Let’s start with First Night December – Dec. 1 in Rock Hall with pianist and impresario Joe Holt’s concert presentation of “It’s Almost Christmas, Charlie Brown.” The show is a tribute in song to Charles Schulz’s holiday TV classics by the late jazz pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi, who pretty much defined the “Peanuts” animated soundtrack. Drummer Greg Burrows and bassist Tom Baldwin join Holt at Rock Hall’s “home of musical magic,” The Mainstay, 5753 N. Main St. Showtime begins at 8.
Chestertown’s Garfield Center for the Arts gift wraps its production of the 2019 screenplay adaptation based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel “Little Women,” which begins and ends on Christmas Day, 15 years apart. The Off-Broadway debut of Kate Hamill’s revision brings still-relevant women’s issues to light while still focusing on the March family of a mother and her daughters growing into adulthood while their father is off to defend the Union during the Civil War. The play runs on weekends, Dec. 1-17.
’Peake Players, the student theater company of Chesapeake College at Wye Mills, brings “The Snow Show” – a mash-up of 18th- and 19th-century Christmas tales – to the stage of Todd Performing Arts Center, Dec. 7-9. The plot, such as it is, finds a family stuck in a snowbank on the way to Grandpa’s place. Pushing a wheelbarrow uphill, Grandpa struggles to come to their rescue. But he can’t make it without the help of dancers moving to tunes inspired by characters from “The Little Match Girl,” “Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox,” and “The Beggar King” in this multicultural celebration.
Church Hill Theatre’s holiday season offering is a staged version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” based on the 1938 radio version directed by Orson Welles and starring Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge. (No, we’re not expecting either of those late-greats to appear as the Ghost of Christmas Past.) But you can catch this adaptation at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15 and 16, or matinees at 2 on Dec. 16 and 17 at 103 Walnut St., Church Hill.
Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely invites you to ride along with them to Kennett Square, Pa., to enjoy the ever-popular, always-spectacular “A Longwood Christmas” – as in Longwood Gardens. Upon arrival, take a walk and a look around the botanical wonders, indoors and out, before settling down – maybe you can find a cozy spot next to a firepit – to experience the wondrous show of a half-million lights entwined in a botanically inspired configuration to create a visual rivaling the best Fourth of July fireworks you’ve ever seen. (Sunset at this post-daylight-savings time of year is 4:35 or so.)
The bus trip departs Aurora Park Drive in Easton at 1 p.m., 20 minutes later at the U.S. 50/Route 404 park and ride, and 1:45 at the park and ride at Routes 301/291, Millington. The return trip begins at 8 p.m. and arrives at 10-ish at Queen Anne’s and Talbot stops. Members of Adkins get a $40 discount on advance reservations. (If you miss the bus trip, “A Longwood Christmas” runs through Jan. 7 with Christmas Day and a few more days off.) Meanwhile, coming up at Adkins: Although it will still be several days short of winter on Sunday, Dec. 10, you can get a taste and up-close view of the season with a guided walk through the arboretum’s Caroline County meadows, woodland, and wetlands led by Margan Glover revealing sounds and sights of thrumming woodpeckers, dry forest weeds abloom and unfrozen creeks trickling.
Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, more widely known regionally as the Salter Center for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, holds an ecumenical Community Menorah Lighting, 5-6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, led by Rabbi Peter Hyman. The first night of Hanukkah is observed at the temple on Dec. 8 with a candle lighting and a new-member Shabbat service with guest cantorial soloist Anita Stoll. Hanukkah observances will continue each evening through the eighth night, with a final candle lighting at 4:26.
Easton Choral Arts Society didn’t steal my “Home for the Holidays” line for its annual Christmastime concerts at Christ Church. We both “borrowed” it from Perry Como’s holiday hit of the same name – “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” – released in 1954. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if that classic made it to the playlist for performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10. Artistic director Alexis Renee Ward promises a musical travelog, from Southern gospel and Midwestern regional folk to Northeastern folk rock and West Coast cinematic soundtracks. But the highlight may well be the world premiere of “Santa Lucia” composed by Ward, based on the Festival of Lights first observed on these shores by 17th-century settlers along the Delaware River. The ecumenical program of secular and sacred music includes works celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, as well as Christmas. The winter holidays, indeed.
Dorchester Center for the Arts hosts its annual “Merry Market” show and sale where you can peruse potential holiday gifts no one else will find on Amazon or at whatever mall that still exists. That’s what Shop Small Saturday, the day after Black Friday, is all about. Member artists display various finely crafted art, including pottery, jewelry, candles, and more, along with paintings, small sculptures, and other art constructs. Meet many of the artists at DCA’s Second Saturday reception on Dec. 9. But while you’re at it, don’t overlook the center’s current exhibit, the “Red Zone Project,” drawn from the Human Trafficking Awareness Art Project as part of the partnership of the Talbot-based For All Seasons crisis center with the Dorchester Detention Center. Not so merry, merry. But, as they say, there but for the grace of God (or whomever) go I. Both shows run through Dec. 23 at 321 High St., Cambridge.
It’s not exactly a holiday, but it’s well worth celebrating the career of Don Buxton, who is retiring from 30-plus years as executive director of Chesapeake Music. But his influence and leadership in music on the Shore stretches beyond his extraordinary accomplishments at CM. Besides establishing the top-notch Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival that ushers in the summertime with notes of inspiration and artistry, the springtime Chesapeake International Chamber Music Competition for Young Professionals showcases the talents and promise of the next generation of virtuoso geniuses.
But beyond Chesapeake Music, Buxton was a central figure in establishing a professional symphony orchestra in Easton and the Delmarva Peninsula, serving as conductor in the inaugural seasons of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. In celebration of his career, CM presents its “Salute to Don Buxton” with a video presentation too short to cover all his merits, but also a performance by Chesapeake Music co-artistic directors – cellist Marcy Rosen and violinist Catherine Cho – as well as fellow chamber festival stalwarts pianist Diana Walsh and violist Todd Phillips. Expect only the best in honor of Don Buxton, 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the elegant Ebenezer Theatre. Chesapeake Music headquarters are next door in downtown Easton.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.