For many families, taking in a concert or arts performance is as much a part of the yuletide season as shopping, chugging too much eggnog and opening reams of bills in January.
And for many Southern Nevada families, the holiday season wouldn't be the holiday season without taking in a Christmas-inspired performance at the College of Southern Nevada or University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
This year's slate of holiday-related events at the colleges include concerts of the orchestra, concert and big band varieties, choral concerts and even a madrigal dinner.
Some of the events are mounted by the colleges, others by performing arts groups in the community that just make use of the colleges' performing arts venues. But, whoever sponsors the events, holiday concertgoers tend to have definite ideas about what they wish to hear or see this time of year.
"There have been several years when I did not do any holiday programming in my concert band concert, and I heard about it every time," said Richard McGee, director of the College of Southern Nevada Concert Band, which this year will perform Tuesday at Nicholas Horn Theatre on the college's Cheyenne campus in North Las Vegas.
"People were not angry," McGee said. "But they were looking for 'Sleigh Ride' or 'Christmas Festival' or whatever, and when they didn't get that, it was disappointing to them."
For McGee, the challenge is that CSN's December concerts also are "sort of a final exam for our students, because (CSN bands) are part of our academic programs."
"So, they're not 100 percent holiday music," McGee said. "Maybe half of the program will be holiday music, and the rest of it will be standard fare, whether it's big band, jazz, concert band or orchestra."
But McGee does expect that "each ensemble will have a holiday segment in the program."
For example, the CSN Concert Band program that McGee will direct Tuesday will include selections from "Wicked," the musical that recently had a run at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Then, in a more yuletide vein, the program, McGee said, will include "A Christmas Festival" by Leroy Anderson and "a beautiful arrangement of 'What Child Is This' by Alfred Reed."
Also performing at that Concert Band concert will be a new ensemble at the college, a mariachi band, under the direction of Adalberto Garcia.
"It's all college kids," McGee said, "and they sound great."
The jazz concert on Wednesday will include selections from Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich and Count Basie, McGee said. The first half of the concert will feature performances by soloists, and the second part will be holiday music.
Included among the holiday selections will be Christmas arrangements written for the Stan Kenton Band and the U.S. Army Jazz Band, McGee said.
Also scheduled as part of CSN's holiday festivities is a madrigal dinner on Dec. 7 and 8. The dinner has been a yuletide offering at the college for several years and serves as a fundraiser for its music program.
"It's great fun," McGee said. "Everybody is in costume, and it's on the stage of the Horn Theatre. They do a set and make it look like Renaissance staging, with everybody in Renaissance garb, singing madrigals and eating."
McGee said performing the same pieces year after year during the holidays can be challenging for musicians.
But, he said, "I don't worry much about that, because people are there just to have a good time.
"It's not so much about what we as musicians want to do. Really, it's about what the audience wants to hear, and if they want to hear 'Sleigh Ride' every year for 20 years, that's a great piece of music, and why not play it?" McGee said, "That is what we're here for."
Events scheduled to take place in venues at CSN and UNLV over the next several weeks include:
The UNLV Chorale Ensembles, Las Vegas Master Singers and UNLV Symphony Orchestra will present Debussy's "Nocturnes" and Poulenc's "Gloria," featuring Linda Lister as soprano soloist and conducted by Taras Krysa, David B. Weiller and Jocelyn K. Jensen. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at Artemus Ham Concert Hall on campus, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for seniors, military, students and UNLV faculty and staff (895-2787).
The College of Southern Nevada's Jazz Combos and Jazz Singers will present "An Afternoon of Jazz" in the BackStage Theatre on CSN's Cheyenne Campus, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., North Las Vegas. Tickets for the 2 p.m. show are $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors (651-5483)
The Desert Chorale will perform a Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m. at Artemus Ham Concert Hall at UNLV. Admission is free (895-2787).
The College of Southern Nevada Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Davis, will perform traditional works and lighthearted holiday selections at 7:30 p.m. in the Nicholas Horn Theatre on the college's Cheyenne campus. Tickets are $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors (651-5483).
The College of Southern Nevada Concert Band, directed by Richard McGee, will perform traditional favorites and holiday selections at 7:30 p.m. in the Horn Theatre. Also performing will be CSN's new mariachi band, under the direction of Adalberto Garcia. Tickets are $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors (651-5483).
The College of Southern Nevada's Wednesday Night Jazz Band will play big band classics, standards and a few holiday selections at 7:30 p.m. in the Horn Theatre. Tickets are $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors (651-5483).
Dec. 7 and 8
The College of Southern Nevada's Department of Fine Arts will present a madrigal dinner, with an atmosphere intended to evoke that of Merrie Olde England. The dinner will take place at 7 p.m. on the stage of the Horn Theatre. Entertainment will be provided by the CSN College Singers and Chamber Chorale. Tickets are $30, and advance reservations are required (651-5483).
Las Vegas Youth Orchestras will present their Winter Concert at 2 p.m. in Artemus Ham Concert Hall at UNLV. Tickets are $17 general admission, $10 for students and seniors (895-2787).
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.