Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I picked up a copy of an obscure record album titled Village Music of Bulgaria: A Harvest, a Shepherd, a Bride. It was on the Nonesuch label, who released classical music along with esoteric world music.
The music had a haunting sound, with women’s voices used in ways that sounded, well, mysterious. The collection was produced by Ethel Raim and Martin Koenig, who worked with the Smithsonian Institute unearthing traditional Balkan music.
Elsewhere, Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier brought the unusual not-quite-traditional East-Euro music to the world with polyphonic and diaphonic harmonies on an obscure record of his own in the 1960s. Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares featured the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir, a state-supported folk ensemble originally founded in the 1950s during the Soviet Socialist era.
Then in the 1980s, Ivo Watts-Russell, founder of the hip British label 4AD, heard a dubbed cassette of the record, something he’d borrowed from Peter Murphy, lead singer of Bauhaus. As an indirect result, the Le Mystère… record was reissued, along with a Mystère Vol. 2. Marcel Cellier ended up winning a Grammy Award for that record in 1989. The rest is record collector history.
Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir toured the world, eventually even playing in Arcata.
Fast-forward again to now, and we have Kitka, an all-woman a cappella ensemble from the Bay Area, exploring the same sort of harmonic territory, but making it their own. The ladies are in town this weekend for a show Friday at the Arcata Playhouse they call Wintersong.
Kitka showcases “seasonal music from a wide variety of Eastern European ethnic and spiritual traditions. The singers blend a contemporary sensibility with specialized vocal techniques from Eastern Europe using only their unaccompanied voices, creating a constantly shifting landscape of sound.” They start with Bulgarian folk melodies and explore Albanian, Bosnian, Serbo-Croatian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Macedonian, Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, “and more.”
After Kitka’s Wintersong, our own folk ensemble Chubritza and members of the Balkan Music Meetup (who play Mondays at the Sanctuary and practice in a yurt in Manila) will play more mysterious music for dancing, “and pre-Solstice activities.” (It’s a long story, but a version of Chubritza played after the touring Bulgarian Women’s Choir came here years ago. I was the caterer for that show, which led to my wife snapping her Achilles tendon while dancing.) Showtime for Wintersong is Friday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Playhouse. Advance tickets recommended. Be careful if you dance afterward.
Get in the Xmas mood with the original 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street, which addresses the question, is Santa real? (A young Natalie Woods is unsure.) It’s on the big screen at the Eureka Theater Thursday, Dec. 19, starting at 7:30 with doors at 7 p.m. Come early as they promise, “In addition to our regular fare, Tom & Jerrys and other warm beverages will be available. Santa hats and holiday sweaters encouraged,” ugly or otherwise.
GCQ plays jazzy tunes in The Basement Thursday, Dec. 19, 8 to 10 p.m. That would be a quartet led by guitarist Greg Camphius of LoveBush, Bump Foundation and many bands that have come and gone, I believe starting with Spank.
This combo? “It’s my jazz quartet,” said Mr. Camphius. “Although I’ve had different players almost every time, I guess it will be Mike LaBolle (drums), Matt Seno (piano), me (Greg on guitar), and, bass as yet unknown.” That’s how it works sometimes.
Eureka High School’s “staff band,” Staff Infection, performs at Redwood Curtain Brewing on Friday, Dec. 20, starting at 8 p.m. “The show is free and all ages are welcome,” which means students can come.
“Staff Infection has rocked and represented Eureka City Schools with a plethora of teacher/musician line-ups since the early ’90s.” The band photo indicates the hardworking drummer Mike LaBolle is typically among them.
At The Jam that same Friday, Who Is She? presents Mix Tape No. 9, which is “the last Mixtape of the year,” they point out, and probably the last one with Pete Ciotti as Jam owner. Who Is She promises “some awesome mix genre talent and maybe a little holiday cheer,” although they don’t say who’s playing. My educated guess is it’s local EDM DJs/producers of the bass music type.
There’s “A Very Tiki Holiday Party” Friday at the Miniplex from 9 p.m. until midnight. “Get in the holiday spirit with rum drinks, vintage exotica records, tinsel, velvet, and Soul Night DJ Red and Dancin! Two drink minimum,” but not necessarily containing rum.
Saturday in Eureka it’s another Winterbrite Pub Crawl, where you’re invited to, “Take a stroll through the streets of Old Town and Downtown Eureka sampling delicious drink and appetizer specials featuring locally made products from select bars and restaurants,” from 4 to 8 p.m. presented by Humboldt Made and Visit Eureka.
You might want to end up your crawl at the Eagle House as the Jim Lahman Band plays the blues and such in Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge starting at 7:30 p.m.
Earlier, around 1 p.m., it’s Tuba Christmas time again as the beautiful sound of tubas playing Christmas carols can be heard emanating from the Old Town Gazebo.
On Saturday, Dec. 21, Richard’s Goat and the Miniplex present the 3rd Annual Krampusfest Holiday Revue. “Come celebrate the Winter Solstice [officially at 8:19 p.m.] and the darkest season with live music from Blood Gnome (elusive all-girl synth-pop in their bi-annual appearance), strange storytelling and visuals from Comix Trip, neo-riot-grrrl garage punk from Sad Krotch, plus an opportunity to get your picture taken with Krampus, mall-Santa style. (Buy a shot, get a shot with Krampus.) Be sure to wear your ugliest ugly Christmas sweaters!”
“Who is Krampus, you ask? Krampus is a goat-horned creature in German, Austrian, Hungarian, and Czech folklore, a counterpart to St. Nicholas, but with roots in pre-Christian pagan tradition. He leaves naughty children sticks instead of presents in some traditions, and if they’re especially naughty he steals them away to the Underworld. (So be nice!)” Pictures with Krampus and your kids from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The Goat is 21 and up after. Showtime for the show in the Miniplex at 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile Saturday at Redwood Curtain Brewing, The Movers and The Shakers rock and roll starting at 8 p.m. (All ages welcome, all night.)
Pete Ciotti and friends get down with a Grateful Getdown: Dead Night at The Jam. “Come celebrate the holidaze with some Dead tunes,” urges Pete. “‘Just one more Saturday night!’” he notes, quoting Bob “Ace” Weir (of the Dead). Showtime 9-ish.
At Humbrews it’s Soul Party No. 31: Soul On Ice, allegedly an annual thing. “Still an all-vinyl affair and still just five bucks!” 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
At (or in) the Basement, it’s Moon Segue “featuring the vocal stylings of Lizzy, and the depictive guitar playing from David’s repertoire, a mix of jazz and blues standards for a relaxing evening of your listening pleasure.” Starting at 9 p.m.
At Blue Lake Casino, same night, catch the musical stylings of Claire Bent & Citizen Funk, “a mix of high-energy funk, soul and R&B, with Claire’s soulful voice backed by experienced longtime musicians,” (that would be her band).
Really in the mood for Xmas? The Dance Scene Studio’s performance company, Sundance Ballet Company, “Humboldt County’s pre-professional ballet company,” presents the traditional Christmas ballet The Nutcracker Dec. 21 and 22.
“Adventure awaits as Clara and her Nutcracker Prince battle the Rat King and embark on a journey through the Land of Sweets with the Sugarplum Fairy in the iconic holiday ballet classic.” The show runs three times: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. at HSU’s Van Duzer Theatre.
Need a break from all the requisite holiday shopping? “Come enjoy a glass of wine and an afternoon of jazz at the Morris Graves Museum of Art on Sunday, Dec. 22, from 3-5 p.m. Nice n’ Easy plays the standard jazz tunes we’ve all come to know and love, so get ready to tap your toes and enjoy the show,” they suggest. The combo is usually a trio with Albert Clark on piano, Bill Moehnke on drums and Bear Winkle on bass (with a Santa-esque beard), but this time the trio has a special guest vocalist, Brigette Brannan. Will they be doing Xmas music? I doubt it, not exclusively anyway, although pianist Vince Guaraldi wrote some fine material for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Is your semi-official “Peanuts Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” ready? If not, you can buy one at various stores (and/or online), “complete with Linus’ blanket and the lone ornament, to remind you what’s really important for years to come.” (Assembly required.)
That’s all for now, except to wish you a happy holiday, whichever one you’re celebrating. Merry X!