Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[DEC 17–DEC 23]
Peace Be With You
“A Bright and Peaceable Kingdom,” a chorale concert in the key of Christmas, protests world disorder the old-fashioned way. “The idea of peace is enticing,” Geoffrey Moore said, “and we love to contemplate its possibilities, but we also know somehow that peace is a dangerous thing. It involves enormous risk.”
Mr. Moore is creative director of the Arts District Chorale, an all-volunteer group of amateur and professional vocalists regarded as the house band for Cathedral Guadalupe, a 108-year-old Victorian Gothic church in the Dallas Arts District. The Chorale will unite with the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas—together, more than one hundred strong—to celebrate Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” and to elucidate on scripture like Isaiah 2:4 (“nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”)
Cathedral Guadalupe, Dec 17, 7:30 p.m.
Birds of a Feather
Waking up earlier on the weekend than during the week is for the birds—literally. That’s what’s in store if you want to participate in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, an annual tabulation of the North American avian population that relies on volunteers as census takers.
From 6:30 a.m. until sundown on Saturday at the Armand Bayou Nature Center in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, counters will congregate to tally every migrating bird they see (owl counters start at 5 a.m.). This is fuzzy math, for sure, even with binoculars.
“You might count a bird twice, but there is also the chance for every bird you might count twice, there is one you missed,” said Martha Hood, a compiler at Armand Bayou, who last year counted 149 species, including an American Bald Eagle, a Woodcock, and multiple hummers. Exact numbers are less a concern, though, than getting a pulse on Mother Nature’s deficits.
Armand Bayou Nature Center, Dec 18, 6:30 a.m.
Rhymin’ for Grub
Rappers get bad raps: They’re routinely portrayed as money-grubbing thugs high on blunts and “purple drank.” But what about rappers with big hearts and social consciences, like Bernard Freeman, otherwise known as Bun B, formerly one half of Houston’s now-disbanded kings of hip hop, UGK?
Mr. Freeman will spit lingo for free Saturday night at the Feed Houston Food Drive and Concert. If you take five cans of food to a participating Boost Mobile location, you’ll get a free pair of tickets, which means that the number of “trill” fans at this show is likely to be high. And since Mr. Freeman is himself eminently trill—hip hop parlance for “well-respected,” a fusion of “true” and “real”—a large number of trill fans at one of his shows significantly increases the chances that it will be off the hook.
In other words, expect a house full of people high on more than just life, doing their best gangster lean to the down-tempo street rhymes.
Warehouse Live, Dec 18, 9 p.m.
A Country, Crazy Christmas
“I’ve never done a Christmas show,” crooner Ray Price said. “That’s what this is. I hope it works out.” Actually, it’s a “Country Christmas with Ray Price,” at the restored 1934 Crighton Theatre.
Either way, what Mr. Price may lack in holiday show experience, he more than makes up for in country credibility. The 84-year-old Mount Pleasant resident is a pioneer of the genre—William Burroughs to Willie Nelson’s and Merle Haggard’s Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. He introduced the 4/4 beat in his ’56 shuffle “Crazy Arms,” and he bucked Nashville’s honky-tonk convention with his ’67 countrypolitan number “Danny Boy.”
Nowadays, he plays close to one hundred shows a year. For this one, his twelve-piece Cherokee Cowboys band and ten members of the Conroe Symphony Orchestra will back him. He will sing Christmas songs both traditional and not, as well as his own songs.
“Christmas means celebrating Christ’s birthday,” Mr. Price said. “Some people don’t want Christ in their life. And that’s a shame.”
Crighton Theatre, Dec 21, 8 p.m.
A Tuna Christmas, the theatrical comedy set in the fictitious “third smallest town” in Texas, featuring two actors playing 24 off-the-wall characters staging an ill-fated adaptation of A Christmas Carol, provides an annual antidote for the intensity of the holiday season.
The Grand 1894 Opera House, Dec 17–19.
Kick Back and Enjoy
Kids get wowed, Mom gets a reprieve from wrapping presents and Dad gets some leg at the traveling Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which showcases the eye-high-kicking Rockettes.
Bass Concert Hall, Dec 17, various times.
• • • • •
Six more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Melanie Gasmen
With four million lights on display, it might take you a while to drive through the self-proclaimed “world’s largest light tunnel.” It’s worth it, though. Finish off the night noshing on treats and sipping hot cocoa at the Holiday Village.
Lynn Creek Park, Dec 14–Dec 31, various times.
A Christmas Carol
UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance brings Dickens’s classic tale about the true meaning of Christmas to the Wise Family Theatre stage.
Fox Fine Arts Center, Dec 17–19, various times.
Randy Rogers Band
Two-step your Saturday night away to the tunes of one of Texas’s top bands on the scene. Their newest album, Burning the Day, landed as number two on Billboard’s Country Albums chart its opening weekend.
Billy Bob’s, Dec 18, 10:30 p.m.
Michael Tole: Struck by Lightning More Than Once, She Didn’t Yield
The works from this Dallas-based artist are based on unstaged photographs, and the exhibit will feature pieces from 2007 to present, including a series on Fabergé eggs.
Galveston Arts Center, Thru Jan 9, various times.
Secrets of the Silk Road
More than 125 objects from China tell us about the people living along the Silk Road. The exhibit features well-preserved mummies that were found in the Tarim Basin of western China.
Houston Museum of Natural Science, Thru Jan 2, various times.
Lamplight Tours of LBJ’s Boyhood Home
Tour the former president’s childhood home as it was decorated during the holiday season in the twenties
The LBJ Boyhood Home, Dec 18, 6–9 p.m.