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Neal Conan and Ensemble Galilei team up to welcome 
    the winter.
Neal Conan and Ensemble Galilei team up to welcome the winter.

The Sounds of Solstice

SAT, 12/4

Neal Conan may know radio, but he can't keep a beat. The Talk of the Nation host was once a peppy percussionist who was asked to permanently retire his drumsticks by his high school bandleader, ultimately diverting Conan to a distinguished career in broadcast journalism. Luckily for us, he'll lend his famous anchor voice -- rather than his self-diagnosed "tin ear" -- to A Winter's Night, an evening of literature and music at the University of Denver's Newman Center for the Arts.

Conan will narrate short seasonal readings from authors such as Jack London, Ogden Nash and Mary Oliver between Renaissance and Irish acoustic melodies performed by the critically acclaimed Ensemble Galilei. The five-woman group, which is heavily influenced by the melodies, styles and instruments of the British Isles, will string together the sounds of Celtic harps, violins, whistles, recorders, oboes and Uilleann pipes. The concert will include traditional Christmas carols as well as original compositions, with just a dollop of Conan thrown in for good cheer. "We are expecting an intimate evening of music and word with engaging personalities," says executive director Stephen Seifert. "It's going to be a warm and festive way to get into the holiday spirit."

A free "Behind the Curtain" lecture led by the members of Ensemble Galilei will take place at 6:30 p.m., followed by the performance at 7:30, in the Newman Center's Gates Concert Hall, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. Tickets are $25 to $40, with discounts for seniors and students, and are available at the center and all Ticketmaster outlets. Call 303-871-7720 or visit -- Kity Ironton

What the Dickens?
Even Scrooge would like this Christmas Carol
SUN, 12/5

My foot always falls asleep at the theater. The longer the play, the worse it gets. The numbness slowly creeps up my leg until I realize that I'm sitting on pins and needles -- and it has nothing to do with the script. But if there were more plays out there along the lines of A Dickens Participation Christmas Carol, my troubles would be over.

Lead-footed theater-goers like myself are invited to join longtime local actors Pam Clifton and Tupper Cullum for a free stage retelling of the slow-roasted Dickens chestnut today at the First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams Street. The twist? Willing audience members of all ages will be beckoned from the peanut gallery to take parts on stage. Okay, so I may not be bowled over by all the performances, but at least I'll be able to feel my foot.

Arrive at 1:30 p.m. for a playmaking workshop (which is optional and also free), or simply take your seat before 2:30 p.m., when the play begins. The audience participation continues through post-performance wassail and treats. For details, call 303-322-7738. -- Susan Froyd


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