Check out holiday happenings, from Hill House tours to The Bad Plus

James J. Hill House
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
A guided tour of the James J. Hill House will take you upstairs, downstairs, and all around while sharing family stories and memories.

MinnPost is about to go on holiday break. We’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of things to do between now and Jan. 2. (And we’ll be here tomorrow – Friday, Dec. 21 – with a look back at 2018.)

Now through Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Southern: “Animus.” It’s not holiday themed – more anti-holiday themed, like Dark & Stormy’s “Blackbird” – but people are talking about this show. Created by Emily Michaels King and Debra Berger of E/D, which creates performances centered on the female experience. and DangerVision Productions’ Amber Johnson, a film and video production boutique, “Animus” was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” widely considered his psychological masterpiece. Performance, multimedia projection and live video explore the merging identities of two modern women, one who speaks and one who doesn’t. Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., also Saturday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($24-12; ARTshare members free).

Now through Sunday, Dec. 30 at the James J. Hill House: Christmas Traditions Guided House Tour. Because Mary T. Hill, wife of St. Paul railroad magnate James J. Hill, kept diaries, financial records and other materials about family life, we know a lot about how the Hills celebrated the holidays at their Gilded Age mansion on Summit Ave. A guided tour will take you upstairs, downstairs, and all around while sharing family stories and memories. Tours run 60 min. The last tour each day starts at 3:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12-8; MNHS members save 20 percent). And/or tour the Alexander Ramsey House to experience a Victorian Christmas.

Shá Cage
Photo by Uche Iroegbu
Actor, playwright, performance artist and activist Shá Cage first presented her new holiday show at the Open Eye last year.
Tonight (Thursday, Dec. 20) through Sunday, Dec. 23 at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in Plymouth Congregational Church: “Kephra: A Hip Hop Holiday Story.” Actor, playwright, performance artist and activist Shá Cage first presented her new holiday show at the Open Eye last year. It’s back for the second time, now at the Howard Conn, so let’s say that an alternative holiday tradition has officially begun. Presented by Tru Ruts, directed by E.G. Bailey, Cage’s family-friendly, all-ages production explores home, migration, and immigration through the story of a girl and her mother who move from Africa to the United States to start a new life. Thursday and Friday 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 6 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-10; $18 door).

Tonight through Sunday: The SPCO: Handel’s “Messiah.” Conductor Jeannette Sorrell leads the SPCO, soloists and The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists in what is certain to be a stirring and beautiful performance. On Thursday and Friday, they’ll be at the Basilica; on Saturday and Sunday, at the Ordway Concert Hall. Choose by city, proximity or preference: the Basilica for grand and glorious visuals and scale, the Concert Hall for crisp, pristine sound. FMI, times and tickets (sorry, all wait listed). There’s an open rehearsal tonight at the Basilica ($10). On Sunday, the SPCO will stream the live performance that starts at 2 p.m. in the Concert Hall.

Friday, Dec. 21 at the American Swedish Institute: Winter Solstice Celebration. The roaring bonfire will be outdoors, and so will the reindeer (Christopher, Tinsel and Frazier) for petting and pix. But you’ll have full admission to the museum, so you can step inside to warm up, check out the “Handmade Holidays” seasonal exhibit (those beautifully decorated rooms!), have some glögg and wander the castle, the Nelson Addition and the well-stocked Jul Shop and ASI Museum Store. 5-9 p.m. FMI. $12-6 at the door; ASI members and kids under 5 get in free.

Friday, Dec. 21 through Sunday, Dec. 23: The Rose Ensemble: “A Tudor Christmas.” The final performances of the Rose’s final Christmas program in its final season. And they’ve created something new from something old: joyful music from the royal courts of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, deeply researched and impeccably performed. Friday at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Paul, Saturday at the Basilica of St. Mary, Sunday at Church of the Holy Cross in Minneapolis. FMI, times and tickets ($38-15).

Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Pantages: Sounds of Blackness: “The Night Before Christmas – A Musical Fantasy.” Tickets are tight, but it’s worth a try for the story (a contemporary adaptation of Clement C. Moore’s poem), the music (R&B/hip-hop to jazz, blues and gospel) and the chance to hear the sheer soulful excellence of Minnesota’s three-time Grammy winners. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($28.50-58.50).

Bad Plus
Photo by Shirven Lainez
This will be the 19th year in a row the Bad Plus has played the Dakota at Christmas.
Tuesday, Dec. 25 through Friday, Dec. 28 at the Dakota: The Bad Plus. This will be the 19th year in a row the progressive jazz trio has played the Dakota at Christmas. The popular, eagerly awaited residency has a new twist this year. Instead of Ethan Iverson at the piano, you’ll see and hear Orrin Evans. Iverson left the trio at the end of last year and moved on to his own projects. By then, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King had already made their first album with Evans, “Never Stop II.” Rolling Stone just named it the #1 jazz album of 2018, noting that it “sounded so much like Bad Plus business-as-usual” and “didn’t feel like a new chapter.” We agree it’s a great album, so good to hear and very true to the Bad Plus we’ve known all this time and loved from the start. But it’s not the same. When Iverson left, he took something away. When Evans arrived, he added something. See if you can hear the difference – or feel it. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40-45).

Saturday, Dec. 29 at Vieux Carré: Pat Mallinger Quartet. This probably isn’t how Vieux Carré would promote this event, but it sounds a lot like what the Artists’ Quarter used to do toward the end of the year: feature a friend from New York or Chicago in a trio or quartet with top area musicians in a night of great jazz. Saxophonist Mallinger grew up in St. Paul but has lived in Chicago since 1990; he used to play the AQ once or twice a year. (The AQ was originally in the space now occupied by VC, in case you’re wondering about the connection.) Mallinger will share the stage with Mary Louise Knutson on piano, Chris Bates on bass and Phil Hey on drums. 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/12).

Some suggestions for New Year’s Eve:

At Orchestra Hall: The Minnesota Orchestra’s Vänskä Conducts Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin. With the excellent Aaron Diehl on piano. At the History Theatre: Killer Vees: “Remembering Bobby Vee.” Music, stories and video featuring members of Bobby’s touring band and string section, guest appearances by cast members of “Teen Idol” and Vee’s sons, nephew and grandson. Also Sunday, Dec. 30. At the Dakota: New Year’s Eve with Davina & The Vagabonds. Because Davina never disappoints. Go for the 6 p.m. 5-course dinner show or come later for the cocktail show. At the Black Dog: Two options. From 5-8 p.m.: 9th Annual Early, Safe and Sane Celebration with Todd Harper and friends. You’ll be home by 9 p.m. Then, from 8:30 p.m.-midnight: Steve Kenny and Friends: Jazz, jazz and more jazz. 

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