Celebrate Solstice
Ben Burch

Celebrate Solstice

For most people, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, a gloomy occasion when the sun goes down early and total darkness ensues. For others, the winter solstice marks the longest night of the year, a cause for raucous celebration and fanfare.The people behind the 18th Annual Winter Solabration are definitely in the latter category. The evening is "a community celebration of Christmas and Solstice" say the event's producers. "Dancers, singers, musicians, actors and other performers participate in bringing in the new year at the time of the Winter Solstice."

Activities for children include shows by the Cloud of Dust Puppet Theater and tales by storyteller Susan Marie Frontczak. Adults will encounter staples like the Solstice Sword Dancers and the Mummers' Play, a traditional Celtic performance of death and resurrection. A performance of the old English Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance, an ancient tradition involving six antler-clad deer-men, will also unfold. Canto de Galo, a capoeira (a Brazilian cross between dance and martial arts) troupe, will perform for the first time at the Solabration.

Crowd participation is the main goal of the evening, and no hoofer will be left on the sidelines. The Solabration takes place on Saturday, December 20, at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl Street. Tickets are $26 for adults, $6 for children ages six to twelve, and free for wee ones under six. For ticket information, contact the Swallow Hill Box Office, 303-777-1003.

Another way to go is The Christmas Revels: A Celtic Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Through dance, music and theater, the show, backers say, honors "the midwinter hopes that have connected and sustained people for thousands of years."

This year's production weaves together various Celtic traditions in a show that takes the audience back in time to 1740. There, the townspeople of rural hamlets share their Christmas bounty and rejoice in the shortest day of the year. The Christmas Revels is Revels Inc.'s most popular production, and Boulder is one of only nine cities in the country producing the show.

The fun begins at 7 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street, on Friday, December 19, with repeats at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, December 20, and 2 p.m. Sunday, December 21. Ticket prices range from $16 to $30, with discounts available for seniors, students, children and groups of more than ten. For tickets, call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

CSO cooks up a blend to make chestnuts sizzle
THURS, 12/18

How much Handel can you handle? The ever-practical Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra understand their prospective Christmastime audiences well, and let's face it: For some of you more modern folk, those endless "Hallelujahs!" can be a trifle -- yawn -- irritating. That's why the CSO deals out that ancient composer dude's Messiah both ways every December, in jazzed-up and by-the-book versions.For holiday hipsters, there's Too Hot to Handel, which hits the stage tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis streets. The performance has become a CSO classic over the years in Alsop's able hands. What's so hot about it? Maestra Marin reheats the well-roasted chestnut over coals of jazz, rock and gospel rhythms, giving a whole new swinging understanding of the work, one that encourages the audience to get up and -- believe it or not -- shake some booty. My God, there's even a Hammond B-3 organ grooving in the background! But if you're part of that buttoned-down symphony crowd that politely coughs between movements, calm down immediately and exhale: The definitive, traditional Messiah returns to Boettcher for two afternoons, in all its enduring grandeur.

Hear Too Hot to Handel at 7:30 p.m. nightly December 18 through 20 or the pristine Messiah at 2:30 p.m. December 20 and 21; admission prices range from $9 to $60.50 for either version. Call 303-893-4100 or log on to www.denvercenter.org. -- Susan Froyd

Seasonal Sounds
THURS, 12/18

Take a break from Christmas commercialization at the annual celestial Solstice Concert, performed by Boulder women's a cappella ensemble Sound Circle."We want to provide a musical holiday experience that is not religious or secular, but one that is very much about the rich time of year that we're in," says Sue Coffee, director of the 22-member group. "I feel like this is kind of an oasis for the audience. There are a lot of people who appreciate that it is not relentlessly Christmasy."

Sound Circle will entertain with music by James Taylor, the Beatles and contemporary choral composers Joan Szymko and Janika Vadervelde. "I think that the show has an overall message about the importance of community and the power that we all have to together make a change, an optimism for our collective future," says Coffee. "It has a wide appeal."

The Solstice Concert will be performed tonight at 7:30 p.m. It will also be heard at 8 p.m. December 19 and 2 p.m. December 20 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors and kids ages sixteen and under. Call 303-473-4525 for reservations. -- Julie Dunn

Two in Tune
Marshall and Thile show their pluck
MON, 12/22

Attention, mando-maniacs! As if you didn't already know, when mandolin-pickers as magnificent as Mike Marshall and Chris Thile come to town, you simply drop everything and go. Here's why: Veteran mandolinist Marshall, who's played with David Grisman, Stephane Grappelli, Béla Fleck and just about everyone else picking on the planet in the last twenty years or so, is among the best of the acoustic-music old guard, while twenty-something phenom Thile's work, alone and with the chart-busting combo Nickel Creek, represents a youthful avant-garde sound. Both are flat-out virtuosos. Together they're unstoppable, as evidenced by their new collaborative CD Into The Cauldron, a sweet-pitched acoustic journey through genres and time. And by the way, you don't really have to be obsessive to grok this concert's mandolin-driven fun. You just have to like good music. Marshall and Thile will reprise a mutual repertoire from the album; they'll bounce from Bach to bop to Brazil and beyond, tonight at 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street, Boulder. For tickets, $19 to $24, call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com. Get 'em while they're hot. -- Susan Froyd


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