Musical Chairs

By Beth Schwartzapfel

Published December 02, 2009, issue of December 11, 2009.
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What’s Hanukkah without some festive music? Whether you’re in the mood for folk, reggae, klezmer or even live DJs spinning tracks, there are musical events across the country that promise to keep your December full of holiday cheer. We’ve pulled together eight of our favorite options — separated by event type, for your convenience — in 17 different cities. They’re sure to keep your Hanukkah playlist full.


For the Jew on Christmas

Heebonism (Denver): Heebonism, a Christmas Eve party that will take over Denver’s downtown Jet Hotel, offers Jews the chance to party their Christmas blues away. Partygoers can bounce from the nightclub to lobby bar to one of the hotel’s 18 “hospitality rooms” to enjoy a night filled with dancing and mingling.

December 24th, Jet Hotel, 1612 Wazee Street, Denver, 8:30 p.m., $18 in advance, $25 at door, or $20 with 3 cans of food, to be donated to Jewish Family Service, price includes free drinks for the first hour, www.e-3events.com/events.


For the Family

Wonderland Express Hanukkah Dinner and Concert (Chicago): This family-oriented event at the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a dinner of brisket, latkes and Israeli couscous, and the opportunity to walk through the garden’s Wonderland Express exhibit, which features miniature replicas of the Sears Tower, the KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue and President Obama’s Kenwood home. The local Jewish band the Spirit Orchestra will play an eclectic mix of music, including klezmer, Hasidic, swing, Motown and contemporary.

December 13 at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, concert 6 p.m., dinner seating at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; $38 adults, $32 children ages 3–12 (free for children under 2); www.chicagobotanic.org/holiday/hanukkah.


For Hipsters

Menorah Horah (Connecticut and New York): The third annual Menorah Horah serves up raucous evenings featuring cheap beer, prizes and burlesque dancers. In keeping with our people’s propensity to wander, the two-night event will cross state lines and feature performances by the Dolomites, a band that describes its style as “electro-gypsy-JAP,” and by klezmer-punk favorite Golem.

December 11 at Two Boots, Bridgeport, Conn.; doors open 9 p.m., show starts 10 p.m.; www.twobootsbridgeport.com.

December 12 at Southpaw, Brooklyn; doors open 7 p.m., show starts 8 p.m.; www.spsounds.com; $12 in advance, $16 at the door.


For the Culture Junkie

Sephardic Music Festival (New York): Shempseed.com, a Web site showcasing a variety of hip Jewish music from around the world, sponsors this weeklong festival of Sephardic music and culture. Events will be held all over the city and will represent a wide range of music and approaches, from an audience-interactive panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History, to Ladino Night at The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, to a performance by Hasidic hip-hop sensation Matisyahu at the nightclub Webster Hall.

Runs from December 12 to December 19, at locations around New York City; prices range from $10 to $20; www.sephardicmusicfestival.com.


For the Budding Philanthropist

Lights Ignite Change (Philadelphia): Three female Jewish singers have come together for a show of music and social change. Chana Rothman plays reggae and world beat, “Jewish chick rocker” Naomi Less plays folk-rock, and Sarah Aroeste plays Sephardic and Ladino folk and rock music. The women have invited local social justice organizations to set up information tables in the lobby of the World Café and to go onstage between sets to light candles and talk about their work.

December 13, the World Café, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia, doors open 6 p.m., show starts 7 p.m.; $12 in advance, $15 at the door, www.worldcafelive.com.


For the Club Set

The Matzo Ball (various locations): While Christians everywhere welcome the Yuletide, hundreds of young Jews put on their sleekest clubbing gear and head out to meet “that nice Jewish boy or girl.” The Matzo Ball, held in 10 locations, including Las Vegas, Miami, Montreal. New York and Washington, D.C., is the closest thing to a Jewish rave you’ll ever attend.

December 24, locations vary; New York and Boston begin at 9 p.m., all other cities begin at 8 p.m.; $25; www.matzoball.org.


For the World Traveler

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah! A Sephardic Celebration (Los Angeles): The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring of Los Angeles will bring together a writer and a musician for a Hanukkah-inspired performance of traditional Portuguese-Spanish Jewish singing and storytelling dating back to the 1400s. Ethnomusicologist Judith Cohen will sing songs and play traditional Sephardic instruments, while Dolores Sloan will read from her book, “The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal,” tell stories and recite poems. More recent material from countries all over the Sephardic diaspora, like Morocco and Bosnia, will also be featured.

December 19, Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m,; $10 for members, $15 for the general public; www.circlesocal.org.


For the Museum Buff

Super 8 (San Francisco): San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum and The Hub of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco offers “eight ways to burn bright” with their Super 8 Festival. Guests can take in eight different performances and activities at the museum, from a live set by the band Girls in Trouble, to a film festival, to a poetry slam. Attendees will even get a free Hanukkah survival kit, complete with menorah, candles, dreidels and gelt.

December 12, Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco; 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; $10 in advance, $15 at the door; www.thecjm.org.


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