Stop the world: Desperately seeking holiday cheer? There is life without Prozac--try calming down with A Holiday Musical Feast, the lunchtime classical music series offered annually at the 1801 California Building downtown. Remove your heels, unwrap your brown-bag sandwich and enjoy: The Barbara Lepke duo performs on harp and flute today, the Highlands Flute Ensemble entertains tomorrow and the Komodore & Jaramillo guitar and violin duo wrap up Friday, all between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Admission is free; for details call 595-8747.
Thursday December 21 Sugarplums 'n' spice: Few Christmas traditions are more instantly recognizable or annually de rigueur for the kids than at least one magical run-through of The Nutcracker, the ballet sprinkled with sugarplum fairies, little dreamers and marching nutcrackers. The Colorado Ballet serves up the classic with the usual old-fashioned panache, offering performances daily at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, through Sunday. You may have to scrounge for tix to today's 2 p.m. family matinee, preceded by special activities and an autograph session with Colorado Ballet dancers (call 837-8888), but for showtimes and reservations to regular performances--admission ranges from $12 to $38--call 830-TIXS.
Pyle it on: Local recording artist and resident cowpoke Chuck Pyle, playing host to an Acoustic and Western Christmas tonight, will welcome bluegrass favorite Tim O'Brien, along with pals Gordon Burt and Chris Engleman, to the stage at the Salvation Army, 1539 Spruce St., Boulder. The concert, a laid-back fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, the organization that helps low-income families build their own homes, begins at 7 p.m. and features holiday tunes, a sing-along and original music by the artists. Admission is $10 ($5 students) with a canned food donation; call 442-7887 or 543-0888.
Friday December 22 Wracked and spent: Right about this time the holiday shopping frenzy reaches its zenith. Well, take a deep breath and leave the mall this instant. Go to the tiny, charming, manageable Zip 37 Gallery, an artsy hole-in-the-wall at 3644 Navajo St., where members will display loads of fresh, untouched, affordable art gifts for a three-day, last-minute Late Shoppers Show. An opening reception will be held from 7 to 10 this evening; the show continues from 11 to 6 tomorrow and Sunday. By the way, Zip will accept that plastic; call 477-4525 for information.
Bang a gong: This time the bell tolls for thee! They'll be ringing your chimes today during Heavy Metal Live From City Hall, an all-request morning of music engineered by carillonneur Robert Gift and rung out on the City and County Building's ten-bell Robert W. Speer Memorial Chime. The performance, from 6 to 8 a.m., will be simulcast on KOA radio; to make requests call the KOA morning drive-time call-in number, 623-8585, or call the Chime Line, 755-2224. If you're stiffed on the air today, a repeat performance will take place, sans radio broadcast, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Still not satisfied? Heck--just get it out of your system! The Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., will host an evening of Solstice Drumming beginning at 9:30 tonight and continuing until things peter out. It's free and open to participants of all ages; just bring your primal bad self and something to bang on. Call 294-9281.
Judy, Judy, Judy: That Judy Collins has been a busy gal. The onetime Denverite has gone from being a Sixties folkie diva in the Baez mold to holding her own in the Nineties on the symphony pops circuit, and now she's also the accomplished author of a slightly potboiled romance. Collins will appear tonight at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl.; for tickets, $18-$23, call 534-8336 or 830-TIXS.
Saturday December 23 Direct from the poles: Christmas is second nature in the snowy hills of Colorado, where Santa--a proficient schusser, they say--traditionally makes the rounds in all the hopping mountain ski areas. But don't be surprised if you see the jolly one join you on the slopes during the next few days, even at some of the smaller resorts: St. Nick's busy schedule has him skiing at Silvercreek (1-970-945-7491), Monarch (1-719-539-2581) and Wolf Creek (1-970-264-5639), among other places, at various times throughout the extended weekend. The holiday season will also come to a fiery head during tonight's Breckenridge Torch Ski Parade, 6 p.m. on Peak 9 (a filling $12 Fondue Dinner Sampler follows at the Maggie Restaurant; call 1-970-453-2000) or tomorrow's Santa-led Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, snaking--under a fireworks spectacular--down Lower Hughes Trail at Winter Park. Church services, caroling and a bonfire wrap up the Winter Park festivities; for info call 1-970-726-5514, ext. 1727.
Sunday December 24 Small world: A better alternative to the usual choir-laden, bell-ringing Christmas service can be found at the delightfully downsized Christmas Eve Candlelighting Service at First Divine Science Church. Local musicians Linda Maich and Michael Stanwood will be joined by the musical group Aurora, candles will be lighted, and you'll all smile at one another and go home to your trees and family circles. The service will be held only at 7:30 at 1400 Williams St.; for information call 322-7738.
Monday December 25 Eat, drink and be merry: Anyone who's hungry can have a feast today--with all the holiday fixings. More than one Christmas Day Meal, dispensed and prepared by volunteers using donated food, will be hosted in the downtown Denver area. The Denver Salvation Army annually serves as many as a thousand homeless and needy people at Currigan Hall, 1324 Champa St., where diners sit down to a hearty turkey and pumpkin-pie dinner between noon and 1 p.m. Though volunteer servers are usually lined up by this time, donations are always handy; call the Salvation Army, 861-4833, for general information. The Volunteers of America will dish out meals at two locations--from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Champion Brewing Company, 1442 Larimer Square, where guests will also be treated to Christmas carols, and beginning at noon at Sunset Park, 1865 Larimer St. Families and individuals needing free transportation can call Metro Taxi, 333-3333; those requiring home-delivered meals can put in a request by calling 294-0111. Just want to help? Call 297-0408.
Tuesday December 26 Soul man: First, funny man Jim Carrey went totally evil as Batman's Joker. Now Jerry Lewis--the original nutty professor and rubber-faced icon to French people everywhere--plays the Devil. Where will it end? And are there any "ni-ice la-adies" in hell? The irrepressible Lewis, who surfaced last year on Broadway to enthusiastic notices in a refurbished version of Damn Yankees, joins the touring cast in a reprise of his role as "Mr. Applegate" (aka Lucifer) for a sojourn at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The run opens tonight with an 8 o'clock performance; shows are scheduled daily through January 7. For tickets, $15 to $49, or reservations, call 893-4100 or 830-