- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2003

The spirit of the season can be found at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The holidays can be celebrated, of course, with a pricey ticket to the National Symphony Orchestra or the Kirov Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker.” However, dozens of free events also are on the bill, both in the Concert Hall and on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

Best of all, the performances cover the breadth of the holiday season. There will be concerts celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The music will include Celtic, gospel and jazz.

Scheduling holiday programs that appeal to everyone is part of the mission of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone (PAFE) program, says Tammie Ward, manager of artistic programming administration for PAFE.

“We want to make the arts available to whoever wants to come,” Ms. Ward says. “We are offering a showcase of many styles and genres.”

At the core of Performing Arts for Everyone is the Millennium Stage. The Millennium Stage, located in the expansive lobby of Kennedy Center, hosts 6 p.m. performances 365 days a year. The performances are free, with no tickets required. Performances also are available live on the Internet.

Among the Millennium Stage highlights for the latter half of December:

• Gospel Celebration featuring the Lee Boys, today — These six musicians from Florida will play Sacred Steel music, a sound that developed in the House of God church.

• Glass Harp Holiday Medley, Tuesday — Montana musician Jamey Turner will play holiday classics on the glass harp.

• Hanukkah Celebration, Dec. 22 — Songs will be sung by the Keshet Chorale, the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Chorus, the B’nai Shalom of Olney adult chorus and others.

• “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 23 — Charles Williams will narrate the Dickens classic, accompanied by music.

• Sixth annual All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam, Dec. 25 — Local jazz musicians will help celebrate the day.

Free events also are being offered in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall this month. The most popular is the Messiah Sing-Along, which will be held Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. At this event, which requires free tickets, guest conductor Barry Hemphill will lead the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra as well as a 200-voice choir, professional soloists and the audience in singing Handel’s holiday masterpiece.

Though most of the tickets were distributed in a Dec. 13 ticket giveaway, some tickets will be available the day of the event, Ms. Ward says.

“By far the hardest ticket to get in December is the Messiah Sing-Along,” she says. “This is an event the whole family can take part in. It is an incredible experience to listen to so many voices. My holiday season really doesn’t begin until the Messiah Sing-Along. It has gotten to where a lot of people feel that way.”

Another popular free show is WMAL’s Christmas at the Kennedy Center. That program will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 24. WMAL radio personality Chris Core will host the live broadcast, which will feature musical and comedy performances and local celebrities. Among the performers: the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra Philharmonic, the Fairfax Choral Society and the City of Fairfax Band.

More expensive selections at the Kennedy Center this December include:

• National Symphony Orchestra presents Handel’s Messiah, Concert Hall, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. Conductor Emil de Cou will lead the orchestra, soloists and the University of Maryland Concert Choir in this performance. Tickets: $20 to $75.

• Kirov Ballet presents “The Nutcracker,” Opera House, Dec. 23 through 28 at 7:30 p.m. (matinees Dec. 27 and 28 at 1:30 p.m.). Russia’s famous ballet company presents the Washington premiere of Mikhail Chemiakin’s production of the classic fairy tale. Tickets: $45 to $110.

• “The Spirit of Kwanzaa,” Dec. 28 at 3 and 8 p.m. The seven principles of Kwanzaa come alive through dance, poetry and music at this performance. The Dance Institute of Washington’s Fabian Barnes and dancers from his Washington Reflections Dance Company, as well as special guests, will perform. Tickets: $10 to $15.

When you go

What: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Location: 2700 F St. NW, Washington

Directions: From downtown Washington, go west on Independence Avenue (away from the Capitol), get in the left lane and go toward the Potomac River from the Tidal Basin. Continue in the left lane, following signs for the Kennedy Center. You will pass by the Kennedy Center on your right (you will actually go underneath the center’s River Terrace) and turn right onto Virginia Avenue. At the second light, turn right onto 25th Street and follow signs around the traffic circle to the Kennedy Center.

Note: From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, you will not be able to make a right onto Virginia Avenue because of rush-hour lane closures. During those hours, get in the right lane of Independence Avenue as you make your way toward the Potomac River from the Tidal Basin. Pass under two bridges and then quickly thereafter pass road blockades on your left. Take the left fork and go onto the Potomac Expressway. Stay in the far left lane and follow the sign for Rock Creek Parkway. Stay in the left lane. At the second stoplight, follow the sign to the Kennedy Center and take a left onto Virginia Avenue. Proceed one block and turn right onto 25th Street and continue to follow signs around the traffic circle to the Kennedy Center.

Parking: Garage parking is available at a variety of prices, from free (for quick box-office pickups) to $15 for performance parking.

Other transportation: The Show Shuttle, Kennedy Center’s link to Metro’s Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro station and the Columbia Plaza parking garage, provides free daily transportation every 15 minutes to and from the center. There is no service on federal holidays.

December highlights: Free Millennium Stage concerts, the Messiah Sing-Along, the Kirov Ballet’s “Nutcracker.”

Information: 202/467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org.December Millennium Stage schedule

(all performances 6 p.m.):

Today: Gospel Celebration features Sacred Steel music by the six Lee Boys, from Florida, who began making music at age 7 in the House of God church.

Tomorrow: Levine School of Music’s Concert and Chamber choirs and the Senior Singers Chorale combine to deliver a multigenerational performance of holiday favorites.

Tuesday: Jamey Turner presents a Glass Harp Holiday Medley.

Wednesday: Bob Perilla and Big Hillbilly Bluegrass deliver a hard-driving blend of bluegrass, country and folk music, including original material and holiday favorites.

Thursday: The Carol Ringers and the Peace Ringers perform sacred and popular holiday music on traditional hand bells.

Friday and Saturday: Holiday Vaudeville features the Alexandria Kleztet and master magician Mark Mitton, with Cajun cellist Sean Grissom as host.

Dec. 21: Woodbridge Flute Choir, which commissions and presents premiere performances of new works by composers from across the nation, performs.

Dec. 22: Hanukkah Celebration marks the holiday in song with the Keshet Chorale, the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Chorus, the Congregation Beth Emeth Youth Chorus under the direction of cantor Aaron Marcus, and the Adas Israel Youth Chorale under the direction of cantor Arnold Saltzman.

Dec. 23: “A Christmas Carol.” Charles Williams narrates the Dickens classic, accompanied by the musical stylings of Hesperus, featuring Tina Chancey and Scott Reiss.

Dec. 25: The sixth annual All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam is hosted by Keter Betts, with music by vibraphonist Chuck Redd, pianist Robert Redd, drummer Lenny Robinson, trumpeter Tom Williams and vocalist Delores Williams.

Dec. 26: Brendan Mulvihill, Billy McComiskey and Zan McLeod commemorate the holidays with rousing Irish tunes, joined by dancers from the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance.

Dec. 27: Legendary Orioles Holiday Doo-Wop showcases the Orioles, recognized as one of the first popular rhythm-and-blues quartets to emerge in the post-World War II era.

Dec. 28: Noa Baum, from Jerusalem, tells stories for children and adults from the Jewish tradition.

Dec. 29: The Eric Mintel Trio performs original compositions and daring jazz improvisations of holiday standards.

Dec. 30: Amy Finegan of the Royal Shakespeare Company performs “The Log of the Skipper’s Wife,” a sung solo drama by Joann Green Breuer (libretto) and Allan Crossman (music).

Dec. 31: The Harry Watters Quintet presents the music of American greats Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller, led by New Orleans trombonist Harry Watters.

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