As Thanksgiving eases into a mild Tucson Christmas, Tohono Chul Park is offering an antidote to family tension, shopping madness and holiday stress.
Meander through the park's luminaria-lit paths; sip a cup of hot cider; listen to live music; and marvel at a half-million lights draped over trees and cacti.
This Tucson holiday tradition has been an annual event for 11 years, said Glenn Nowak, communications coordinator for the park. Each year, the event has gotten bigger. The event started as a holiday gathering with volunteers and staff hanging lights and baking cookies to share with guests.
"Like a lot of things, it just snowballed," Nowak said. Last year, more than 4,100 people visited the park during Holiday Nights.
This year's Holiday Nights could draw even more visitors. The live music will include performances from Joe Bourne, harpist Denielle Swartz, Gabriel Ayala, Sonoran Bells, the Southern Arizona Women's Chorus, the Street Minstrels and Way Out West.
Art from the Holiday for the Park ornament sale and auction will be available. Holiday cookies, hot cider and coffee are complimentary.
"One of the great things about a city like Tucson is that the canopy of the night sky is so crisp and clear at this time of year. There's not a lot of light pollution around, so to line paths with luminarias and hang up a half-million lights in the trees and on cacti is just stunning," Nowak said. "One of the things I hear a lot of visitors say is, 'The music's great; the art is wonderful; but just sitting here is just peaceful.'"
Admission $5 for adult park members, $8 for the general public, and $2 for children 12 and younger. --C.C.
It can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's still 80 degrees outside--but the award-winning Irish group known as Téada is nonetheless joining other talented Irish performers to bring us some holiday cheer.
"Even if you're not a big Christmas person, it's musically and culturally fantastic," said Judith Joiner, a publicist for Téada.
The show is called Irish Christmas in America and was produced by one of Ireland's most talented fiddlers, Oisín Mac Diarmada. The show will also feature one of Ireland's top female vocalists, Cara Dillon, and rising dance star Brian Cunningham.
"The show is the brainchild of Diarmada," Joiner said, adding that Dillon's performance is spine-tingling.
The performance will include traditional Irish ballads performed with energetic fiddle rhythms, but the newest feature of the show is the 23-year-old Cunningham, who has become famous for his traditional style of dance.
Irish Christmas in America combines humor, storytelling, music and dancing with a backdrop showing pictures of Ireland. The goal is to share in Irish traditions and symbolize what Christmas means in Ireland.
"Christmas is always a great excuse to have a tune or song with friends," Dillon said.
Along with Diarmada, the show will feature Damien Stenson on flute, Seán McElwain on guitar and Tristan Rosenstock performing on a traditional Irish drum and providing narration. Grainne Hambly and Tommy Martin star on the Irish harp and pipes.
Tickets cost $23 to $25 for regular admission; student balcony tickets cost $10. --T.A.
Almost 20 years ago, a small musical revolution found its way from the Caribbean to the University of Arizona.
Steel drums from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago became popular, and a small steel band was formed. The UA steel bands have been performing for students ever since.
"The band is made up of five different types of steel drums along with a bunch of other toys--basically, anything you can hit," said Josh Armstrong, a doctoral student and teaching assistant at the UA School of Music.
Although known for the island-themed music, the UA steel bands like to mix it up with classical tunes and even some pop-music tunes.
"With steel-band music, it's about feeling the music and playing what you feel," Armstrong said. "You wouldn't think that Bach could sound so beautiful on these instruments that are meant to rock out."
Along with many recognizable tunes, Sunday's show will feature the world premiere of a song titled "Danza Para el Sol," written by UA student Rob McClure specifically for the show.
"It's really cool when a group can be the inspiration of a new composition," said Dr. Norman Weinberg, director of percussion studies.
McClure's composition seems to be the most anticipated piece in the show.
"He's a mighty fine percussionist," Armstrong said. "He uses an African bell pattern, and it's a really different style."
Tickets for the show are $9 for general admission; $7 for UA employees and senior citizens; and $5 for students. UA Steel's latest CD, Panstraction, will also be available for $10.
"The drums have a light sound to them," Weinberg said. "They create a party atmosphere, and everybody in the audience always has a fun time." --T.A.
World AIDS Day is marking its 20th anniversary in Tucson with a community celebration of art, speakers and music.
World AIDS Day was established by the World Health Organization in 1988 to show solidarity and raise awareness about the disease. In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the party will be '80s-themed; all attendees are encouraged to wear their best '80s garb.
This year's festivities mean different things to different people, said Dr. Heather Moroso, an event organizer who works with AIDS patients. For some, it is a remembrance of those who have been lost; for others, the goal is to raise awareness of the disease. It's also a celebration of how far AIDS research has come.
Performances will take place at various locations around Club Congress and include Odaiko Sonora, the Human Project, Tom Walbank, Marianne Dissard, Key Ingredients of African Soul, Eno Washington, Ballet Folklorico Destino, Cabaret Boheme, Boys R Us, Garboski and Denise Lang.
An urban art project will be created by Pueblo High School students, Moroso said.
Speakers include people living with HIV and AIDS from all walks of life. AIDS is no longer a "gay white man's disease," as many characterized the disease in the 1980s. Today, infection rates are increasing among women, Hispanics and African Americans, Moroso said.
"HIV shows no discrimination. Anybody can get HIV and AIDS," Moroso said. "... We need to be proactive and look and see where prevention measures need to be changed, and how they need to be changed."
Art from HIV-positive artists will also be shown.
"It's a way, in my opinion, to remember and to observe where we've come from and where we are currently, in terms of advances in medication," Moroso said. "... It's a celebration of living." --C.C.