There’s an art to celebrating year-end holidays, from stringing lights to decorating trees—indoor or out. There’s even an art to wrapping gifts. But the performing and visual arts are also a powerful expression of joy and reflection.
Easton hosts a month’s worth of artistic holiday offerings. Here are a few highlights near your home.
You can begin by satisfying your shopping list with art—paintings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and, I don’t know, cool, weird stuff. There are around 200 items for sale ($50 to $1,000) in the annual Academy Art Museum Members’ Exhibition through Dec. 4. Due to construction of a new AAM entrance from the courtyard facing Harrison Street, the show moved across South Street to the Waterfowl Festival building, formerly the Armory. Due in part to more limited exhibition space, this year’s theme is “Small Originals.” All members of the Academy, who come from across the Delmarva Peninsula as this is the region’s leading accredited art museum, were eligible to submit original work measuring no more than 13-by-13 inches. The juried show includes winners in myriad categories. Best in Show and still available for purchase as of this writing, is Bernard Dellario’s “House Moving at Easton Point” oil painting of the historic brick mansion awaiting a (bon) barge voyage to its new Wye River site.
Other winners: Painting Award to Stephen Walker for his “Sail Watching” oil; Best Landscape, Meg Walsh’s “Winter Stream” oil; Best Work on Paper, Susan Stewart’s “Snail on a Leaf;” Excellence in Photography, Nanny Trippe’s black-and-white “Ascent” linking two skyscrapers; Best Print (not a photo), Carol Wetovich’s “Blackwater;” Best Collage, Carol Gordean’s “Free Rein” lacy mixed-media; Contemporary Art, Mary Ann Schindler’s “21st Century Nest” assemblage of a goose egg and action figure; Sporting Award, Rhonda Ford’s “Creek Floats” oil; and the Clay Award to Carol Chandler for her “Ginko” tower vase.
Although the new Academy entranceway won’t be completed until spring, the museum remains open for art classes and will host, in its auditorium, the Dec. 8 performance of Front Porch Orchestra’s “Bluegrass Nutcracker,” framing with Nashville-style strings and percussion campy narration of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale of a girl’s dream of her toy soldier’s Mouse King and Sugar Plum Fairy encounters.
Down the street at the Avalon Theatre, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra presents its annual gift to music lovers in its Dec. 6 “Holiday Joy” concert of seasonally themed favorites in a big-band/jazz-and-pops motif. Metropolitan Opera bass-baritone Kevin Short, who stars in the Met’s “Porgy and Bess” in January, will be joined by a chorus from the University of Maryland’s Opera Studio. If you’re headed to Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach over the holidays, you can catch the same concert at the O.C. Convention Center or in Lewes, Del.
The Avalon also presents a family-film/live-music experience with a matinee screening of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Dec. 8. It will be followed by Eric Byrd’s Trio rendition of the animated movie’s score.
Easton Choral Arts Society’s annual “Christmas by Candlelight” concerts of sacred music and other favorites return to beautiful Christ Church Dec. 5 and 8. Then the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra plays the same venue for “A Toast to the New Year,” Dec. 31, featuring the orchestra, of course, led by maestro Julien Benichou and a pair of soloists—trumpeter Andrew Balio and soprano Rochelle Bard. The 7 p.m. showtime gives all attendees the opportunity to celebrate the arrival of 2020 in their own way before the clock strikes midnight.
Hanukkah appears relatively late on the 2019 calendar, with the first of the eight-day observance arriving Dec. 23. Temple B’Nai Israel, the Satell Center for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, hosts a Community Menorah Lighting on Dec. 29.
Lastly, though it’s among the first on the holiday calendar, is the “Festival of Trees,” held just after Thanksgiving in the Gold Ballroom of the Tidewater Inn. This delightful display of Christmas trees creatively festooned by volunteers has been a holiday tradition since 1986. It also offers raffle prizes and sales, including ornaments, holiday sweets, poinsettias, and other gift items. This year’s theme is “A Timeless Christmas,” captured in a painting by showcased artist Mandie Shockley.
New this season is “Carols by Candlelight,” led by choral groups, bell ringers, and other musicians. All those attending receive a complimentary candle and songbook. Santa lights the Christmas tree in front of the Tidewater.
“Festival of Trees,” Nov. 30-Dec. 3, is the primary fundraiser of the year for Talbot Hospice, supporting non-intrusive end-of-life care for county residents in need of such services. Two full disclosures: First, my father, Charles O. Parks, passed away peacefully in his Easton home in 2001 under my late mother’s care with vital hospice support. At 92, further heart intervention would only have caused him needless suffering.
In addition, an ornamental dove bearing the name of my brother-in-law, James E. Goodman, will be displayed on the Friends of Hospice tree in the Gold Ballroom starting Dec. 1. Jim died in July at his assisted-living home near Trappe after it was determined that no hospital care could extend his life appreciably. It was his wish to go home for his final days. Talbot Hospice and the caregivers at Rayland Acres made that wish possible.
Holiday Cultural Calendar
“Festival of Trees,” 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 and Monday, Dec. 2, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, Gold Ballroom, Tidewater Inn, Dover and Harrison Streets, Easton. Admission: $5, $1 for children under 12, babies free; “Candlelight Carols,” 5 p.m. Nov. 30. Free, 410-819-3378
Academy Art Museum Members’ Exhibition: “Small Originals Holiday Show,” 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through Dec. 4, Waterfowl Festival building, 40 S. Harrison St., Easton (across South Street from the museum). Admission free, 410-822-2787
“Christmas by Candlelight,” Easton Choral Arts Society, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, Christ Church, 111 S. Harrison St., Easton. Tickets: $25
“Holiday Joy,” Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra concerts, 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, Avalon Theatre, 40 E. Dover St., Easton; 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, Cape Henlopen High School Theater, Lewes, Del.; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, Ocean City Convention Center. Tickets: $50
“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” with Eric Byrd’s Trio, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, Avalon Theatre, 40 E. Dover St., Easton. Tickets: $25, 410-822-7299
“Bluegrass Nutcracker,” with The Front Porch Orchestra, 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton. Tickets: $10-$20; 410-822-2787
Community Menorah Lighting, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 29, Temple B’Nai Israel, 7199 Tristan Dr., Easton. Free; 410-822-0553
“A Toast to the New Year,” Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra concert, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, Christ Church, 111 S. Harrison St., Easton. Tickets: $60-$85
Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.