Sounds of Christmas at local holiday shows

  • Blind Boys of Alabama at Javelina Studio July 22, 2010, in Nashville, TN.

Christmas music, like the holiday buffet table, is often cobbled together from a crazy quilt of traditions.

Blend a little smooth jazz with some New Age Celtic sounds, and you've got the new-age recipe for a solstice celebration.

Take the dark humor of Bay Area songwriter Dan Hicks and add in some jazz-blues skiffle (roots music played on washboards and washtub bass), and you've got the Christmas Jug Band's formula for alternative holiday hijinks.

Mannheim Steamroller At Wells Fargo Center


Then there's the hybrid known as Mannheim Steamroller, which blends medieval instruments such as recorders with the synthesizers and light shows of a modern rock opera.

Sound improbable? Yes, and yet the American band — named after an 18th-century, German composing technique — is the No. 1 selling Christmas artist of all time.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the delicious mashup of Christmas music this season, including 10 local concerts that serve up traditional chestnuts with a tasty twist.

1) <b>Mannheim Steamroller Christmas</b> rolls into the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a big bag of treats. Founder Chip Davis created the band's first holiday album back in 1984, providing modern interpretations of Yuletide favorites that remain popular after nearly 30 years. $55-$75. wellsfargocenterarts.org. 546-3600. 50 Mark West Springs Road.

2) Thanks to a new generation of 20-something singers and fans, a cappella vocal groups are back in the limelight, but few hold a candle to <b>Rockapella,</b> an all-male vocal ensemble. The singers rock the Napa Valley Opera House at 8 p.m. Thursday with their funky, soulful take on classics like "Silver Bells" and "White Christmas." $40-$45. nvoh.org. 1030 Main St., Napa.

3) National Public Radio's <b>Neal Conan</b> narrates a concert weaving together Celtic music with strands of seasonal poetry and prose at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. "A Winter's Night: Music and Poetry for the Solstice" showcases Ensemble Galilei, a six-member, Celtic band. $20-$25. glasercenter.com or 568-5381. 547 Mendocino Ave.

4) <b>The Christmas Jug Band</b> grew out of some 1970s jam sessions with a group of Mill Valley musicians who reinvented classics like "Rudolph the Bald-Headed Reindeer." The pop-up band will add folksy humor to the holiday party at the Twin Oaks Tavern in Penngrove at 8 p.m. Dec. 13. $12, 795-5118. twinoakstavernpenngrove.com. 5745 Old Redwood Highway.

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