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Dust off the Bing Crosby, dig up the Johnny Mathis and trot out “Santa Baby” — it’s almost that time of year.
Yet no matter how deep your record collection goes, Christmas music is really meant to be a live experience. It’s the reason caroling was invented, and the reason Elvis Presley loved to sing “Blue Christmas” in concert.
A roomful of voices or musicians summoning the holiday spirit, in harmony, can be a beautiful thing. From world music to smooth jazz and a holiday pole-dancing cabaret, Sonoma County has decked the halls for dozens of popular yuletide performances, starting this weekend. Here’s the best of the lot. Check it twice.
Best Excuse to Don Our Gay Apparel: In the spirit of SantaCon, those jolly seasonal flashmobs where thousands of St. Nicks converge in one spot from Portland to New York, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus returns to Santa Rosa, this time dressed as 250 Santas for the “SantaConcert” to benefit Face to Face Sonoma County AIDS Network. For a glimpse of what you might see and hear, check out the high-kicking elves in the “Favorite One” video at www.sfgmc.org/favorite-one-holiday-video. 7:30 p.m. Saturday (aka World AIDS Day) at the Center for Spiritual Living, 2075 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa. $25-$35. www.f2f.org.
Best Globetrotting Holiday Experience: In the span of two weeks at the Wells Fargo Center, you can travel in spirit to holiday celebrations in Mexico, Ireland and Russia. On Dec. 7, Compania Mazatlan Bellas Artes de Sacramento returns with 28 dancers and musicians for the traditional Posada Navidena. Look for the debut of the new work “Yucatan.” 7 p.m. $15 children, $20 adults. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. www.wellsfargocenterarts.org
On Dec. 16, Irish fiddler Eileen Ivers, she of the trademark blue fiddle and soundtrack for “Gangs of New York,” conjures Dublin in December for “An Irish Christmas,” backed by the Santa Rosa Symphony. (3 p.m., $37-$80).
And finally, the 20th anniversary production of Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” closes out the Wells Fargo Center’s “We Are the World” holiday tour with two shows at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 23. Hardly hidden among the sugar plum fairies, you won’t miss the Christmas tree that grows five stories tall. ($28-$75).
Best Holiday Concert Shopping Experience: What says “Santa Baby” more than holiday pole-dancing, a lingerie fashion show and DJ music in an old abbey reincarnated as a brewpub? It’s called Cabaret de Caliente and it’s all about holiday burlesque Dec. 13 at Hopmonk. The dancers are from Burlesque Bootcamp, the lingerie from Spice Sensuality Boutique and the music by DJ Fact.50. 9:30 p.m. at Hopmonk, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. $15 door/$10 advance. www.cabaretdecaliente.com.
Best Smooth Christmas: ’Tis the season when Dave Koz dons the Santa hat, lights up his sax and hooks up with friends Sheila E, David Benoit, Javier Colon and Margo Ray for a smooth jazz Christmas tour. Swinging by the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 14, they’ll unwrap all the chestnuts and ease into a few of Dave’s interpretations from his three holiday albums “December Makes Me Feel This Way,” “A Smooth Jazz Christmas By Dave Koz & Friends” and “Memories of a Winter’s Night.” $39-$69. 8 p.m. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. www.wellsfargocenterarts.org.
Most Twisted Yuletide Affair: Not to be missed, Dave Templeton’s Twisted Christmas No. 10 is a one-of-a-kind holiday gem you’ll only find in Sonoma County. The ace storyteller and performer is going out with a Mayan bang for what he says is the final year of the production run, bringing in “Sin City” actor Rick Gomez, political satirist Will Durst, comic Diane Amos, actress Liz Jahren and many more. It all leads up to the annual finale reading of Templeton’s “Crumbs at Midnight,” a tale told by cookies about to be eaten by Santa Claus. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15. Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. $20 advance/$25 door. www.glasercenter.com.
Best Folk-Skiffle-Swing Holiday Hoedown: Every year around this time, a pot-luck crew of former Wild Turkey egg-noggers break loose from their other bands and reconvene as the Christmas Jug Band, selling everything from CDs to mini-washboards emblazoned with snow scenes. They can never tell you exactly who will be in the band on any given night (Note: This year, Dan Hicks will be performing in Florida on this date), but this much is known: It’s by far the most informal, knee-slapping holiday twang fest around. 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Raven Theater, Healdsburg. $20. www.raventheater.org.
Bay Area freelancer John Beck writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. You can reach him at 280-8014, email@example.com and follow on Twitter @becksay.Page: 1 2
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