Eugene Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy Eugene Ballet.

A Grinchy Christmas

Smaller is better in 2020. At least when it comes to live holiday entertainment.

OK, we’re not looking at the holiday season we’ve come to expect. Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa 2020 is going to be a relatively quiet affair compared to holidays past. Gone will be big holiday extravaganzas that we used to enjoy from Eugene Symphony and Eugene Concert Choir. Thanks to COVID-19 we won’t be crowding into theaters to take in a dozen stage versions of A Christmas Carol this year, and even those gorgeously candlelit and lusciously musical church services may be limited to 25 people.

One of the saddest notes of the season: The spectacular and popular display of holiday lights at Shore Acres State Park, on the Oregon coast near Charleston, has been switched off this year.

Celebrating the winter holiday in 2020 is going to mean thinking small and remaining socially distant. And while several groups in town are planning small live shows, the governor’s two-week pandemic “freeze” closes entertainment venues for as long as it lasts. It began Nov. 18 and runs through Dec. 2 and could be extended.

Here’s a list of holiday performances and markets now being planned; everything is subject to change, so check before you go, and only go if you feel safe doing so.

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Shirley Andress and Bob Cross in Christmas at the Shedd in 2018. Photo courtesy Shedd Staff.

Christmas at The Shedd

Eugene’s Shedd Institute has been out front this fall in moving cautiously to live performances for small audiences. Instead of filling up its 800-seat Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd has mounted or planned shows by the Emerald City Jazz Kings to audiences of no more than 85, with everyone seated cabaret style at separate, well-distanced tables on the hall’s main floor.

So for the 15th year running, The Shedd has a live Christmas show on its calendar. All is Bright! is to feature vocalist Shirley Andress performing and directing a cast that includes Siri Vik, Tracy Williams-Tooze, Bob Cross, Vicki Brabham and The Emerald City Jazz Kings. Naturally, this being The Shedd, the show will draw heavily on American Songbook standards such as the darkly sad World War II hit “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Written in 1943, in the worst days of the war, the song’s original opening lines were “Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past.” Judy Garland refused to sing such depressing words for the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis, and the lyrics were changed to “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”

Other tunes will likely be more upbeat, from “Jingle Bells” and “Sleigh Ride”  to a handful of straight-up carols.

Jim Ralph, The Shedd’s executive director, says he plans to continue with live performances once the freeze has thawed even if state guidelines require even smaller audiences than 85. “I will still do it at 50,” he says. “Hey, I’m already losing money!”

All is Bright! is to run 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 10-12 and 3 pm Saturday and Sunday, Dec 12-13. Tickets are $24-$34, advance only, at 541-434-7000 and TheShedd.org. Masks required, and no sales at the door. 

Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The Eugene Ballet is planning 10 scaled-down performances of its annual Nutcracker ballet from Dec. 18-27 at the Hult Center. The cast — who normally tour across the western U.S. for as many as 30 shows, culminating in a final string of performances in Eugene — will be staying in town and adding extra dates to accommodate the concert hall’s lowered capacity.

Audience members can expect the same bright magic of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Land of the Sweets from years past, with some variations due to COVID-19 safety precautions. The performances will be shorter, with slightly altered choreography to decrease interaction between dancers. Patrons will be spaced far apart in the auditorium, seated only next to members of their own group. 

Fans of The Nutcracker will remember the show’s iconic “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” in which ballerinas dressed in white enter the audience through the aisles, creating a blizzard of movement. This year, the scene will consist of children “ice-skating” across stage instead of company ballerinas.

For those unable to attend The Nutcracker in person, a digital version of the show will be available for purchase online. Annual ballet-goers in towns usually toured by the troupe, from Pinedale, Wyoming, to Longview, Washington, will still be able to participate in their Nutcracker tradition from home.

“We know not everyone will be comfortable coming in,” says Kylie Keppler, public relations director of the Eugene Ballet. “It’s also our way of allowing those rural viewers to enjoy the show.” 

While many families enjoy dressing up to watch The Nutcracker, Keppler stressed that there is no official dress code, and the main draw of the evening is the beauty of dance. 

“Everyone is welcome at the ballet,” she says. — Emily Topping

Whatever your attire, don’t forget a mask. Tickets for the Eugene Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker are available starting at $25 at EugeneBallet/nutcracker. 

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Ballet Fantastique's Luna Mistica. Photo by Bob Williams.

Ballet Fantastique’s Luna Mística

While most people are unable to travel across borders to celebrate the end of this tumultuous year, Ballet Fantastique promises to transport viewers to the boisterous streets of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in its New Year’s premiere of Luna Mística. 

The show features music from internationally renowned Argentinian musician Juan Luqui and Eugene’s bossa nova orchestra Bossanaire. Luqui, in his first ever performance in the Pacific Northwest, will play the ronroco, a romantic stringed-instrument native to the Andes. 

The performance, which has been rescheduled from its original premiere date in May, is to be held at the Silva Concert Hall from Dec. 30 to Jan. 3. Live viewers of the event can expect a spacious experience; the 2,450-person capacity hall will seat only 80 patrons. The 90-minute show will host no intermission to reduce mingling between groups.

Special events on Dec. 31 and New Year’s Day are to include the opportunity to clink glasses with the Luna artists, champagne included. VIP ticket holders will also receive a special edition Ballet Fantastique 20th anniversary coffee-table book, composed of backstage and performance photographs from the last 20 years. 

Tickets to Luna Mística are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with priority given to those who purchased tickets to the original May event. The show is also available for live stream viewing from home through the Ballet Fantastique website. Be warned, the vivid colors and Carnival-esque choreography may give you a serious case of South American wanderlust. — Emily Topping

Sign up for the ticket waiting list at BalletFantastique.org/luna. 

Noëls from the Oregon Mozart Players

If Oregonians stay on Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID “Nice” list and flatten the curve, the Oregon Mozart Players (OMP) will start their season with 7:30 pm Dec. 18 and 19 concerts at Central Presbyterian Church and a 2 pm Dec. 20 performance in Roseburg. 

Although Brown’s two-week freeze started Nov. 18, OMP still plans for the show to go on with a “Noël” concert. In addition to a set list of medleys and arrangements of Christmas songs, OMP will perform “Noëls sur les instruments” by Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. OMP’s Artistic Director and Conductor Kelly Kuo says this is the first time the orchestra has performed the work. 

Kuo says the earliest French carol can be traced back to the early 16th century. “They have a rustic and pastoral characteristic because they were supposed to be sung by the shepherds who were paying homage to Christ in a crib,” he says. 

The holiday concert also features Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Serenade in G Major, K. 525.” Kuo says including the song in the set is a way to show the universality and joy of music, especially since the group imagined the concert would be the start of a rebirth of live music after a pandemic. He adds that Mozart’s piece captures that energy. 

The concert is designed to keep musicians and the audience safe with social distancing measures. Kuo says since OMP will perform at a larger venue, audience members will be spaced apart, and HEPA filters will help with circulation. OMP is also working out a high definition and audio stream for patrons who can’t attend the concert.  

Of course the fate of this holiday concert depends on whether Oregonians can flatten the winter curve — so mask up and be careful. — Henry Houston 

Tickets range $5-$30. Visit OregonMozartPlayers.org to stay updated and to buy tickets.  

Holiday Market

Eugene’s Holiday Market will have a Hallmark Channel Christmas feel to it this year.

OK, there may not be sunshine or neatly layered snow on the ground and people dressed in colorful sweaters. People instead may be wrapped in parkas to defend themselves against the rain, biting cold or driving wind.

Still, with COVID-19 restrictions in mind, the Eugene Holiday Market is scheduled to be outdoors every Saturday this year at the Park Blocks now through Dec. 19. It is the first time in 30 years that Holiday Market will be held outdoors and not at the Lane Events Center.

“We are a hardy crowd,” says Vanessa Roy, marketing director of Eugene Saturday Market, adding that the expected weather will “not be that far removed from March and April,” and the weather in those months hasn’t kept shoppers away in the past.

Lights and garlands will transform each side of the Park Blocks to a winter wonderland, where Roy expects upward of 115 booths to continue the Holiday Market tradition of selling locally handcrafted gifts that are sold by their makers.

There will be no live music. Holiday Market will play seasonal music through speakers, Roy says, because to do otherwise is “an irresponsible choice,” and she adds that “not a lot of people like to dance to ‘Jingle Bells,’” anyway. 

No, people go to Holiday Market to shop, so bundle up and buy local this holiday season. — Dan Buckwalter

Eugene Holiday Market is every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm through Dec. 19 at the Park Blocks, Oak Street and E. 8th Avenue. Masks are required. 

Art for the Holidays

Looking for locally made, hand-crafted presents? Check out Maude Kerns Art Center’s 28th annual Art for All Seasons Membership Show and the Club Mud Ceramics Holiday Sale with artwork from more than 140 member artists and ceramics by 15 members of Club Mud, an artist cooperative at the center.

Paintings, drawings, prints, photography, sculpture, fiber art, mixed media, digital art and functional and decorative ceramics are for sale both in person and online.

The show and sale open Friday, Nov. 20, and run through Friday, Dec. 18 at Maude Kerns Art Center, 1910 E. 15th Avenue. More info at MKArtCenter.org.

Lights at The Village Green

Twinkling Christmas lights, cozy fires and plenty of food and drink can be enjoyed at The Village Green hotel’s outdoor light display, which runs Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 in Cottage Grove. The display includes lights from the hotel’s Christmas Market, which has been canceled this year.

You can also see the lights by booking a room at the hotel. The overnight Christmas rate starts at $129 and includes access to the lights for each person on the reservation, a $20 food voucher to be used either at the event or The Village Green’s Seasons at the Green Restaurant, and breakfast.

Tickets are $5, advance only, at TheVillageGreen.com. Children 10 and under get in free.

Sunriver Music Festival

Head across the mountains for the Sunriver Music Festival’s annual Traditions Christmas Concert, with performances at 4 pm and 7 pm Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Sunriver Resort Great Hall.

Headliner is rock violinist Aaron Meyer and his pianist Jean-Pierre Garau. Violinist John Fawcett opens the socially distanced show. 

Tickets are limited and run $20-$65 at SunriverMusic.org.

Hike and Hunt for Ornaments

The Willamette Valley Visitors Association’s third annual ornament hunt is under way on non-wilderness trails of the Willamette National Forest and a handful of trails in the Umpqua National Forest. The contest kicked off Nov. 13 and closes Jan. 1.

A total of 150 wooden ornaments featuring three different kinds of forest creature are hidden along public trails unaffected by the recent fires. Each one includes a leather patch and instructions on how to register to win a prize. Find and register all three to be eligible to win an adventure and overnight stay in the Willamette Valley. 

More information at WillametteValley.org/ornament.