Revelers who are more visually oriented can also choose from holiday home tours, puppet shows, model-train displays and, of course, the ballet. For a sampling of the many holiday options on the Midpeninsula, keep reading.
Young voices from Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto will provide the soundtrack to the annual tree-lighting at the Four Seasons Hotel on Nov. 26 at 2050 University Ave. in East Palo Alto. A toy and shoe drive will also be part of the free event, which is planned from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Call 650-470-2828.
The Baroque ensemble Musica Pacifica, with viola da gamba, recorder, violin, organ, harpsichord, oboe and voice, performs Christmas music from 18th-century Italy, France and Germany at 8 p.m. Nov. 30. The concert is in the First Lutheran Church at 600 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto. Tickets are $12-$35. Go to sfems.org.
The Ragazzi Boys Chorus welcomes winter with carols, Native American chant, Hanukkah music and other songs in a concert at 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at the First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto. Composers will include Allen Gordon Bell, Randall Thompson and Mendelssohn. Tickets are $10-$27. Go to ragazzi.org or call 650-342-8785.
"Christmas in Antwerp and Amsterdam" features 16th- and 17th-century music from the Low Countries, presented in Latin and Dutch by the California Bach Society and various instrumentalists. The program will be performed locally at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at All Saints Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Tickets are $10-$30. Go to calbach.org or call 650-485-1097.
Singers from the Palo Alto High School choirs hark back to history with their annual Madrigal Feaste, featuring 16th-century music and costumes, along with food and drink. The events are planned for 2 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2 at the high school's small gym at 50 Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto. Admission is $15-$80. Go to palymadrigals.com.
The women's choral group Kitka will perform "Wintersongs," a program of "seasonal harmonies from Eastern Europe," at 4 p.m. Dec. 2 in St. Bede's Episcopal Church, 2650 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park. Tickets are $15-$27 in advance and $15-$32 at the door. Go to kitka.org or call 650-854-6555.
"Sacred Songs for a Sacred Season," a performance by Irish singer/songwriter Mary McLaughlin, her Cor Aingli Singers, and the women's vocal ensemble Zambra, is planned for 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Vallombrosa Center, 250 Oak Grove Ave., Menlo Park. Gregorian chant and ancient Gaelic sacred and mythic song are on the program, and tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children under 16. Go to coraingli.com or call 831-335-4879.
Stanford's Memorial Church hosts the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols, with the Memorial Church Choir directed by organist Robert Huw Morgan and the Stanford Chamber Chorale directed by Stephen M. Sano, at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8. The events are free. Go to music.stanford.edu.
"Winter Dance with Bay Bells" features the handbells group in a free holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Grace Lutheran Church, 3129 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Go to baybells.org or call 877-76-BELLS.
Charpentier's "Nativity Pastorale" is the focus when the Magnificat Baroque ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 at First Lutheran Church at 600 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto. Also on the program are several French Christmas carols in settings by Charpentier. Admission is $12-$35. Go to magnificatbaroque.com.
The community singers of the Menlo Park Chorus mark the season with a holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 330 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park. Tickets are $12/$15, with refreshments after the performance. Go to menloparkchorus.org.
Soli Deo Gloria will give a Palo Alto audience one big Christmas present on Dec. 8: J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, performed with Orchestra Gloria. Soloists and choristers will bring on the angels and shepherds at 2:30 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church at 505 E. Charleston Road. Tickets are $30 general and $25 for students and seniors, with discounts for advance purchases. Go to sdgloria.org or call 888-SDG-SONG.
"Star of Wonder" is the theme this year for the Peninsula Women's Chorus' holiday concerts, with the programs including the Roches' "Star of Wonder" along with music by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and Baroque composer M.A. Charpentier. Performances are 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto; and 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at St. Patrick's Seminary, 320 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park. Admission is $10-$30. Go to pwchorus.org or call 650-327-3095.
The Stanford Chamber Chorale and the Stanford Symphony Orchestra play their free annual "Holiday Musicale" at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in Memorial Church on campus, presented by the Friends of Music at Stanford. Go to music.stanford.edu.
Five centuries of Christmas music, with a focus on nature, are represented in the San Francisco Choral Artists program planned for 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. Music by Howells, Poulenc and Kodaly is on the bill. Tickets are $12-$25 in advance and $15-$30 at the door. Go to sfca.org or call 415-494-8149.
The Bay Choral Guild looks at the Roman Catholic liturgy's Great "O" Antiphons in its holiday concert this year, singing contemporary settings by various composers. Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" is also planned for the Dec. 9 performance, which is 4:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $5-$25. Go to baychoralguild.org.
The young musicians of the California Youth Symphony play holiday and classical classics at a 2:30 p.m. concert on Dec. 9 at Foothill College's Smithwick Theatre, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for students and seniors. Go to cys.org or call 650-325-6666.
John Rutter's "I wish you Christmas" is on the bill for Schola Cantorum's holiday concert at 1:30 and 3 p.m. Dec. 9, along with Kirke Mechem's "Seven Joys of Christmas" and other offerings. The concert is at the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto at 1985 Louis Road; tickets are $25 general and $10 for students and children. Go to scholacantorum.org or call 650-254-1700.
Stanford pipe organist Robert Huw Morgan plays his annual organ recital in Stanford's Memorial Church at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 9. The event is free. Go to music.stanford.edu.
Schola Cantorum's lengthy "Messiah Sing" includes many choruses and solos not as commonly heard. The Messiah-thon is planned for Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. A chamber orchestra will accompany singers, and Gregory Wait will conduct. Tickets are $24 general, $20 for seniors and $18 for students. Go to scholacantorum.org or call 650-903-6000.
The ethereal voices of the Chanticleer men's chorus return to Stanford's Memorial Church for an 8 p.m. concert on Dec. 11, presented by Stanford Live. Gospel and holiday classics are on the bill along with Gregorian chant. Tickets are $54. Go to live.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.
Guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki of Bach Collegium Japan conducts the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in J.S. Bach's Christmas cantata "Christen, atzet diesen Tag" and other works by Bach on 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Center for Performing Arts at 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. Tickets are $30-$105. Go to philharmonia.org or call 415-252-1288, ext. 302.
Stanford's cheerful "Messiah Sing & Play-Along" is at 8 p.m. Dec. 14 in Memorial Church, conducted by Stephen M. Sano. Trumpeters always get a big hand. Admission is $10 general, $9 for seniors, $5 for non-Stanford students and free for Stanford students. Go to music.stanford.edu or call 650-723-3811.
The classical and jazz student ensembles of the Community School of Music and Arts present a free holiday concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 in Tateuchi Hall, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View. Go to arts4all.org or call 650-917-6800.
Ragazzi Continuo, a men's ensemble of eight graduates of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus, will perform Gregorian chant and Christmas carols including "The Holly and the Ivy" at two upcoming concerts: 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at Valley Presbyterian Church, 945 Portola Road, Portola Valley; and 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at Woodside Village Church, 3154 Woodside Road, Woodside. Tickets are $18-$20. Go to ragazzicontinuo.org or call 650-342-8785.
It's 30 years for the Gryphon Carolers, a 35-voice ensemble known for singing an eclectic array of holiday music (Celtic, Brazilian, modern jazz and other styles). This year's festive concert is 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at Spangenberg Theatre, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. Admission is $10-$25. Go to gryphoncarolers.org or call Gryphon Stringed Instruments at 650-493-2131.
Festive harp solos and ensemble pieces are planned for the Harpeggio group's annual holiday concert, "20 Harps for the Holidays," 4 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos. Admission is $15 general and $12 for seniors and children. Go to harpeggio.com or call 408-366-8810.
The Celtic/medieval ensemble Broceliande fetes the winter solstice with a concert at East West Books at 8 p.m. Dec. 15. Instruments include voice, recorders, mandolin and fiddle. Tickets are $15 through Dec. 14 and $20 on the day of the concert at 324 Castro St. in Mountain View. Go to eastwest.com or call 650-988-9800.
The 40-voice Silicon Valley Boychoir sings family songs for the holidays at a 5 p.m. concert on Dec. 15 at First Baptist Church, 305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto. Go to svboychoir.org or call 650-424-1242.
HaShirim, a community choral group, performs a Hanukkah concert of Jewish songs from 3 to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 in the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Admission is $5 general and free for JCC members. Go to paloaltojcc.org or call 650-223-8664.
Carols ring with gospel soul as the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir sings its annual holiday concert at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. This year's performance is Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m.; admission is $36 general, $31 for seniors and students, and $28 for children ages 12 and under. Go to oigc.org or call 650-903-6000.
The Pacific Ballet Academy kicks off "Nutcracker" season at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, with afternoon and evening showtimes on Nov. 23, 24 and 25. Tickets are $24/$28, and the venue is at 500 Castro St. Go to mvcpa.com or call 650-903-6000.
Santa hats, feather boas and saddle shoes are all part of Smuin Ballet's "The Christmas Ballet, 2012 Edition," which dances across the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts Stage from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 this year. Both afternoon and evening shows are planned at 500 Castro St., with tickets ranging from $23 to $68. Go to smuinballet.org or call 650-903-6000.
Western Ballet brings its 50th annual rendition of "The Nutcracker" to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. from Dec. 7-9. Admission for the afternoon and evening performances is $30 general, $25 for seniors and students, and $23 for children ages 12 and under. Go to westernballet.org or call 650-903-6000.
"The Nutcracker" also comes to Spangenberg Theatre at 780 Arastradero Road in Palo Alto Dec. 7-9, presented by Dance Connection of Palo Alto. Afternoon and evening performances are planned; tickets are $14-$25. Go to danceconnectionpaloalto.com or call 650-322-7032.
Santa is scheduled to make an appearance at the winter showcase of new students dance works presented by the Foothill College Repertory Dance Company at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. A toy drive will be part of the evening in the college's dance studio (Room 2504) at 12345 El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free. Go to foothill.edu or call 650-949-7354.
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" will be performed Dec. 9, 15 and 16 by Dancers Repertory Theatre and the Menlo Park Academy of Dance in 1 and 4 p.m. shows at Woodside High School's performing-arts center, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside. Tickets are $12-$20. Go to twasthenight.org.
A fairy tale from the Russian forest, set to music by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, comes to the stage in the Bayer Ballet Company's "A Winter Fairy Tale," performed Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., Dec. 15 at 5:30 p.m., and Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 general and $25 for seniors and students; performances are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St. Go to bayerballetacademy.com or call 650-903-6000.
Arts & crafts and exhibits
Palo Alto's Fibre Arts Design gallery is holding a design and gift show through Nov. 25, showing such artistic creations as jewelry, ceramics, handbags and clothing in hopes of having them adorn holiday shopping lists. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from noon to 4 p.m., at 935 Industrial Ave. Go to fibreartsdesign.com or call 650-485-2121.
Gallery House hosts its annual holiday show, with longer hours for showing and selling its members' artistic creations from Nov. 23 through Dec. 24. During the time, the gallery at 320 S. California Ave. in Palo Alto will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Go to galleryhouse2.com or call 650-326-1668.
Hundreds of Nativity scenes from around the world are on display Dec. 1-5 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 3865 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. The annual Christmas creche exhibit also includes marionette shows and performances by the Menlo Minstrels and other groups. Admission is free to the exhibit, which is open each day from noon to 9 p.m. Go to christmascreche.org or call 650-856-3781.
The Portola Art Gallery is focusing on smaller works in its December exhibit, with an eye to art that could make a good holiday gift. "Small Works & Treasures" runs the whole month, with paintings and fine-art photos by its member artists. The gallery is at the Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to portolaartgallery.com or call 650-321-0220.
Recently reopened after its major facelift, the Palo Alto Art Center welcomes kids and parents for a free holiday family day from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2, with hands-on art activities for youngsters ages 5 and up. The center is at 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto; go to cityofpaloalto.org/artcenter.
Handmade toys, fine art, ornaments, strolling singers and eco-friendly gifts are among the offerings at Peninsula School's annual December craft fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 2. Admission is free, with proceeds from the sales benefiting the school and its students. Go to peninsulaschool.org or call 650-325-1584.
The Cubberley Artists open their studios at the Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto to the public for a free open house. The event is set for Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 650-650-327-2371.
Kids and families
The Westwind Community Barn hosts its annual holiday barn-lighting on Dec. 2, with cookies and hot cider; children's games, crafts and pony rides; student groups singing; and Pony Club and 4-H members demonstrating horse grooming and management skills. The free event happens from 1 to 4 p.m. at 27210 Altamont Road, Los Altos Hills. Go to losaltoshills.ca.gov.
Life on the prairie, Yuletide-style, comes to life in Peninsula Youth Theatre's production of "A Little House Christmas," presented on the SecondStage at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., on Dec. 7 at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and Dec. 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 on Friday and $10 on Saturday. Go to pytnet.org or call 650-903-6000.
The model trains roll and the LEGO skyscrapers climb in the annual LEGO and train holiday display at the Museum of American Heritage at 351 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto. The sweeping display is open Dec. 7 through Jan. 13, Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $2 general (free for museum members). Go to moah.org or call 650-321-1004.
More trains can be seen at the annual Christmas show presented by the West Bay Model Railroad Association from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 8 and noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 9, in the former baggage building near the Menlo Park train station at 1090 Merrill St. Admission is free. Call 650-322-0685.
Holiday puppet shows for families are planned at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Carriage House at Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Registration is required for the shows, which are put on by Nick Barone Puppets. Tickets are $15 general and $10 for garden members. Go to gamblegarden.org or call 650-329-1356.
The Filoli mansion and gardens hosts its annual nine-day "Holiday Traditions" event from Nov. 23 through Dec. 1 at 86 Canada Road in Woodside. Holiday decorations and gifts are planned, along with a holiday shopping evening and a Nov. 24 performance by the Joe Sharino Band. Go to filoli.org or call 650-364-8300.
Visitors tour holiday-decorated homes in Atherton as part of "Finishing Touches: A Holiday Tour of Fine Homes & Boutique", put on by the Junior League of Palo Alto/Mid Peninsula. Tours and related events are Nov. 30 and Dec. 1; tickets are $40 and up. Go to juniorleaguehometour.com.
A special screening of the 1943 Elizabeth Taylor film "Lassie Come Home" is planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 6 as a holiday fundraiser for the Palo Alto Humane Society. Admission is a retro $2 and includes popcorn and a small drink; the event is at the Aquarius Theatre at 430 Emerson St. in Palo Alto. Call 650-424-1901.
The stately Rengstorff House welcomes visitors for its free holiday open house from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 at 3070 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View. The house will be decorated for the season, with refreshments shared and carols sung. Go to r-house.org or call 650-903-6392.
Hanukkah: It's not just for dreidels anymore. Hillel at Stanford hosts "Light It Up! 'Casino Royale' Style, a black-tie Hanukkah party for young adults ages 21 and up, starting at 9 p.m. Dec. 8. The event at 565 Mayfield Ave. on campus will include a DJ, dancing, blackjack, food, a bar and even dreidel games; tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. Go to paloaltojcc.org or call 650-223-8605.
Palo Alto Stanford Heritage leads walking tours to six homes in Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 9. Tickets to the holiday tours are $25 before Nov. 27 and $30 after. Go to pastheritage.org.
Los Angeles comedian Avi Liberman headlines the annual evening of comedy and Chinese food known as "Chopshticks" starting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 24. He's been on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, as well as E! and Comedy Central. "Chopshticks" is at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center at 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto; tickets are $50 general and $47 for students and JCC members in advance, and $55 for everyone at the door. Go to paloaltojcc.org or call 650-223-8664.