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Making Merry

A Cappella With Attitude: The Bobs sing such holiday fare as "Mambo Santa Mambo" and "Rasta Reindeer" on Dec. 8 at the Spreckles Performing Arts Center.

Our humble suggestions for holiday bliss

By Gretchen Giles

THE HOLIDAYS are doing more than merely tiptoeing in on little cat feet. They're thundering upon us like a Mac truck with bad brakes skidding down an icy slope of the Sierra Madre after an oil spill. And we, the holiday-fearing public, are chugging hopelessly along in a tinny old VW with torn fenders and big holes in the canvas roof.

At least the radio still works.

Ah, but the secret of revamping that old VW into a bright shiny vehicle of delight (complete with CD player) is to stop thinking of December as the cruelest month and to embrace the promise that celebrations with family and friends hold. And what better way to enjoy the aforementioned loved ones than by getting the heck out of the house and enjoying a few outing-type pleasures with them? After all, as we remind ourselves with a mantralike intensity, it's not what you give for the season that counts, it's what you feel and do.

With this giddy thought in mind, allow us to offer a select listing of events to bring a bit o' the season into your hearts.

Punk songer Patti Smith might spell it G-L-O-R-I-A, but songs more sacred and slightly less secular fill rooms, parishes, and concert halls--raised in the glory of hallelujah come Christmastime.

Carols in the Caves
Musician David Auerbach presents his 11th year of hauling a few fine specimens from his extensive collection of rare instruments out to area wine caves, setting up an evening of ancient and modern music that celebrates many different Yuletide traditions. Using the natural echo of the underground wine caves to amplify his pieces, and post-performance cups of cheer and light snacks, the Carols in the Caves experience has an undeniably eerie beauty. Auerbach plays Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Hans Fahden Vineyards, 4855 Petrified Forest Road in Calistoga, at 2 p.m. Other performances are in Napa at the Folie à Deux Winery (Dec. 7-8), Pine Ridge (Dec. 14-15), and Carneros Alambic Distillery (Dec. 21-22). $25. 224-4222.

Santa Rosa Children's Chorus
The sound of 70 children's voices all raised as one (and not demanding cookies or extra TV time) is a wondrous thing. The Santa Rosa Children's Chorus, joined by harpist Michael Rado and the Sonoma Bach Choir, performs work from the Renaissance to the present, including selections from John Rutter's Dancing Day. Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. Santa Rosa High School Auditorium, 1534 Mendocino Ave. $5­$10. 527-8813.

Tim Cain's Holiday Sing-Along
Marin songwriter Tim Cain (of Sons of Champlain fame) has helped kids shake their sillies out in classrooms and auditoriums across the North Bay. Any parent who has ever committed his "Georgie" to memory ("Every morning at half past eight" . . . ) knows that it is more indelible and infectious than "It's a Small World" ever was. Cain giggles up the little guys with holiday songs from all traditions on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. Polly Klaas Performing Arts Center, 417 Western Ave., Petaluma. $4--$6; live reindeer and those under age 2, free. 762-5680.

Navidad Mexicana
Direct from Mexico, the Teatro de la Voz performs Las Pastorelas, the oldest form of theater in the New World. Based on the medieval miracle plays brought from Europe by the conquistadors and spiced up with Mexican lore and genius, this afternoon of poetry, dance, and song combines traditional Catholic teachings with mestizo traditions and ribald comedy. Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $5­$7; ArtReach-sponsored reduced tickets available at 542-ARTS. Otherwise, 546-3600.

Occidental Community Choir
Director Doug Bowes leads the choir in its 18th annual winter holiday concert of traditional and original pieces, including an opera spoof and a children's choir. Sing-alongs? You bet. Dec. 6-7 at St. Philip's Parish Hall in Occidental; Dec. 13 at Sebastopol United Methodist Church, 500 N. Main St.; Dec. 14 at Occidental Community Church, Second and Church streets. Fridays and Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m.; Dec. 7, special matinee for kids at 3 p.m. Evening concerts are $5; children, free. Matinee, free to all. 823-0974.

Santa Rosa Symphony
Maestro Jeffrey Kahane conducts the Santa Rosa Symphony in a performance of holiday works, featuring boy soprano Tyler Costin, the Santa Rosa High School Concert Choir, and the Sonoma County Bach Choir. Dec. 7-9. Saturday and Monday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. SRJC professor Mark Osten gives illuminating pre-performance discussions of the chosen works one hour before the show. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $11­$28. 54-MUSIC.

The Bobs
Billing themselves as "a band without instruments," the Bobs play with themselves. Literally. As they use just their voices and what they ominously term "body percussion," their a cappella wackiness is a serious antidote for the holiday blues. In fact, they'll probably play the blues. But with the Bobs, it's more of a cerulean or teal. Touring on the strength of their Christmas album, Too Many Santas, this quartet is certain to fire up such holiday standards as "Mambo, Santa, Mambo," and "Rasta Reindeer." Dec. 8. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $16­$19. 584-1700.

River Choir
Rolling on the river is serious stuff when the River Choir offers its winter concert of madrigals, folk, and early music songs, featuring Vivaldi's Gloria. Dec. 8 and 10. Sunday at 3 p.m.; Tuesday at 7 p.m. Guerneville Community Church, 14520 Armstrong Woods Road. $5 donation. 887-7215.

Fireside Concert
The Sonoma Valley Chorale Chamber Ensemble sings selections of the sacred and the secular while you toast your toes in front of a roaring fire and sip champagne. Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. Gloria Ferrer Wine Caves, 23555 Carneros Hwy., Sonoma. $6­$8. 996-7256, ext. 239.

Chanticleer Christmas
Continuing what will, we hope, remain a new tradition, the Chanticleer men's vocal ensemble returns to Petaluma, singing songs spanning some eight centuries of artistic endeavor, from ancient madrigals to more modern frosty favorites. Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. St. Vincent de Paul Church, 35 Liberty St. $19­$26. 546-BASS.

New Traditions
The Rohnert Park Chamber Orchestra begins sumthin' new with its Alternative Holiday Celebration. Jazz guitarist Mimi Fox, the Sonoma State University Chorus, and the Petaluma Children's Chorus perform selections as diverse as an original by Fox, the work of Vivaldi, and "Christmas Song" by Mel Tormé. Dec. 14-15. Saturday at 8 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 35 Liberty St., Petaluma. Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Church, 150 St. Joseph Way, Cotati. $10­$12. 583-1700.

Singing for AIDS
Local angel Randy Rowland (proprietor of the gay and lesbian club Heaven) mounts his third annual Singing for AIDS event to benefit the Food for Thought AIDS food bank and the Center for HIV Prevention and Care. Rowland is the man whose greatest delight is to encourage others to dress up in women's clothes and outrageous eyelashes, grab a microphone, and go, baby, go. The evening begins with a cocktail party, moves to the concert, and then decamps for dancing. Dec. 15 from 6:30 p.m. Funhouse, 120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. $10­$25; half price for those afflicted with HIV-related illness. 544-6653.

Getting a Handel on It
The Redwood Empire Sing-Along Messiah scores big with county residents, holding its yearly fundraising for the Hospital Chaplaincy program. It features the Baroque Sinfonia musical ensemble, the Redwood Empire Chorus, and your own voice in song. Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $12. 546-3600.

Glenn Yarbrough
Former Limeliter Glenn Yarbrough hits town with his one-man holiday presentation. Recalling for us the faceless, forgotten people surrounding the event of the Christ child's birth, Yarbrough weaves a tale of one man who witnessed the event and magically appears each December to recount the wondrous details. Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $15­$17.50. 546-3600.

Better Not Pout
Santa Claus is coming to town. Er, make that towns, as the Jolly One himself--with an entourage of mighty familiar-looking elves and helpers--keeps up a dizzying holiday schedule of personal appearances and photo ops.

Rolling on the River
Petalumans like their Santa slightly woozy from Dramamime, putting Mr. Claus afloat the Petaluma River only to have him disembark on a pier full of tightly wound children who've been waiting, doing nothing but eating candy, for most of a well-planned morning. Santa chugs up on Nov. 30, docking at noon to dispense good cheer, and then whisking off in a horse and buggy for his annual inspection of the town. Santa docks in front of Apple Box store, B and Water streets; events continue throughout downtown. 769-0429.

Bay Watch
It's two if by water in Bodega Bay, too, when Santa arrives by boat at the Bodega Harbour Yacht Club to regale the kids. Look for the jolly ol' soul between noon and 2 p.m. 21301 Heron Drive. Free. 874-1714.

Seeing Red
In Sonoma, Santa's red outfit perfectly suits the fire engine he rides atop as he whistles into the Plaza to fling candy canes and listen to requests. Expect to see his eyes black as coal at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. 996-1033.

Setting the Stage
Live theater and the holidays go together like bah and humbug, especially when there's a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol playing somewhere.

Crazy Carols
There isn't a version of the Dickens classic running countywide into 1997, unless you count Main Street Theatre's hilarious Inspecting Carol, playing through Dec. 22. A theater troupe trying to preserve its arts funding puts on a comically awful version of Chuck's most famous work. 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 823-0177.

'Holiday Magic'
The Santa Rosa Players present Holiday Magic, an original work by local playwright Peyton Maloney featuring all manner of people in all manner of situations. Evidently a must-see for those who wish to decipher the intricacies of plot. Dec. 7-21. Lincoln Arts Center, 709 Davis St. 544-STAR.

Little Gerda
The Cinnabar Theatre continues its icy tradition of running The Snow Queen in December, chronicling the adventures of little Gerda as she assays to save her friend from the frigid clutches of the cruel queen. Cinnabar also offers more adult entertainment in the form of Le Café Momus, billed as an evening of French cabaret. Beginning with the refinement of a l'année nouveau champagne show, this musical revue continues into early January. $18­$20. 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 763-8920.

O. Henry Masterpieces
The Pacific Alliance Stage Company's holiday offering is two one-act plays based on stories--The Last Leaf and The Gift of the Magi--by short-fiction master O. Henry. Dec. 5-15. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $9­$16. 584-1700.

Sugar Plums Dance
The amazement of that nighttime tree growing up before Clara's wondering eyes is reason enough to attend the myriad Nutcracker performances slated for each year. That and those cute little mice.

Natty Nutcrackers
The Redwood Empire Ballet features Kanako Imayoshi as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Harlan Bengel as her cavalier in this year's performance. Dec. 13-15 at the Luther Burbank Center. Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m. only. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $10-­$18. 546-3600.

The Ballet Califia, under the direction of former New York City and San Francisco Ballet dancers David McNaughton and Shelley Scott, presents its version of the Hoffmann tale Dec. 20-22. Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. only. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $12­$16. 584-1700.

Not to be confused with the above is the Ballet California, which stages its crackerjack of a Nutcracker Dec. 20-22 at the Luther Burbank Center. Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $10­$19. 546-3600.

For something completely different, the Dance Center offers an evening of ballet tempered with music and song and barely a whiff of sugarplums or scary uncles. Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. 15 Third St., Santa Rosa. $2­$5. 575-8277.

Fa La La La
The nonsensical, the uncategorized, the beatific, the solemn, and the pagan all gather together for one big folderol of a good holiday time.

Bravo to Burke
Hats off to Forestville's Bob Burke, mild-mannered canoe and boat rental operator by day, superhero to kids suffering from cancer by day, too. For the 16th year, Bob is opening up his heart a little bit wider to include the community at his annual Christmas party with food and caroling. It's free, but all donations go to help efforts to ensure that children fighting for their lives can sometimes have the luxury of forgetting that they're fighting. Dec. 4, 5 to 9 p.m. The Farmhouse Inn, 7871 River Road, Forestville. 887-2222.

Festival of Lights
A little wine-country celebrating is definitely in order, and the Festival of the Lights is the time to do it. Seven Kenwood wineries prove how bright they are by festooning themselves within and without, pouring wines and offering foods of all manner. Attendees receive a wineglass at their first winery visit, which serves as a ticket to the rest. Dec. 5, 5:30 to 8:30. $20, benefits the Neighbor to Neighbor program. Various locales. 833-5891.

Spirit of Christmas
Man oh man, is this one big crafts fair. Featuring some great music (Roy Rogers, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Pride & Joy, among others) this two-weekend extravaganza of crafts, kids' stuff, puppets, Santas, and food--brought to you by the same people who mount the extraordinary Harmony Festival--is the perfect darn thing to make every small wrong in the recipient's life right. Dec. 6-8 and 13-15. Fridays, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, 10 a.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds 1375 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $2­$4. 575-9355.

The Congregation Shomrei Torah Reform hosts a potluck and family service from 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. All ages are welcome. 1717 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. 578-5519.

Also on the second night of Hanukkah, the Congregation Ner Shalom offers a special Shabbat service with songs and prayers of Hanukkah at 8 p.m. The following day, Dec. 7, join the fun at the community Hanukkah party, complete with Menorah lighting, potluck vegetarian dinner, storytelling, songs, and dreidels galore. 5:30 p.m. 85 La Plaza, Cotati. 664-8622.

A Hanukkah party spiced up with the traditional potato latkes commemorates the second day of celebration Dec. 6. Attendees are asked to bring a salad or dessert; the congregation provides the latkes, applesauce, sour cream, and more. 6 p.m. $5­$7. On Dec. 7, the Santa Rosa Jewish Community Center's Nursery School social features a silent auction and raffle, enlivened by music, food, and wine. 7:30 p.m. Free. And finally, a Hanukkah Zimriya sing-along begins at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 8. 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. Free. 545-4334.

Let There Be Lights
The Petaluma Adobe is the site for a Las Posadas celebration with docents dressed in early California garb, authentic food being served, dancers, and piñatas. At dusk, 1,000 luminaria candles will be lit. Adobe Road at Washington Street. 2 to 5 p.m. After the luminarias, get thee down to the Petaluma River to watch the parade of lighted boats glide down the river. From 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7. Events are free. 769-0429.

Goddess Crafts
The Living Goddess Collective offers Earth-honoring crafts for gift giving at the time of the return of the light. Entertainment and food, too. Dec. 8, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sebastopol Veterans Bldg., 282 High St. $3­$13, sliding scale; partially benefits women's charity. 829-5248.

Christmas at the Mission
All is dim in the original Sonoma Mission, except for the candles each arrival holds. Composed of the secular and religious, this old-fashioned holiday sing in the beautiful gloom is not to be missed. Sweets follow and the children are invariably good. Dec. 8 at 5, 6, and 7 p.m. (the 5 p.m. sing is particularly for children). The event is free, but tickets must be picked up at the Barracks first. On the Plaza. 938-1519.

Sonoma County Museum
High on Leaf: Sonoma County Museum volunteers Marion Schuessler and Dana May Casperson celebrate holiday high tea.

Jason Silverek

Museum Quality
Inviting families to come and enjoy its unique collection of antique toys, the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society hosts an afternoon open house complete with Twizzle the Clown and an expected appearance by Santa's mutant Seven-Foot Elf. From noon to 2 p.m. 221 Matheson St. Free. 431-3325. Later that afternoon, the Sonoma County Museum pulls on its gloves to offer a holiday high tea, complete with carolers and a tour of the museum's facilities. Dec. 8, 2 to 4 p.m. 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. $10­$12. 579-1500.

Winter Ritual Celebration
For those more inclined to follow the solstice than the Xmas, Starhawk and Luisha Teish rattle up some good vibes with their annual ritual to welcome in the changing of the light. At this benefit for the Women's Cancer Advocate Network--a project that helps fund underinsured or uninsured women--no one will be turned away from for lack of funds. Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St. $10­$15. 823-9377.

Auld Lang Syne
No matter how good, the year has to end, and what better way to say goodbye than with lots of loud music, silly hats, and rich food?

Clubbing It
New Year's just isn't fun for some people if they're not running the risk of getting barfed on by a stranger, or just possibly meeting and kissing that perfect stranger, or perhaps just having an opportunity to reflect that life is getting stranger. Look for alt angels Patch, Fatt Sack, and Immersed playing an all-ages show at the Inn of the Beginning in Cotati from 9:30 p.m. The Mystic Theater in Petaluma has Eric Lindell and his Big Band swinging through the old and into the new with a horn section and midnight champagne, while cow-punk faves the Feud drive the crowd crazy at the Old Vic in Santa Rosa, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show vamps the Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma. We know every club in the county will have a shindig of some kind planned; they just don't all have them planned yet. You better shop around.

Johnny Otis, Johnny Otis
As the people at LBC learned well two years ago, if you're going to have a Johnny Otis dance party, you'd better pull out the chairs and let people dance. Johnny pulls out the stops with his tight band, son Shuggie steps up with his guitar brilliance, and Clarence Van Hook hooks the rest in. This year, the food is provided solely by gold-medal winners at this fall's Harvest Festival. De rigueur bubbly at midnight. From 7 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $35 before Dec. 1; $40 after. 546-3600.

Cirque du Silly
New Year's Eve Bash: Members of the Cirque du Silly--Glenn Martinez, Bert Hutt, and Jay Anderson--suit up for First Night celebration.

Janet Orsi

First Night
This is actually second night for First Night, as this drug- and alcohol-free arts celebration comes galloping up to its second year in downtown Santa Rosa. An unqualified success at its debut (20,000 more people attended than originally expected), this year's First Night promises to be even better. With an upped roster of artists, food vendors, porta-potties, and venues, this salute to local talent, determination, and good will finds neighbors and strangers together in the streets watching performers and artists of every description accomplishing feats beyond description. It's five bucks. Pony it up. Volunteers are still needed for this event, and an orientation is slated for Dec. 10 at 7:30 at the Finley Center. First Night begins Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. 579-ARTS.

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From the November 27-December 4, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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