall.Thunder River Theatre Company, Holiday Readers Theatre ProgramFriday, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Thunder River Theatre in downtown Carbondale.The second annual Holiday Readers Theatre Program, part of Thunder River Theatres Literary Night series, celebrates the holiday observances of a variety of cultures through poetry and stories. The event features all of the companys resident actors, as well as guests including local thespians Rett Harper and Joyce Bulifant.

Hudson Reed Ensemble, Jacob Marleys Christmas CarolFriday-Sunday, Dec. 8-10; and Friday-Sunday, Dec. 15-17, at 7 p.m. (6:30 p.m. on Sundays; Aspen High Schools Black Box.Dickens A Christmas Carol focused on the miserly banker Ebeneezer Scrooge. (The emphasis on money may have come from real life; Dickens wrote the story to pay off a debt.) Tom Mulas Jacob Marleys Christmas Carol, published in 1995, tells the backstory of Marley, who appeared only as a ghost in Dickens telling. The story and message are similar; it still follows the against-the-odds redemption of Scrooge. Ultimately, its a story of transformation and redemption. People we think are just lost, if guided in the right way, can come around and see the light, said Kent Reed, artistic director of the Hudson Reed Ensemble, who recommends the play for audiences age 8 and up. The characters too are largely the same, with one big difference: Mulas version introduces Bogle, a sprite who provides devilish comic relief to the play.Mula has performed the original one-man play hundreds of times, but it is his four-person version being staged here, with Reed directing a cast of Charisse Layne, Gary Morabito, Kim Nuzzo and Tim Rafelson. The four actors play 18 characters, and the minimalist production relies more on imagination than costumes and set design.Peace Tree Lighting & Holiday StrollSaturday, Dec. 9. centered in Lions Park, downtown Basalt.Basalt seemingly wraps all its holiday celebrating into one large package. The 13th annual event features a Santa appearance, gingerbread cookie-decorating, a bonfire, ornaments for sale, eggnog, a chili dinner, the lighting of the Peace Tree (5:30 p.m.), music from the Basalt Middle School Band, and, of course, shopping.Aspen Skating Club, Holidays at the CinemaSaturday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m.; Lewis Ice Arena (in the Aspen Recreation Center).The 50-plus members of the Aspen Skating Club with guest skater Erica Archambault, an 18-year-old international competitor from Colorado Springs puts the best of Christmas cinema on ice. There are scenes from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, White Christmas, Its a Wonderful Life and March of the Penguins. Not a Christmas move, I know, but its certainly a snowy movie, said ASC director Lise Bodek, who co-directs the show with Terry Hooper.A highlight: Hector Ulysses Lopez, who appeared as Fyedka in Aspen Community Theatres recent production of Fiddler on the Roof, will sing O Holy Night for the Home Alone segment.Mack Bailey Christmas ConcertSaturday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.; Aspen Chapel.Front Range tenor/guitarist Mack Bailey appears annually at the Musical Tribute to John Denver concerts in Aspen, and travels the world as a member of the long-running folk group the Limeliters (named for Aspens now-razed Limelite Lodge, owned in the early 60s by singers Glenn Yarbrough and Alex Hassilev). Bailey has a good claim to both gigs: he learned music by playing along to Denvers records; has had Denvers bandmates play on his albums; and once sang onstage with Denver. Original Limeliter Yarbrough called Bailey the next great singer in folk music. Bailey, who has been a Limeliter since 2004, returns to Aspen with the group for a Winterskl performance, Jan. 13.Last year, Bailey added Christmas concerts to his bag of tricks. His 2005 CD, Star Light: A Christmas Collection, is a folkie recording of tunes, emphasizing the roots of the holiday, the night of Christs birth. The CD features versions of One Holy Night in Bethlehem, Sweet Little Jesus Boy and Silent Night.Aspen Choral Society, Handels MessiahAt Glenwood Springs First United Methodist Church on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 12-13, and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16, at St. Marys Catholic Church in Aspen. You cant blame Ray Adams, conductor and director of the Aspen Choral Society, for looking ahead a year. Next year will mark the 30th anniversary performances of Handels Messiah in the Roaring Fork Valley, a milestone that Adams has said he will use as a marker to reassess his life and career. But Adams has never needed any reason to get up for the Messiah; the music itself does the trick. In an Aspen Times story last year, he said performing the piece is like saying hi to a 28-year-old friend. And Adams is extra juiced about the community enthusiasm; a hefty 130 singers have turned out to participate in this years production.The Dickens CarolersDressed in vintage clothes, singing old-school carols in perfect a cappella harmonies, the long-running Dickens Carolers have been providing a dose of Victorian-era festivity almost since the Victorian era. The local quartet of Julie Paxton, Linda Kimmel, Tom Paxton and Scott MacCracken has its usually busy season, performing at Snowmass (Monday, Dec. 11 at 5:45 p.m., for the Silvertree Hotels Open House and Loving Tree Benefit); and in Aspen (Hotel Jerome, Dec. 23-25, and the St. Regis, Dec. 23 and 25).

Anderson Ranch Arts Center Holiday Open House Thursday, Dec. 14 from 5-7 p.m.No surprise that the Anderson Ranchers knows how to make their corner of Snowmass Village a visual delight for the holidays. The Ranch decks the grounds with luminarias, guiding visitors to the studios for displays of art in a variety of media. Its a fine place to shop, enjoy refreshments and check out the art. The evening also includes the opening reception for the Artists-in-Residence exhibit.Aspen Community CelebrationOn Friday, Dec. 15, at 5 and 8 p.m.; Wheeler Opera House.Since 2000, Aspen singer-guitarist Derek Brown has rounded up the local talent for an evening of holiday music that is a mix of down-home and rocking. On the down-home side, there will be audience singalongs on such carols as Joy to the World and Oh Come All Ye Faithful. But Brown is very much in it for the musical experience; he has searched out arrangements of Christmas standards that are anything but standard: David Grismans instrumental take on Little Drummer Boy, the Barenaked Ladies snappy version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. There is also an old gospel hymn, Jesus, What a Wonderful Child, and Shes Having a Baby for Christmas, an original by the shows drummer, Bo Helmich. Browns favorite part of the show? The Hammond B3 organ. Thats a highlight. That thing just sings, he said.Tickets are just $5, about the lowest priced event youll ever see at the Wheeler.Holiday Open House Saturday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m., Aspen Recreation Center.The Aspen Rec Center gets festive, with Santa Claus posing for pictures, cookie-decorating, karaoke and warm, age-appropriate beverages.Aspen Santa Fe Ballets Nutcracker Dec. 16-17, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Aspen District Theatre.As the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has gone, so has gone its annual presentation of the Nutcracker. Back when the organization was the Aspen Ballet School, and the Nutcracker was its main event, the famed work was given a relatively modest treatment. Now that the ASFB has become a celebrated touring company, their version of E.T.A. Hoffmanns fairy tale of drowsy children and battling mice on Christmas Eve, with music by Tchaikovsky, has grown by leaps and bounds. The production still features the tiny tots of the ASFB school as bees and blocks, but also features genuine Russian, Arabian and Chinese dancers, aerialists, and knock-out sets.Chanukah on Ice Dec. 17, at 4:30 p.m.; Aspen Recreation Center.The Aspen Jewish Congregation and the Jewish Community Center Chabad Aspen team to present Chanukah on Ice, a day at the Aspen Rec Center that includes skating to Israeli music, a giant ice menorah, an Israeli-style buffet dinner, and lots of latkes, dreidels and other Chanukah treats.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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