Seasonal sounds around here include gospel, klezmer, sacred music, dance music, Gaelic songs and Gregorian chant, for starters. Audiences will hear voices and strings, bells and harps, and a few period instruments from centuries past.
Other kinds of arts groups take part in the December spirit, too. There are several "Nutcracker" ballets, of course, and special events at theaters, museums, bookstores and art galleries. Below is an assortment of some of the many local festivities.
Cantor Lauren Bandman leads a program of songs to mark the first night of Hanukkah and World AIDS Day in "Don't Let the Light Go Out." The event also includes a presentation by author Ruthann Richter and photographer Karen Ande, who created the book "Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa." The free event is at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills. Call 650-493-4661 or go to http://betham.org .
Dance music is the main attraction at the Tribal Blues Band Hanukkah Party, planned from 9 to 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the British Bankers' Club, 1090 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Besides the band's performance, cantor Doron Shapira will make a guest appearance. There is no cover charge. Call 650-327-8769 or go to http://britishbankersclub.com .
Conducted by Robert Huw Morgan, Stanford University's Memorial Church Choir sings its annual Service of Lessons & Carols at 8 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 in the church. Admission is free for the seasonal program, which features Bach's Cantata 140. Go to http://music.stanford.edu .
Palo Alto cornetto player Stephen Escher and his early-music wind ensemble The Whole Noyse join the California Bach Society for the concert "Weihnachtshistorie (Story of the Nativity)" at 8 p.m. Dec. 4. The program features 17th-century German music and is at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Tickets are $30, with discounts for seniors and students, and for advance purchases. Go to http://calbach.org or call 415-262-0272.
The Stanford Chamber Chorale and the Stanford Symphony Orchestra perform their yearly Holiday Musicale presented by the Friends of Music at Stanford. The concert is at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the university's Memorial Church. Tickets are $10 general, $9 for seniors and $5 for students. Go to http://music.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.
The Menlo Park Chorus calls its free family concert "Twisted Christmas." The show, which comes with seasonal refreshments, is at the Menlo Park Library at 800 Alma St. from 11 a.m. to noon on Dec. 4. Call 650-330-2512 or go to http://menloparklibrary.org .
"Silent Night, Noisy Night" is the theme of the San Francisco Choral Artists' holiday concert with the Alexander String Quartet. Music from Latvia, England and Brazil will be included. Tickets are $10-$30, and the concert is at 8 p.m. Dec. 4 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Go to http://sfca.org .
The choral group Soli Deo Gloria performs a "Christmas Bells" concert with handbells at 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at First Lutheran Church, Homer Avenue and Webster Street, Palo Alto. Included is "Verbum Dei," a new piece by artistic director Allen Simon. Admission is $25 general and $20 for students and seniors. Go to http://sdgloria.org .
The Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra joins the CSU East Bay Singers for a free holiday concert at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Grace Lutheran Church, 3149 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Telemann, Haydn and Legrenzi will be among the composers represented. Call 650-591-3648 or go to http://sfems.org/mpro .
The Harpeggio Music ensemble performs its "Harps for the Holidays" concert of classical and seasonal music at 4 p.m. Dec. 4, at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos. Tickets are $15 general and $12 for seniors and children ages 4 to 12. Go to http://harpeggio.com or call 408-366-8810.
The Peninsula Women's Chorus presents three holiday concerts with a program including the premiere of Judith Shatin's "The Jumblies" — a setting of the Edward Lear poem. Performances are at 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at St. Patrick's Seminary, 320 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park; and at 4 p.m. Dec. 5 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $20 general and $10 for students; call 1-800-838-3006 or go to http://pwchorus.org .
"Ring Out, Bells!" is the name of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus holiday performance at 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at the First Congregational Church at 1985 Louis Road in Palo Alto. The singers will join the Sonos Handbell Ensemble in concert. Tickets are $25 reserved, $15 general, $12 seniors and $10 students. Call 650-342-8785 or go to http://ragazzi.org .
The new 16-voice chorus P-S-F-S (Prince/SF Singers) presents a holiday concert featuring sacred and seasonal choral arrangements by Peninsula composer Ken Malucelli. The group performs at 4:15 p.m. Dec. 5 at The Sequoias, 501 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Admission is by requested donation. Go to http://kenmalucelli.com .
Stanford pipe organist Robert Huw Morgan plays an annual seasonal recital for Advent at the university's Memorial Church. The free performance is at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 5. Go to http://music.stanford.edu .
Schola Cantorum hosts a Christmas Carol Sing at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 in the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, 1985 Louis Road. Assistant conductor and accompanist Dawn Reyen leads. Admission is $15 general, $10 for seniors and $7 for students. Go to http://scholacantorum.org or call 650-254-1700.
The choral group Schola Seraphica will perform "Gloria in excelsis Deo," a program of sacred holiday music including such composers as Charpentier, Schubert and Dvorak. The concert will be at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in St. Patrick's Seminary, 320 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park. Admission is $20 general and $15 for seniors and students. Call 650-387-3141.
Antique meets modern as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra performs Handel's "Messiah" on period instruments and with today's voices in the performing-arts center at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7; tickets are $35-$95, with $10 student rush tickets. Call 415-252-1288 or go to http://philharmonia.org .
At 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Stanford University's Memorial Church hosts its annual visit from the Chanticleer men's a cappella choral group. The program includes carols, gospel and chant. Admission is $52 general and $10 for Stanford students, with other discounts available for groups, youth and other students. Go to http://livelyarts.org or call 650-725-ARTS.
People who aren't content just to listen to Handel's "Messiah" attend the "Messiah" Sing-Along at Stanford's Memorial Church, bringing instruments and voices. This year's event is at 8 p.m. Dec. 10, with orchestral parts provided and choral scores available for purchase. Stephen M Sano conducts. Admission is $10 general, $9 for seniors and $5 for students. Go to http://music.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.
Local bluesman Kenny Neal plays a blues and gospel Christmas show with singer Gloria Scott at 8 p.m. Dec. 11, at Club Illusions, 260 S. California Ave., Palo Alto. Admission is $20. Call 650-321-6464 or go to http://illusionssuperclub.com/specialevents.html .
Viva la Musica! performs a holiday choral/orchestral concert, "Classical, Carols and Klezmer," at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $25 "preferred," $22 general, $20 for seniors and $15 for students. Call 650-281-9663 or go to http://vivalamusica.org .
The vocal and instrumental ensemble Broceliande plays a holiday concert at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at the East West Bookstore, 324 Castro St., Mountain View. The program will include medieval carols, ballads and madrigals. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Call 650-988-9800 or go to http://www.eastwest.com .
"Welcome, Yule!" is the theme of Schola Cantorum's 4 p.m. Dec. 12 concert in Palo Alto, with a program including Frank Ferko's "Festival of Carols." The performance is at the First Congregational Church at 1985 Louis Road; tickets are $24 general, $20 for seniors and $12 for students. Go to http://scholacantorum.org or call 650-254-1700.
Medieval carols, seasonal motets and more modern songs abound when the Bay Choral Guild presents "Christmas: Then and Now" at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12, in St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $25 general, $20 for seniors and $6 for students. Go to http://baychoralguild.org .
Seasonal songs keep company with Michael Daugherty's "Raise the Roof" timpani concerto at the California Youth Symphony's free holiday concert. The performance is at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Go to http://cys.org .
There's another Messiah Sing planned locally: Schola Cantorum's annual event is at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St., at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13. Tickets are $18 general, $14 for seniors and students, and $12 for children. Go to http://scholacantorum.org or call 650-903-6000.
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir comes to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. to present a holiday concert. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. show on Dec. 17 is $36 general, $31 for seniors and students and $28 for children. Go to http://mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
The Aurora Singers present "A Very Cool Yule" with contemporary American holiday music at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 305 E. Charleston Road. Tickets are $9. Go to http://www.aurorasingers.net .
Mary McLaughlin sings songs from the tradition of her native Ireland, with harpist Steve Coulter, in the program "A Gaelic Christmas" at the Woodside Library, 3140 Woodside Road. The free performance is at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 23. Call 650-851-0147 or go to http://marymclaughlin.com .
For the 20th year, Pacific Ballet of Mountain View dances "The Nutcracker," performing at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Performances are Nov. 26 through Nov. 28: Friday and Saturday at 1 and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 12:30 and 4 p.m. Admission is $22/$27. Go to http://mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
Western Ballet's "Nutcracker" is in its 35th production. Show times are Dec. 3 at 7 p.m., Dec. 4 at 1 and 7 p.m., and Dec. 5 at 1 and 6:30 p.m., at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Tickets are $29 general, $26 for seniors, $25 for students and $24 for children. Go to http://mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
Smuin Ballet's "Christmas Ballet" starts with a white-costumed first act with traditional music, then turns more modern. Performances are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St., Dec. 8 through Dec. 12: Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $62/$59/$49 for adults and $20 for students. Go to http://smuinballet.org or call 650-903-6000.
Mountain View's Bayer Ballet Company presents "A Winter Fairy Tale," a seasonal youth ballet in the Russian style, at 5 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19. Performances are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Tickets: $30 general, $25 seniors and kids. Go to http://mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
Two actors play 22 small-town Texas denizens in the holiday comedy "A Tuna Christmas," now at the Bus Barn Theatre at 97 Hillview Ave. in Los Altos. The plot includes a Christmas Phantom, the censorship of "Silent Night" and a holiday play in peril. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Wednesdays (Dec. 1, 8 and 15) at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays (Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12) at 3 p.m. Tickets are $24-$32. Go to http://busbarn.org or call 650-941-0551.
The musical "A Christmas Memory" has its world premiere next month, presented by TheatreWorks from Dec. 4 through Dec. 26 (after Dec. 1-3 previews) at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. The show is based on a nostalgic Truman Capote story about a boy's friendship with an elderly cousin. Tickets are $19-$67. Go to http://theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960.
Arts & crafts and exhibits
The holiday show at Gallery House includes art gifts such as prints, jewelry and sculptural angels by different artists. The exhibit runs through Dec. 24, open Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Starting Nov. 29, Monday to Saturday hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) The gallery is at 320 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; go to http://galleryhouse2.com or call 650-326-1668.
The Portola Art Gallery is displaying a "Small Treasures" group show of smaller works that could be holiday gifts. The show runs through Dec. 31, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and Dec. 5 and 13 from noon to 5 p.m.) at the Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park. Go to http://portolaartgallery.com or call 650-321-0220.
Electric trains, quilts and Meccano models are among the seasonal objects in the "Holiday Bells & Whistles" exhibit at the Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road. The free exhibit runs through Jan. 2, Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Call 650-948-9427 or go to http://losaltoshistory.org .
Foothill College's student ceramics club, Claybodies, is holding a holiday pottery sale of functional pieces and sculptures from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school's Cesar Chavez Plaza, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Call 650-949-7584.
The 23rd annual Christmas Creche exhibit is open Dec. 4 through Dec. 8 from noon to 9 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3865 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Hundreds of folk-art creches from many nations will be displayed, with kids' activities including crafts and marionette shows. Music groups including the Valparaiso Singers and the Gunn High School Chamber Singers will perform. Admission is free. Call 650-856-3781 or go to http://christmascreche.org .
Wreaths, floral arrangements and other crafts will be on sale at the "Holiday Affaire" marketplace from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 4. Admission is free to the event, which is hosted by the Garden Club of Palo Alto at Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Call 650-329-1356 or go to http://gardenclubofpaloalto.org .
The women's nonprofit Deborah's Palm is holding a free holiday bazaar with wreath-making, food gifts and crafts for sale, and strolling minstrels from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at 555 Lytton Ave. in Palo Alto. Call 650-473-0664 or go to http://deborahspalm.org .
Peninsula School hosts a craft fair with handmade toys, jewelry, textile art, ceramics, artisan foods, and other items for sale from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 5. The school is at 920 Peninsula Way in Menlo Park. Go to http://peninsulaschool.org or call 650-325-1584.
Kids and families
Kids' author Anna Dewdney gives a free talk on her book "Llama Llama Holiday Drama" at 4 p.m. Dec. 1 at Books Inc., 855 El Camino Real (Town & Country Village), Palo Alto. Go to http://booksinc.net or call 650-321-0600.
Kepler's Books hosts a free Hanukkah story time at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 5 at 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. The featured book is "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" by Eric Kimmel. Go to http://keplers.com or call 650-324-4321.
"Madeline's Christmas" — the musical version — comes to the Palo Alto Children's Theatre at 1305 Middlefield Road, with several afternoon and evening performances between Dec. 7 and Dec. 19. Tickets are $12 general and $8 for children; go to http://cityofpaloalto.org or call 650-463-4970.
The West Bay Model Railroad Association presents its annual Christmas model-railroad show at 1090 Merrill St. in Menlo Park, with running model trains and railroad memorabilia. Hours are 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 10, noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 11, and noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 12. Admission is free. Call 650-322-0685.
The holiday LEGO and train display returns to Palo Alto's Museum of American Heritage on Dec. 10 and remains until Jan. 9, open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday at 351 Homer Ave. The scene includes a 12-by-25-foot train layout with many local landmarks. Admission is $2 general and free for active museum and Bay Area LEGO User Group members. Call 650-321-1004 or go to http://moah.org .
Peninsula Youth Theatre presents "The Match Girl's Gift," the Laurie Brooks stage adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen holiday story. Show times are 9:30 and 11 a.m. Dec. 10 (tickets $8), and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Dec. 11 (tickets $10), at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Go to http://pytnet.org or call 650-903-6000.