Thursday December 1 Renaissance fair: St. John's Cathedral will echo tonight with rich contrapuntal sacred music of the Renaissance when the Tallis Scholars, an acclaimed English ensemble, perform. And they couldn't have chosen a better or more architecturally correct venue in which to show off their soaring a cappella work. The group, led by founder Peter Phillips and named for the English composer Thomas Tallis, will explore the polyphonic whole of their genre--from familiar sources and those lesser-known--at 7:30 in the acoustical gem of a cathedral at 1313 Clarkson St. Tickets are $15 and $22 (plus $1 handling charge); call 777-7372 to reserve seats.
Friday December 2 Lighten up: The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping has already got you down? Maybe it's time to absorb some of the wonder of the season. Get in line for this year's Parade of Lights, the enchanting after-dark extravaganza gracing downtown streets this weekend for its twentieth year. Sparkle and glitz typify the elaborate themed floats, as Nutcracker characters, a giant gingerbread house and Santa's sleigh all glide by. As in past years, even the sky will light up with huge balloon characters a la the Macy's Parade, including this year's newest windbags--Hush Puppy, Chilly Willy and Albert the Dinosaur. The parade begins in front of the City and County Building, in itself a gaudy light show, tonight at 7:30 (tomorrow at 7), then follows a route that circles the 16th Street Mall on 17th St. to Arapahoe and back down 15th St. Back at Civic Center, the AT&T Laser Spectacular will scorch a forty-foot inflatable screen before and after the parade with frantic squiggles of light synchronized to music. For details on all these events call 634-4060. What to do after? Some might choose to hop on the mall shuttle and head to the Larimer Square Winterfest for a friendly skate on an outdoor ice rink, open nightly until 10 through New Year's Day (skating, $2; skate rentals, $1). Or if all of those alternatives sound too crowded to bear, a folksier evening can be had nearby, where Luminarias de Santa Fe will feature the traditional glowing decorations of Mexico and a chance to visit restaurants and businesses in the 700 and 800 blocks of Santa Fe Dr. Stroll Santa Fe from 6 to 9--or whatever. One way or another, you're gonna see the light.
Soul and inspiration: There's no group more stirring than Sweet Honey in the Rock, an all-woman singing machine known for its upbeat, politicized harmonizing, all done sans any instrumentation other than a battery of gorgeous and powerful voices. African chants, spirituals, blues and prideful raps all weave their way into Sweet Honey's repertoire--making every concert a memorable, consciousness-raising experience for audiences of all ages. As an added treat, the audio-challenged can join in, since one member of the group interprets the tunes in sign language. Catch Sweet Honey tonight at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Admission is $15 to $20; call 534-8336 or 290-TIXS.
Saturday December 3 String 'em along: Step aside, gents. Gals With Guitars get their turn at the mike tonight--though, in fact, none of these local ladies are strangers to the stage. Strong voices and solid acoustic guitar work characterize these annual concerts, featuring a quartet of Boulder favorites--Joanne Del Carpine (Three Fisted Lullabye), Julie Hoest, Beth Quist and Maggie Simpson (Chris and Maggie). This year's show begins at 8 at Penny Lane Coffee House, 1738 Pearl St., Boulder; SRO crowds of past years are fully expected, so get there early. Call 443-9516 for details.
Murphey's law: In the world of Michael Martin Murphey, Santa wears spurs, strums a gui-tar and gallops onto your roof in a stagecoach loaded down with ten-gallon hats and shiny boots for all the good little boys and girls. Well, maybe. Murphey--along with riding pardner Waddie Mitchell--will bring his annual Cowboy Christmas, a mixture of Western songs, stories and poems, along with a slew of campfire-style holiday favorites, to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight at 8. Tickets are $18.50, cowpokes; call 534-8336 or 290-TIXS.
Sunday December 4 Brushing up: Now that we're rapidly approaching the next turn of the century, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has organized a traveling show of paintings capturing the spirit of America's headlong transition into modernity. Featuring the contrasting styles bookending the last century's demise, as interpreted by a diverse group ranging from John Singer Sargent to John Sloan, American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915, comes to the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., for a stay continuing through February 5. Heavy attendance is expected, so advance ticket purchase is recommended--call 290-TIXS. Or show up today between 10 and 6--even if it means a bit of bump and jostle; the museum will celebrate the major exhibition by offering free admission. Call 640-7656.