Tag Archives: Christmas

Books & beyond

This new book will appeal to fans of musical theater

Mall it if you must, but I’m hitting the bookstores instead. Places like Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe feel more like community gathering places than retail shopping spaces.

Bring your holiday shopping list along, but be prepared to enjoy much more than their extensive collection of books and gift items.

Author visits and book signings are a frequent occurence at Changing Hands — and feature local as well as nationally-renowned authors. Some write for adults, others for children and teens.

A lovey selection for young music and cat lovers

My own personal favorite is fellow Arizona parent Amy Silverman — mom of two daughters, managing editor of Phoenix New Times and half of a dynamic “Mothers Who Write” duo offering writing workshops.

Silverman presents “Holidaze: How to Write About the Happiest Time of the Year,” at Changing Hands Bookstore on Tues, Dec 2.

For poetry lovers, Changing Hands offers “First Friday Poetry,” “Poetry Roundtable” and other events. There’s plenty for photographers too.

One of several Twyla Tharp titles for creative types

My fellow magazine readers will find an eclectic selection of titles for folks of all ages and interests — including many you won’t find at more traditional book stores or magazine stands.

“Workshop for Toddlers” with Ramie Manch on Mon, Dec 6, mixes toddler/parent together time with strategies for using puzzles to enhance academic and social skills.

Changing Hands has a charming children’s area full of colorful books, toys, puzzles, craft kits, stuffed animals, puppets and more.

Teen events include writing workshops, author visits and much more. Teens love the Changing Hands vibe, and will have a great time exploring Hoodlums Music & Movies right next door.

Gift idea for art managers and leaders

If music is your thing, check out the “East Valley Music School Concert” Sat, Dec 4. If stories rock your world, you’ll find plenty of storytimes at Changing Hands. They’ve even got opportunities to learn a bit of Spanish.

Changing Hands has diverse holiday offerings — commemorating Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and more. They also host local artisans on a regular basis so you can enjoy even more holiday gift ideas.

While reviewing their December calendar (I’m on their e-mail list to receive info on author series, workshops and community events), I stumbled on sign language, physics, wildlife, volunteerism and more.

One of many titles on my holiday reading list

Books are just a bit of the bounty you’ll find at Changing Hands Bookstore. Go. Listen. Read. Create. Meet. Explore.

— Lynn

Note: Changing Hands Bookstore, like Raising Arizona Kids Magazine, is a member of Local First Arizona. Click here to learn about local businesses that appreciate your support during the holiday season and beyond.

Coming up: Art adventures–Arizona Science Center


World travels and hometown wonders

I was quite the world traveler during my college and early adult years (my children are probably wondering how dinosaurs managed to coexist with airplanes). I enjoyed much of Europe (including Scandinavia and the British Isles), China, Hong Kong and Israel. (Students were cautioned against making the trip to Egypt at that time, and I’ve always regretted following that advice.)

While studying to prepare for my week in Israel, I was especially struck by the story of Judah Maccabee, the Jewish hero whose victory is commemorated each year during Chanukah. Maccabee successfully led the second century B.C.E. Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrians and rededicated the temple desecrated by their oppressors.

Chanukah is an eight day festival of lights, celebrating one day’s worth of pure oil lasting eight days during this rededication of the Jewish Second Temple. The story of the Maccabees is recounted in an ancient text known as The First Book of Maccabees—one of many sources I studied during my doctoral studies in the philosophy of religion.

As part of my doctoral work, I was expected to read Hebrew, Greek, German and French with proficiency. My children wouldn’t find this all that fun (Jennifer might), so I’m glad there are other ways for them to get a glimpse of diverse cultures and traditions. For many of us, the theater is infinitely more enjoyable than the textbook. So here’s a family-friendly way to introduce your children to the Chanukah story, or help them enjoy a familiar story with a bit of a twist…

Curtain Call Youth Theatre, affiliated with Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, presents Mac Abee: Ace Detective on Saturday, Dec. 12th (at 7pm) and Sunday, Dec. 13th (at 2pm) at the John Paul Theatre at Phoenix College. “The play is a new tale for Chanukah,” says Janet Arnold, producing director for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company. “It’s written and directed by Curtain Call director Layne Racowsky.”

The show tells the tale of the fictional Mac Abee’s quest for the missing lead candle (shamash) in the Chanukah menorah. Arnold describes it as “a fanciful play with music performed by 23 young actors from around the Valley.” Racowsky says the show is “lively and fun” and “helps to give some insight into the holiday of Chanukah.”

Curtain Call will offer items for sale before and after each show and the company’s teen improve troupe, All Rights Reserved, will perform at 1:45pm prior to Sunday’s show. Chanukah begins at sundown on December 11th this year, so this gives you an opportunity to find special gifts during the eight day celebration.

“We love being able to present a show that helps to represent diversity,” reflects Racowsky. I was raised to celebrate a multitude of holidays, showing respect for many religious traditions and the people who celebrate them. My children enjoy doing the same. (Just this evening Jennifer shared with me her excitement about attending a Chanukah event at ASU yesterday.)

Opportunities to learn about holidays other than Christmas—including Chanukah, Ead, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice and more—are rare indeed. Whatever your faith or world view, I encourage you to seize them. Tolerance is no longer enough. We need genuine understanding, appreciation and respect. We need acceptance—in words and in deeds.

I chatted the other day with Robert C. Booker, executive director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, who shared that he’d recently attended an event celebrating Diwali, an important Hindu festival also known in India as the Festival of Lights. It’s a holiday Jennifer and I have enjoyed together—both at a festival in downtown Phoenix and at a Hindu Temple in Scottsdale.

“The arts,” reflects Booker, “have a way of helping us understand each other’s culture.” Next time you feel like theater (or music or dance) is a mere frivolity, consider the rich opportunities it offers for exploring—even embracing—diverse cultures and traditions.

In a world growing simultaneously smaller and larger in so many ways, the arts open doors to people and places we might otherwise never know.

It’s the next best thing to world travel…


Note: All Rights Reserved will perform at 7pm on Sunday, Dec. 6th, at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale. Tickets are $5 at the door. For more information, call 602-264-0402.

Also: Curtain Call Youth Theatre, the education arm of the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company established in 1989, is offering several winter camp workshops this month. Classes are held from 9am to 4pm at Temple Chai in Phoenix (dates vary by workshop; each runs three days and costs $125). Topics include Music of the Decades (a musical theatre workshop taught by Miciah Dodge), Brush up your Shakespeare (taught by Julie Cotton), Character Creation (also taught by Cotton) and Audition Techniques (taught by Layne Racowsky). Call 602-264-0402 to register or learn more.

Music for making holiday memories

Eager to raise children who hate classical music? Try these simple steps: Assume they’ll never like it. Never take them to a classical music concert. Talk about how classical music is boring. Assure they never hear you enjoying a classical piece of music. This rule pretty much follows for all of parenting. If you tell a kid to hate something, work extra hard to hate it yourself and never give your kid the opportunity to love it, your kid will probably hate it.

If you want to raise a child who appreciates, and maybe even loves (or plays) classical music, take him or her early and often to see and hear it performed. My fingers just did all the walking for you, so cut the excuses, read this list, and get out there and give your kids some credit. I think they’ll surprise you. And they might just find something to love for a lifetime.

First, a collection of musical adventures from a venue that never fails to impress with the diversity of its offerings—the Mesa Arts Center. They’ll host a Holiday Arts & Music Festival with free admission and free parking on Dec. 12th and 13th. The event includes art by nearly 100 artists in 13 mediums, live entertainment, kids’ activities and more.

Other holiday happenings with a musical bent coming to the MAC include: Leahy Family Christmas (Celtic Canadian sibling singers) on Dec. 5th. Welk Stars (as in Lawrence Welk) Christmas Reunion on Dec. 6th. American Stars in Concert For the Holidays (surprise mix of American Idol top ten finalists) on Dec. 12th. Salt River Brass Concert (holiday pops) on Dec. 13th. You’re All I Want for Christmas (Christmas variety show with sing-a-longs) on Dec. 16th and 18th. Dave Koz and Friends (A Smooth Jazz Christmas) on Dec. 22nd. There’s more, but the brevity of blogging prevents me from listing everything here, so check their website for the full scoop.

I grew up listening with my mother to the music of the Boston Pops, and enjoyed a full circle moment when Lizabeth and I went to a Boston Pops concert together many years ago (she’s still wearing the souvenir t-shirt). Consider starting a new holiday tradition with one (or more) of these classical music concerts…

The Tempe Symphony Orchestra presents their annual Holiday Concert at McClintock High School at 7:30pm on Monday, Nov. 30th.  (It’s free!) The ASU Symphony Orchestra and Choral Unions present their Holiday Concert (including works from Vivaldi’s Gloria and Handel’s Messiah) at ASU Gammage in Tempe on Dec. 6th from 2:30-4pm.

The Phoenix Symphony offers a rich musical menu during the holiday season—with many performances held on multiple dates—so their website is well worth a visit. Your choices this season include Holiday Express! (Dec. 2nd-4th), Holiday Pops (Dec. 4th-6th), Family Holiday Pops (Dec. 5th), Candlelight Messiah (starting Dec. 9th), Handel’s Messiah Sing-a-Long (Dec. 6th at 7:30pm) and a New Year’s Eve concert complete with complimentary champagne (Dec. 31st at 7pm).

I recall many a concert with a very young Lizabeth napping on my shoulder during the second half. It beats having your child fall asleep to the television or an iPod. The early exposure to classical music left Lizabeth eager to try violin lessons, leading to a decade of violin study and all the discipline and musicality that comes with it. I’ll never regret making that investment in concert tickets rather than video games or DVDs.

If musical theater is your thing, join fellow Broadway buffs at Phoenix Theatre Dec. 18th or 19th for Holiday Harmony featuring Broadway Baritones singing holiday and Broadway tunes. Among them will be Douglas Webster, who brought the house down during Phoenix Theatre’s passionate yet pristine production of Les Miserables last season. I suspect that tickets for this baby will be going fast.

In the mood for a bit of dinner theater? Check out the Singing Cowboy Christmas (with Pioneer Pepper and the Sunset Pioneers) at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa. The show, which features songs, carols, stories and poetry, runs Nov. 27th and 28th as well as several dates in December. I remember seeing Man of La Mancha with my dad at a Denver dinner theater when I was young, and it felt like quite the adventure!

I can’t recall how Jennifer and I heard about the first Phoenix Girls Chorus concert we saw together at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix, but it clearly left an impression since Jennifer went on to happily sing and tour with them for many years. Had we never seen that concert together, she might never have discovered her musical talents. Hence my motto about children and the performing arts: Expose them early and often.

The Phoenix Girls Chorus will perform two holiday concerts this season—a Holiday Family Concert called “Memories and Music” at 7pm on Dec. 5th at Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley, and a Holiday Classics Concert called “Holiday Grandeur” at 8pm on Dec. 21st at First United Methodist Church in Phoenix.

The Phoenix Boys Choir presents Holiday Traditions (traditional hymns and lively carols from around the world) at several locations throughout the Valley beginning Dec. 12th. The program features a special reenactment of “The Night Before Christmas.”

The Phoenix Children’s Chorus will perform 25 Years of Holiday Celebrations (with special guest artist Desert Echoes Flute Project) during a matinee and an evening performance on Dec. 5th. The event, which includes a silent auction, takes place at St. Agnes Church in Phoenix. (I love getting teacher gifts at auctions—it’s like doing double the good works!)

Phoenix Chorale (formerly the Phoenix Bach Choir) presents a free open rehearsal Dec. 4th from 6:30-9:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church in Phoenix. They’ll also perform several Home for the Holidays concerts at various locations (in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sun City) Dec. 18th-22nd. The Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix is holding holiday concerts on several dates in December at various locations (in Mesa, Paradise Valley, Phoenix and Scottsdale).

Finally, let me share a little something wonderful you’ll find a wee bit out of town. It’s the Wickenburg Friends of Music event, being held Dec. 4th at 7:30pm at the Wickenburg Community Center. Musica Dolce, a Baroque ensemble, will be playing music from medieval times through the Renaissance while spotlighting the history behind several Christmas traditions. It’s the type of performance you don’t get to enjoy very often, so check it out if you’re a lover of the unique or unexpected.

If you discover something especially wonderful this holiday season, please share it with fellow readers using the comment section below. And come back tomorrow for a sampling of family-friendly theater performances perfect for holiday together time.


Note: Always call/click ahead for event/ticket details. To enjoy comprehensive listings of family-friendly events, subscribe to Raising Arizona Kids magazine and/or visit the RAK calendar online at www.raisingarizonakids.com.