Coming Attractions: December 3 through 19 — What Will Light Your Fire

Our expert critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.


A scene from Christopher Nolan’s Following.

December 5 at 7 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline

The first of the Coolidge’s Big Screen Debut series is Christopher Nolan’s 1998 neo-noir feature, which he made when he was 28 years old. “Nolan appears transfixed on the intersection of time and identity. He seeks to unmoor his audience from traditional chronology to better demonstrate his characters’ fears and vulnerabilities. For Nolan, time is an artificial construct that can be bent to his will to better illuminate a story of a broken man (it’s always a man), who, through his brokenness, either succumbs to his own ego or finds some kind of acceptance that allows him to persevere.” (Collider Magazine)

The series continues on Wednesday with Rob Reiner’s brilliant mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Thursday brings David Lynch’s groundbreakingly surreal Eraserhead (1977). The following week’s entry, on December 12, features Emma (Bottoms) Seligman’s Shiva Baby (2021), and on December 14 comes Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). All films begin at 7 p.m.

Orlando, My Political Biography
December 8 – 14
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge

Writer, philosopher, curator, and director Paul Preciado, who narrates this documentary in French, structures his monologue as an address to Virginia Woolf whose book, Orlando, is the inspiration for the film. That story, the adventures of a poet who changes sex from man to woman and can live for centuries, is the springboard for a look at a number of contemporary “Orlandos.” A cast of 20 non-binary people play the protagonist at different stages, reimagining Orlando’s life through their own life stories and experiences.

A scene from the documentary Immediate Family.

Immediate Family
December 12 – 14
Regent Theater In Arlington

Denny Tedesco’s (The Wrecking Crew) new documentary focuses on the friends and studio players who backed up many of the formative music icons of the early ’70s and beyond: Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and many more.  The group of musicians includes guitarists Danny Kortchmar and Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel, and bassist Leland Sklar.

Grrl Haus
December 14 at 7 p.m.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge

Grrl Haus Cinema is an ongoing program of short films and video art made by women, non-binary, trans and genderqueer artists. A mix of local, national, and international artists present work from a variety of disciplines: narrative, documentary, experimental, and conceptual. There is an emphasis on low budget and DIY.

Merry Good Enough
December 12 at 7 p.m.
Somerville Theatre in Davis Square

This indie feature was filmed in the Boston area in the winter of 2022. Dan Kennedy co-directed with writer Caroline Keene. The plot: the matriarch of a dysfunctional family disappears on Christmas Eve. One daughter goes to great lengths to bring her family back together again.

Picks of the Week

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (2020)
Streaming widely

The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002)

This week saw the passing of two very different icons — Shane MacGowan and Henry Kissinger.

Shane McGowwan

In Crock of Gold, Shane MacGowan’s wife says this of her husband: “People think he’s got a death wish. When in actual fact, that’s not the case. He just doesn’t enjoy life without a drink.” And does he ever. The legendary Irish singer of the renowned Pogues (the band from which he was dismissed) is the subject of a legacy documentary, produced by his friend Johnny Depp and directed by Julian Temple (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.). Depp’s interview with MacGowan takes place in a pub; at this point the singer is relegated to a wheelchair because of a fractured pelvis, and he grows increasingly inebriated through the talk. The conversation is filled with humorous recollections, personal and Irish history, and thoughts on religion, all enlivened with animations and concert footage. MacGowan was Irish through and through, a cantankerous and opinioned punk, poet, singer, and philosopher.

The Trials of Henry Kissinger, was written and directed by Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and written by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side and many more). In it, Christopher Hitchens acts as a prosecutor, making a legitimate case for Kissinger as a war criminal. Hitchens finds deep moral failings in both the state and the man who viewed the world as a chessboard. Kissinger’s decisions were part of a causal chain that led to mass killings in Indochina, secret collusion and murders in Bangladesh, political assassinations in Chile and Cyprus, genocide in East Timor, and even the plotting of the murder of a journalist on American soil. This is a sobering, sometimes humorous, look at the beady-eyed diplomat who is often compared by his critics to Dr. Strangelove. It is free to view on Kanopy, a service offered by local public libraries.

— Tim Jackson

Roots, Pop, and World Music

Anjimile will be performing at ICA Boston this week. Photo:courtesy of the artist

December 8 at 8 p.m.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Former Boston alt-folk darling Anjimile reflects transition in more ways than one on second album The King. Now based in North Carolina, he moves from hopeful tone to somber hurt and anger as he tackles being black, queer, and trans in the face of right-wing politics and police brutality as well as familial nonacceptance. More in control of his lower register while favoring an assured falsetto, he cloaks his vulnerable voice in impressionistic orchestrations that can evoke Grizzly Bear and Sufjan Stevens, building intrigue for what he’ll sound like with a live band at the ICA.

–Paul Robicheau

Singers Showcase 40th Anniversary Special: Holiday—Four Decades of Madonna
December 7-8
Berklee Performance Center

Madonna recently confessed that, for her current tour, she had laid off her entire band. The show comes to the Garden on January 8 and 9 with just a backing track. If that arrangement doesn’t seem worth the price of a ticket — they go as high as $2100 — here’s a worthy alternative: Berklee’s Singers Showcase is celebrating its 40th anniversary with two nights of the Material Girl’s classics, performed by a cast of over 120 singers, dancers, producer/arrangers and, yes, musicians.

Hanukkah Celebration
Museum of Fine Arts
December 7, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

You certainly don’t have to be Jewish to join in this Hanukkah party, but it does come at a time when many Jews are particularly yearning for some extra light in their lives. A co-presentation of Jewish Arts Collaborative and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the night includes heavily reduced admission to the MFA, crafts, food, and some very enticing music: Ira Klein (guitar) and Beth Bahia Cohen (violin and yayli tanbur) will play three short sets of intimate duets devoted to Middle Eastern and North African Jewish traditions. And Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band will collaborate with choreographer Rachel Linsky for a pair of premieres that bridge contemporary and Yiddish dance, followed by some more traditional participatory dancing.

This week at the Regent in Arlington — a homage to Boston’s queen of the blues, Toni Lynn Washington. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Toni Lynn Washington LIVE Celebration!
Regent Theater, Arlington
December 8, 7:00 p.m.

She may have started her recording career in New Orleans, but for decades Toni Lynn Washington has reigned as Boston’s queen of the blues. Tonight an all-star cast of singers and musicians are paying tribute, backed by a band led by Washington’s longtime musical director, the phenomenal keyboardist Bruce Bears. Among those performing are Duke Robillard, Sonya Rae Taylor, Brian Templeton, Kit Holiday, Michelle Willson, Diane Blue, Nephtaliem McCrary, Chops Turner, and many more. And you better believe the unstoppable guest of honor will take the stage herself.

December 8-10
JMAC, 20 Franklin Street, Worcester

The Worcester-based collective Crocodile River Music offer year-round performances and lessons in African music. Now they’re staging the inaugural edition of what will hopefully become an annual festival. It kicks off on Friday with kora player Yacouba Sissoko and his band. Saturday features the Mali All-Stars, while the Sunday matinee is a pan-West African revue called The Dakar-Bamako Express. There are also drum and dance workshops for youth, teens, and adults.

dragonchild x Sunken Cages. Photo: Big Ears

dragonchild x Sunken Cages
December 16
Bummer City Winter Gala
First Church in Jamaica Plain, 6 Eliot Street

It’s a classic case of being loved everywhere but in your hometown. dragonchild x Sunken Cages, Jamaica Plain saxophonist Danny Mekonnen’s riveting duo with drummer/electronic musician Ravish Momin, has been invited to play such prestigious festivals as Big Ears and Le Guess Who?, but has yet to appear in Boston. That’s finally changing as the pair, who mix deep spiritual jazz with ferocious grooves, play the Bummer City Winter Gala. Speaking of bummers, the event, which also features Laura Stevenson, appears to be sold out as of this writing, but it’s worth checking back for later ticket releases.

— Noah Schaffer


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters.

Pamela Lambert, Peter Mill, Remo Airaldi, and Kelby T. Akin in the Lyric Stage production of The Game’s Afoot. Photo: Mark S. Howard

The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig. Directed by Fred Sullivan Jr. Staged by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, through December 17.

A whodunit farce that promises plenty of “slapstick and hilarity” with its “murder and mayhem.” “It’s a blustery December night in 1936 at the Connecticut mansion of actor William Gillette, whose life was recently threatened by a rogue gunshot while he was onstage performing his most celebrated role, Sherlock Holmes. A cavalcade of quirky friends arrive upon his request for a weekend of revelry all with the intent of finding out who pulled the trigger. But when one of Gillette’s glitzy and glamorous guests is stabbed to death, the survivors are trapped inside a fun house of hidden passageways and trick mirrors where any of them could be the killer.” Arts Fuse review

Legally Blonde: The Musical. Music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and a book by Heather Hach, based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown. Directed by Katie Anne Clark with musical direction by Mindy Cimini and choreography by Taavon Gamble. Staged by Moonbox Productions at the BCA Calderwood Pavilion – Roberts Theatre, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, December 8 through 31.

This musical, like the enormously successful film version, “chronicles the journey of the famously perky Elle Woods, a fashion-savvy, UCLA sorority girl who finds her life turned upside down when she is dumped by her boyfriend Warner. In an effort to prove to Warner that she is more than just some blonde sorority girl, she follows him to Harvard Law School, where she struggles to fit in and do well. Ultimately, she defies expectations and manages to stay true to her delightfully pink personality.”

A scene from Les Sages Fous’ Tricyckle. Photo: Puppet Showplace Theater

Tricyckle, written and performed by Les Sages Fous. Presented by the Puppet Showplace Theater at the United Parish in Brookline, on December 6 and 8.

“Les Sages Fous brings us back to their eerie-yet-inviting world in a wordless production featuring puppetry, live acting, and original music played on ‘invented instruments.’ This is the last stop on the troupe’s recent U.S. premiere tour of New England, which was made possible with funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).”  This is a three-person troupe based in Trois Rivières, a small city on the St. Lawrence River, between Montreal and Quebec.

The Band’s Visit, music and lyrics by David Yazbek, book by Itamar Moses. Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin. Choreography by Daniel Pelzig. Music direction by José Delgado. Directed by Paul Daigneault. A Huntington Theatre Company and SpeakEasy Stage co-production at the Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston, through December 17.

“In this Tony Award-winning, feel-good musical (based on the acclaimed 2007 film), an Egyptian band of musicians is stranded in a small Israeli town after a transportation mix up, and with no lodgings available, the locals take them in for the night. By morning, surprising connections have been made and friendships forged over moments of shared humanity and love of music.” Arts Fuse review.

Playwright Harrison David Rivers. Photo: Jeff Wheeler

The Salvagers by Harrison David Rivers. Directed by Mikael Burke. Staged by Yale Rep (with production support provided by the Binger Center for New Theatre) at the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven, through December 16.

The world premiere of a new drama, commissioned by Yale Rep: “Meet the Bosemans Salvage: 37-year-old Senior and 23-year-old Junior, at odds under the same roof during a snowy Chicago winter. Their icy relationship is further strained as potential romances for both father and son compel them to reckon with the past.”

Real Women Have Curves: The Musical. Music & lyrics by Joy Huerta & Benjamin Velez. Book by Lisa Loomer. Additional Material by Nell Benjamin. Based on the Play by Josefina López. And HBO’s Real Women Have Curves, Screenplay by Josefina López & George LaVoo. Music supervision by Nadia DiGiallonardo. Directed & choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Staged by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, December 6 through January 21, 2024.

“Summer 1987, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. After eighteen years under the roof of her immigrant parents, Ana is ready to spread her wings. Her dreams of college and a career in New York City are bursting at the seams, but her family’s expectations would keep her home, working at their garment factory. Is it worth sacrificing the dreams of her family, who have sacrificed everything for her?” Based on the play by Josefina López that inspired the iconic hit film, this empowering world premiere “explores life’s unexpected curves.”

Left to right: Jenna Agbayani, Judy Song in the Huntington Theatre Company production of The Heart Sellers. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

The Heart Sellers by Lloyd Suh. Directed by May Adrales. Staged by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion/Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, through December 23.

A New England debut for this script: “Jane and Luna run into each other in the grocery store on Thanksgiving in 1973 and find they have much in common: each are recent Asian immigrants, a bit homesick and lonely with hardworking absentee husbands, and adjusting to a new country filled with new opportunities. Over sips of wine and a questionable frozen turkey, they dream of disco dancing, learning to drive, and even a visit to Disneyland, and share their hopes and challenges for making a new home in a new land with grace and dignity. ” Arts Fuse review

Madeleine Rose Maggio, who plays Elizabeth Darcy in this year’s reading of Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley. Photo: Shakespeare and Company

Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Directed by Ariel Bock. A costumed staged reading by Shakespeare and Company at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA, December 15 through 17.

This play, an “imagined sequel” based on Jane Austen’s characters, “takes place at the home of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, and focuses on Georgiana Darcy — an accomplished pianist wary of romance. Georgiana’s best friend, Kitty Bennet, is a bright-eyed optimist. These two younger sisters are ready for their own adventures in life and love, starting with the arrival of an admirer and secret correspondent to Pemberley.”

Midwinter Revels: The Feast of Fools – A Medieval Celebration of the Solstice. Written and directed by Patrick Swanson and co-directed by Debra Wise, with music direction by Elijah Botkin. Staged by Revels at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge, December 15 through 28. Virtual Encore Streaming Window: December 25 – January 7.

“This year’s musical extravaganza takes audiences on a colorful journey to Medieval Europe. At the Feast of Fools, everything is topsy-turvy by design; rulers are temporarily deposed by servants, wit triumphs over power, and a Lord of Misrule finds himself steering the ship of state. This musical adventure features vibrant processionals, lively carols, delicate harmonies, vigorous dances, and a generous ritual serving of the wild and the holy. On the shortest day of the year, anything is possible!” The cast will feature David Coffin, René Collins, Susan Dibble, Eliza Fichter, Roger Reed, Vincent Siders, and Laurel Swift, as well as musicians Karen Burciaga, Barbara Allen Hill, Ben Matus, and Hideki Yamaya.

— Bill Marx

Visual Arts

The late 18th through the 19th century was “The Age of History” in a way not seen before or since. The development of modern archaeology set off sensational discoveries that changed ideas of myth and historical fact. Radical theories of geology and the origins of species vastly increased the timespan of history. New ideas about nationhood found the truth of nations in ethnicity and history instead of the divine right of kings. History became a science and was used to justify everything from colonialism, revolution, and white supremacy to gender norms and family law.

Fantasy, Myth, Legend: Imagining the Past in Works on Paper since 1750, opening at the RISD Museum on December 16, uses 30 prints, drawings, and photographs to explore how imagining and imaging the past becomes a tool to shape the present. The selection includes contemporary work that seeks to critique and dismantle the oppressive false narratives of past generations, a process that seems “woke” and contemporary but is actually as old as history itself.

Fish Head, 1946. Gelatin silver print. Berenice Abbott Collection, MIT Museum. Gift of Ron and Carol Kurtz.

Berenice Abbott’s extraordinary career, her striking portraits, and her indelible images of Paris, New York, and Mexico City helped create modern photography. An endless technical experimenter, she embarked, in 1939, on a new project that would create a role for herself as a “friendly interpreter between science and the layman.” So Easy to See: Berenice Abbott’s Super Sight, opening at the MIT Museum (not the List Center) on December 12, was organized in collaboration with the Image Center of Toronto. It is the first large-scale exhibition of the direct image capture process Abbott called the “Abbott Process” or “Super Sight,” in which she produced vivid photographs of small objects without using a photographic enlarger. Based partly on the prephotographic image-capturing device, the camera obscura, Abbott’s technique created images of remarkable clarity, transparency, and realism. Besides photographs, the exhibition will include documentation from MIT’s Berenice Abbott Archive.

Also at the MIT Museum on December 7, from 4 to 6 p.m., is a panel discussion, Designing Experience: Performing, Play, and Participation, a program that shifts focus from the design of material goods and artifacts to the design of human experience. Does the design of games, performances, films, and other experiences that unfold in time play a critical role in how we interact and define reality? Panelists include MIT students, designers, and entrepreneurs.

Kailyn Dulay appears in Kayla Abuda Galang’s When You Left Me on That Boulevard, one of the shorts in the 2023 Sundance Film Festiva

On December 7 at 7 p.m. the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, will screen Sundance Film Festival Shorts. Short films are a tried and true way for young filmmakers and directors to develop their talents, skills, and voice before tackling a full-length feature. The legendary Sundance Festival is one of the most prestigious and visible places to screen shorts, and its program has long been a premier showcase and launchpad for future prominent independent filmmakers. This short film tour, presented by Shutterstock, is a 90-minute program of seven films from the 2023 festival, including two of the festival’s award-winning titles. Tickets are $5 for ICA members and students, $10 for nonmembers. The program repeats on December 9 and 10 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m..

The Peabody Essex Museum is celebrating the holiday season with a series of family-friendly decoration-making workshops, including “Wool Felt Garlands” on December 8 at 3 p.m. and “Beeswax Candle Making” on December 16 at 11 a.m. (see the museum’s website for additional workshops and times). PEM holds its “Winter Solstice Celebration” on December 16 starting at 11 p.m.. Events, designed to help prepare you for the year’s longest night, take place through the afternoon and include a harp performance by Mary King and a “Winter Solstice Community Circle Ritual” with Tam Wiley and Rev. Tracy Rich. Preregistration and tickets required for some events; see the museum website for details.

— Peter Walsh

Elimelekh Tzoref, Torah shield, Front, 1781–82. Silver and partially gilded with enamel, niello, and stones. Photo courtesy of the MFA Boston

During a time of mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, and stereotypical allegations, there is much needed relief in celebrating the visual aesthetics and spirituality of Judaism. On December 8, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) will open Intentional Beauty: Jewish Ritual Art.  (On view through December 13, 2026 at the Bernard and Barbara Stern Shapiro Gallery in the Art of the Americas Wing.) It marks the first gallery devoted to Jewish ritual art, or Judaica, at the institution and in New England. Bringing objects together from Asia, North Africa, Europe, and the US, the gallery showcases ceremonial items created for the Jewish religious experience both at home and in the synagogue.

This presentation speaks to the vast geographic and cultural diversity of the Jewish people. Included are metalwork, textiles, paintings, furniture, and works on paper. The thematic installation is presented in three groupings: “Dressing the Torah,” “A Judaica Revolution” and “Dressing the Body: Ritual and Modesty.”

— Mark Favermann

A panel discussion entitled “Creating Art, Thinking Science” (December 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the MIT.nano Teaching Space, MIT 12-0168) kicks off what sounds like an enticingly futuristic exhibition at the MIT Museum. The show is dedicated to “envisioning and scrutinizing ways to intertwine nanoscience and nanotechnology toolsets and visualization methods to extend the bounds of art and culture.”

.zerodotzerozerozerozerozerozerozerozeroone will run through Fall 2024 at the Lisa T. Su building. The presentation “marks a significant step in bringing together the Art, Culture, and Technology program with MIT.nano, probing new presentation methods, delivery modes, and visualization concepts that address artistic pursuits across societal, environmental, scientific, and cultural domains.”

The intent seems to be to connect us with the sublimity of the super duper small: “An object’s color, luster, and texture are shaped by its nanoscale properties. So is how we perceive taste, smell, stickiness, transparency, and other aspects of an object’s tangibility. Utilizing instruments within MIT.nano, one can tailor the nanoscale for shaping the experience of those who engage with the artisans’ creation. Nanoscale means can also let us peer into the depths of the primal elements that construct our world, giving a glimpse into the hidden knowledge and presenting the exquisite beauty and intricacy of the nanoscale world.”

— Bill Marx


Bert Seager’s Heart of Hearing
December 6 at 7 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

With a slightly revamped lineup, pianist and composer Bert Seager’s Heart of Hearing quartet returns to the Lilypad for its monthly residency, a showcase for their unique intimacy and sense of humor (as in fellow feeling, but also the occasional ha-ha). Longtime Heart of Hearing regulars Dor Herskovits (drums) and Rick DiMuzio (tenor sax) are joined by bassist Andrew Schiller in delivering the cheering surprises.

Ana Petrova Organ Project
December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Peabody Hall, Parish of All Saints, Dorchester, MA

The peripatetic pianist and keyboard player Anastassiya Petrova closes out the Dot Jazz season at Peabody Hall fronting a new organ trio with drummer Mark Walker and Lihi Haruvi on alto and sopranino saxophones. The program will include originals, organ jazz classics, and “songs written by female composers.”

The Music of Ken Schaphorst
December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston

Over the past two decades, audiences have seen Ken Schaphorst conducting any number of performances by the New England Conservatory Jazz Orchestra in music by Duke Ellington, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Gunther Schuller, Randy Weston, and any number of other jazz luminaries and distinguished NEC faculty. Tonight  Schaphorst — co-chair of NEC’s Jazz Studies Department — gets to showcase his own rich book of compositions for large ensemble, including works from his seven albums as a leader and, we’re guessing, maybe something new. Schaphorst’s music is always as warm and stirring as it is beautifully designed. The concert is free, but tickets are required. Register here.

Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón and Cuban pianist Camila Cortina Bello will perform at the Lilypad this week. Photo: Jimmy Katz

Miguel Zenón and Camila Cortina Bello
December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

The phenomenal Puerto Rican alto saxophonist, composer, educator, and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zénon usually plays the big rooms, so it’s rare to find him at an intimate venue like the tiny Lilypad. Here he collaborates with the accomplished Cuban pianist Camila Cortina Bello (credits include Paquito D’Rivera, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Dianne Reeves) on a program called “Dos Alas: The Music of Rafael Hernández & Pablo Milanés,” connecting the “two wings” of Puerto Rican and Cuban culture represented by songwriters Hernández (1892-1965) and Milanés (who died last year).

The late Arni Cheatham, beloved saxophonist and activist. Photo: Mark Redmond

December 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Church of the Covenant, Boston

The annual Christmas concert by the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra will be especially poignant this year, with the recent passing of beloved saxophonist and community activist Arni Cheatham, a member of the band for 46 years. The concert, dedicated to Cheatham, will feature the premiere of Aardvark leader Mark Harvey’s latest piece, “The Gift,” in Cheatham’s honor, “plus joyful jazz carols, spirituals, and wide-ranging American originals. Selections will include the ‘Shepherd’s Carol’ by William Billings, the African American spiritual ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain,’ the soul-jazz classic ‘Cristo Redentor’ by Duke Pearson, and the band’s updated arrangement of the 17th-century Advent hymn ‘Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.’” The last was performed at the first Aardvark Christmas concert in 1973. Grace Hughes is the excellent Aardvark singer for the vocal numbers. The concert is a benefit for Rosie’s Place.

Marco Pignataro: “Tales From the Harbor”
December 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge

The esteemed saxophonist and composer Marco Pignataro is presenting “Tales from the Harbor (Racconti dal Porto”),” which “reimagines folktales from the Italian diaspora and the Italian American experience through the lens of jazz and music storytelling. “Joining Pignatoro for this Jazz All Ways concert from JazzBoston are Jakob Kobal, accordion; Angela Varo, violin; Peter Sumner, cello; Gabriel Maia, guitar; Devon Gates, bass and vocals; George Lernis, percussion; and special guest arranger and drummer Andre Sudol.”

December 13 at 6:45 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

One of the most provocative releases of the year was the ambiguously titled August in March, the third CD by the Brooklyn trio Ember. The tunes (alternately written by all three players) span through-composed pieces to free improvisation, all marked by a compositional attention to texture, form, and dynamics. The three-way free-flow of musical conversation always has a patient deliberation about it, even when it explodes into fast tempos. The moods are evocative — meditative or kinetic — always with a strong sensual narrative current of melody and rhythmic tension, whether in tensile grooves or free tempos. Caleb Wheeler Curtis plays saxophones (including the “straight alto” stritch) and trumpet (including reed trumpet), with Noah Garabedian on bass and Vincent Sperrazza on drums.

December 14 at 8 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

Three artists active in the experimental music and arts scene have come together to create Granular, a series that mixes variations of sound (improvised and otherwise), including poetry, and dance. Their showcase tonight is tagged “three ways of sounding.” Granular is organized by two faculty members at Berklee College of Music and Berklee Conservatory, Nomi Epstein and Victoria Cheah, and pianist, composer, educator, and poet Tatiana Castro Mejía. First up is Noeplace (Laura Cetilla, cello, and Epstein, prepared piano); followed by Mejía with dancer Maude Warshaw; and then Cheah, voice and electronics.

Sheila Jordan
December 15 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Mad Monkfish, Cambridge

The great jazz singer Sheila Jordan, who turned 95 last month, makes one of her regular annual stops at the Mad Monkfish, and as usual, is supported by pianist Yoko Miwa’s trio, with bassist Brad Barrett and drummer Scott Goulding. In addition to the two Friday shows, Jordan will conduct a master class at the venue on Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. You can register for that class as a class participant here, or as an auditor here.

Pianist Stanley Sagov and saxophonist Stan Strickland. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Stanley Sagov
December 16 at 9:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge

One of the most highly anticipated returns to the Regattabar after the club’s long Covid-induced layoff was that of Dr. Stanley Sagov’s Remembering the Future Quintet. Sagov, a former New England Conservatory student who grew up playing jazz in the vibrant Cape Town, South Africa, scene, returned to music late in his medical career and had redoubled his efforts since retiring. Now there is added urgency to the date, since Sagov was recently diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in both lungs. In addition to the Remembering the Future crew — saxophonist/flutist Stan Strickland, trumpeter Mike Peipman, bassist John Lockwood, drummer Yoron Israel, and guest vocalist Wannetta Jackson — the band will be joined by another of Sagov’s former NEC classmates, Anton Fig (for years the drummer on The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as on countless other high-profile gigs), bassist and music producer Tommy Lockett, and Sagov’s sister, Margo, who is flying in from London for the occasion.

Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club
December 17 at 6 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge

For his long-running Explorer Club band, Charlie Kohlhase always comes up with an interesting format, great musicians, and atypical repertoire. For this show, the band will play pieces by one of Kohlhase’s many noteworthy collaborators, John Tchicai, as well as by Don Cherry, Elmo Hope, and himself. The band includes Kohlhase on alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones; Seth Meicht, tenor sax; Dan Rosenthal, trumpet and flugelhorn; Bill Lowe, bass trombone; Josiah Reibstein, tuba; Eric Hofbauer, guitar; Tony Leva, bass; and Curt Newton, drums.

— Jon Garelick

Anthony Coleman Trio
December 5
Lilypad, Cambridge

While pianist Coleman is often pegged as one of the quintessential downtown New York talents, he’s a Bostonian at least a few days a week while he teaches at NEC. He’s also a welcome presence at both on- and off-campus events, playing everything from stride piano to adventurous free improvisations. For this edition of the This Music/TM Series he’ll be joined by Yoona Kim, who plays the traditional Korean stringed Ajaeng, and Greg Kelly on trumpet and electronics.

— Noah Schaffer

Michelin-Cardoso: Uninventing Songs
December 15 at 7:30 pm
Regattabar, Cambridge

The stellar partnership of Boston-based Uruguayan pianist Nando Michelin and Brazilian piccolo bassist and singer Ebinho Cardoso has resulted in some of the most exciting projects combining South American rhythms and both original lyrics and settings of poetry, including 2018’s Engenheiros. They bring their latest project, paying homage to Brazilian poet Manoel de Barros, to the Regattabar, with their group, which features Ian Ashby on acoustic bass and two excellent drummers, Tiago Michelin and Lumanyano Mzi. The show is part of JazzBoston’s Jazz All Ways series, supported by the Mass Cultural Council, Cambridge Arts, and Cambridge Community Foundation. Admission includes two 45-minute sets.

— Evelyn Rosenthal

Classical Music

The Boston Camerata performs in Lexington and Boston this week. Photo: courtesy of the artist

A Medieval Christmas
Presented by Boston Camerata
December 8 at 8 p.m., 9 at 4 p.m., and 10 at 4 p.m.
Follen Church, Lexington (on the 8th), First Parish Church of Newbury (on the 9th), and Old South Church, Boston (on the 10th)

Boston Camerata’s first program of the month celebrates the season with music for female voices and instruments from medieval Europe.

Bach Illuminated
Presented by Boston Cecilia
December 8 at 8 p.m. and 10 at 3 p.m.
Church of the Advent, Boston (on the 8th) and All Saint’s Parish, Brookline (on the 10th)

Boston Cecilia’s December program focuses on music by J.S. Bach, as well as composers who influenced him or were shaped by the output of the larger Bach family. Michael Barrett conducts.

Pianist Jeremy Denk will perform at Jordan Hall and the Groton Music Center this week. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Jeremy Denk in recital
Presented by Celebrity Series
December 9 at 8 p.m. and 10 at 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston (on the 9th) and Groton Music Center, Groton (on the 10th)

Pianist Jeremy Denk returns to the Celebrity Series with a program that, over its first half, showcases music by women composers of the last (roughly) two centuries. Also on tap are Robert Schumann’s Ghost Variations and Brahms’s massive Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel.

Annual Family Concert
Presented by New England Philharmonic
December 10 at 3 p.m.
Tsai Performance Center, Boston

The NEP’s annual Family Concert showcases the winners of this year’s Young Artist Competition — pianist Henry Tushman and violinist Sophie Long Sha Tung — playing music by, respectively, Mozart and Sibelius. Additionally, Jordan Kuspa’s Mystery of the Missing Music receives its Boston premiere.

Baroque Christmas
Presented by Handel & Haydn Society
December 14 at 7:30 p.m. and 17 at 3 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston

Ian Watson leads H&H in their annual Christmas concert. This one features excerpts from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio as well as selections by Charpentier, Scarlatti, Corelli, and others. Soprano Teresa Wakim and baritone David McFerrin are the soloists.

The renowned Blue Heron ensemble in action. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Christmas in Medieval England
Presented by Blue Heron
December 15 at 8 p.m. and 16 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
First Church in Cambridge

Scott Metcalfe leads his ensemble in a program of English choral music from medieval times.

Christmas at Emmanuel
Presented by Emmanuel Music
December 17 at 4 p.m.
Emmanuel Church, Boston

Ryan Turner and Emmanuel Music celebrate the season with a trio of engaging works: two cantatas – Britten’s Saint Nicolas and Bach’s Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen – and a newly commissioned motet from Jonathan Woody.

— Jonathan Blumhofer

Author Events

Mark Chiusano at Harvard Book Store
The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos
December 4 at 7 p.m.

“Newsday alum and PEN/Hemingway honoree Mark Chiusano tells the full (well, as full as can be given the subject) story of Santos here for the first time. From humble years spent in Brazil, to glamorous nights on the west side of Manhattan, to the stunning small-time scams employed to ease his slippery climb up the American society ladder, The Fabulist tells a story you’ll have to read for yourself to believe … and even then, it’s George Santos, so who’s to say for sure.

“Combining the very best of boots-on-the-ground journalism, dishy backroom dealings, and glittery details about Gold Coast mansions and bodice-baring drag shows that’d feel just as at home in your next summer beach read, The Fabulist is truly stranger than fiction.”

John Freeman at Harvard Book Store
Freeman’s: Conclusions
December 5 at 7 p.m.

“Over the course of ten years, the Freeman’s anthology has introduced the English-speaking world to countless writers of international import and acclaim, from Olga Tokarczuk to Valeria Luiselli, while also spotlighting brilliant writers working in English, from Tommy Orange to Tess Gunty. Now, in its last issue, this unique literary project ponders all the ways of reaching a fitting conclusion.

“For Sayaka Murata, keeping up with the comings and goings of fashion and its changing emotional landscapes can mean being left behind, while in her poem ‘Amenorrhea,’ Julia Alvarez experiences the end of a line as menstruation ceases. Yet sometimes an end is merely a beginning, as Barry Lopez meditates while walking through the snowy Oregonian landscapes. While Chinelo Okparanta’s story ‘Fatu’ confronts the end of a relationship under the specter of new life, other writers look towards aging as an opportunity for rebirth, such as Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, who takes on the role of being her own elder, comforting herself in the ways that her grandmother used to. Finally, in his comic story ‘Everyone at Dinner Has a Max von Sydow Story,’ Dave Eggers suggests that sometimes stories don’t have neat or clean endings — that sometimes the middle is enough.

“With new writing from Sandra Cisneros, Colum McCann, Omar El Akkad, and Mieko Kawakami, Freeman’s: Conclusions is a testament to the startling power of literature to conclude in a state of beauty, fear, and promise.”

The Cast of America’s Test Kitchen at the Brattle Theatre – Harvard Book Store
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
December 7 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $12

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is a living archive of every recipe that has been on every episode of public television’s top-rated coooking show, including the new season that debuts in January 2024. It now includes recipes from episodes created for streaming platforms as well. It also includes the top-rated equipment and ingredient recommendations from every new testing and tasting review.

“Cook along with Bridget and Julia and the test kitchen chefs as the new episodes of the 2024 season air. Every recipe that has appeared on TV or OTT is in this cookbook along with the test kitchen’s indispensable notes and tips. A comprehensive shopping guide shows readers what products the ATK reviews team recommends and it alone is worth the price of the book.”

Judith Tick at Harvard Book Store
Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song 
December 8 at 7 p.m.

“Ella Fitzgerald made becoming a great artist seem effortless. She hid her will, her drive, and her originality behind the mask of a modest, soft-spoken woman. Now, at last, Judith Tick shows exactly how Fitzgerald explored and shaped every form of American popular music. In the process she thwarted all the boundaries of class, race, and gender that threatened to confine her. Tick’s musical knowledge is impeccable; so are her reporting and her scholarship. ‘I won’t be left behind,’ Fitzgerald used to vow. This stirringly complete biography ensures that she never will be.” —  Margo Jefferson, author of Constructing a Nervous System. Arts Fuse review

Holiday Grown Up Book Fair at Trillium Brewing! – Porter Square Books
December 10 from 12-4 p.m.

“Remember getting the book fair flyers at school? Seeing if the next book in your favorite series was coming out, comparing lists with your friends, checking off the books you want, and planning how you’ll totally convince your parents that yes, in fact, you definitely need all those books because don’t they want you to get into a good college or whatever? And then the thrill when the books arrive and you see a pencil set you absolutely need and stickers for your trapper keeper and one of those friendship necklaces? Think you would never get to experience that rush again? Think again!

“Join us on Sunday at Trillium Brewing’s Fort Point location for a Grown Up Book Fair! This Holiday Grown Up Book Fair will have everything you love about school book fairs, including all of those fun gift-y items you remember, plus beer! It’s the perfect time to get some holiday shopping done.”

Polar Express Story Hour! – Porter Square Books
December 16 at 10:30 a.m.
Tickets are $10

“Join us at Honeycomb Creamery for a telling of “The Polar Express” and other holiday stories! Along with the storytime we will be offering a hot chocolate bar and each child will receive a holiday memento to take home included with their ticket!”

— Matt Hanson

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