Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from catching Sara Hickman in Houston to watching the real von Trapp family sing Sound of Music hits in Fort Worth. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Dec 16–Dec 23]
When Sara Hickman, the state musician of Texas, was in college, she found a black-and-white puppy in a dump while looking for objects she could paint. “I named him Rothko since he was a color field artist and the little dog was colorless and in need of love,” Hickman said. Her admiration for the dog’s eponym, Mark Rothko, the Russian artist, began as a young adult in Houston. Hickman’s artist parents took her several times to Rothko Chapel, the nondenominational sanctuary adorned with Rothko’s paintings. “I remember the mood of the room: peaceful, as if floating in colored clouds, suspended in a white space that I felt completely at ease in,” said Hickman, who will perform a concert at the chapel as part of its fortieth anniversary year-end celebration. “My show will be a mixture of spirituality, humor, darkness, color and light,” Hickman said. “I don’t have a song about Rothko, but I do have one about Dalí.”
Rothko Chapel, Dec. 16, 7 p.m. sarahickman.com
Carolyn Wonderland, the Austin musician often likened to Janis Joplin, enjoys the holidays as much as anyone. But the increasing materialism of it all has caused her to reconsider the true meaning of the season. “The holidays are about hanging out with the family,” Wonderland said, “and trying to rise above the ridiculous dictate to buy, buy, buy one’s way into a more meaningful experience.” Wonderland will join Guy Forsyth, a fellow musician whom she has known long enough to qualify as family, for Holidays by Candlelight, a three-night run of shows in which the holidays will be celebrated with what Wonderland calls “sincere irreverence.” What Forsyth calls “a crack band who can stop on a dime and give you change” will perform songs like John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison,” Stephen Colbert and Willie Nelson’s duet “Little Dealer Boy” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Donate to Occupy Austin at the shows, because there are people who are voluntarily spending Christmas on the streets in sincere protest of our country’s financial irresponsibility.
The Long Center, Dec. 21-23, 7:30 p.m. thelongcenter.org
Blow Your Horn
The TubaMeisters, a local polka and waltz quartet, are calling all tuba, euphonium and baritone horn players to join them on the River Walk for a reinterpretation of twelve traditional Christmas carols. Get over the embarrassment of having played in the high school band, grab your instrument from the back of the closet and join the fanfare. If you aren’t a musician, stand back and take in all that wheezing brass, manned by dozens of eleven- to eighty-year-olds. The Annual TubaMeister Christmas, now in its 33rd year, was inspired by Tuba Christmas, which Harvey Phillips, the Indiana University tuba professor, started as an homage to his teacher, William J. Bell, who was born December 25, 1902. And now it is a family tradition for some. “My two grown sons consider this an event they try to attend each year, even though they no longer live in San Antonio,” said Ray Grim of the TubaMeisters. “I think, for us, it isn’t Christmas without this concert.”
Arneson River Theatre, Dec. 17, noon. thetubameisters.com
The Sound of Music was only the beginning for the von Trapp family, the troupe of singing siblings who inspired the 1965 silver-screen classic starring Julie Andrews. The von Trapps fled the Nazi regime in the late 1930s and moved from Austria to Vermont, where they started a music school and a ski lodge. Now four great-grandchildren of Maria and Captain von Trapp are singing a few of their favorite things as part of Christmas With the von Trapp Children. Get nostalgic listening to this generation interpret in perfect harmony songs like “What You Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby?,” “Something Told the Wild Geese” and “Please Don’t Send Me Fruitcake,” with the support of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
Bass Performance Hall, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. fwsymphony.org
Inside the Box
Jandek, the Houston singer-songwriter who has released more than sixty albums since 1978, was notoriously reclusive for years. But since he made his first live appearance in 2004, performances like the one he’ll give at An Afternoon of Outsider Music are less about the spectacle of seeing him and more about admiring his craft.
The Menil Collection, Dec. 17, 4 p.m. menil.org
At the Austin City Limits Holiday Gift Fair, you can buy branded swag promoting the historic live-music TV show for your non-Austinite friends and relatives, but you might come back with a present for yourself, like some rare concert poster that could only be found in the ACL treasure trove.
KLRU Studio 6A, Dec. 16, 3 p.m. klru.org