CHRISTMAS BABY RETURNS TO THE BASIE

LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMANDarlene Love, the original “Christmas Baby,” joins the great Ben E. King at the Basie in a show entitled LOVE FOR THE HOLIDAYS.

It’s almost universally regarded as the greatest Christmas album of all time — a multigenerational favorite that’s lost none of its power and appeal, even as the Bad Santa who brought us A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector serves a 19-to-life sentence for second-degree murder (a fact apparently known to all but the author of his official bio).

If anyone has worked overtime to rescue and reclaim the legacy of that glorious Wall of Sound, however, it’s Darlene Love — the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Spector studio session stalwart who was featured most prominently on the 1963 LP’s original cover (released, as lousy luck would have it, on the day of JFK’s assassination).

Love, who actually subbed as the Crystals on the breathtaking breakthrough “He’s A Rebel,” lent her big and warm leads to four songs on that holiday platter — “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s a Marshmallow World” and the soaring “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a tune that she’s performed on David Letterman TV shows across four decades, five Presidential administrations and countless hairstyles.

On Wednesday, Love returns to the Count Basie Theatre for the first time since 2009 in Love for the Holidays, a concert that teams her with another great voice from one of pop music’s most fertile eras, Ben E King.

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MAKING LIKE ROCKETTES ON SCHOOL STAGES

rbc-holiday-hoofersSanta and team prep for a grand entrance at Red Bank Catholic’s Holiday Dance Spectacular, going up tonight and tomorrow at the school’s Broad Street Auditorium.

While throngs of shoppers march in step to the One-Day Sales and Midnight Madness events, terpischorean teens from two local high schools are getting ready to strut their stuff in the weekends leading up to the winter break.

Tonight and tomorrow night, the Dance Department at Red Bank Catholic High School rings in the Yuletide season with “high energy, high kickin’ numbers in the style of the world famous Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular” — during a Holiday Dance Spectacular that also promises a Living Nativity and a guest appearance from Santa, conducting “a journey from the streets of New York to the North Pole.”

Tickets for either of the shows (Friday 7pm, Saturday 8pm) are priced at $10 and are available from the RBC bookstore in advance or at the door. Call (732)747-1774 for more info and be sure to bring a new unwrapped toy for this year’s Toys for Tots collection.

Next Saturday, December 17, it’s Red Bank Regional‘s turn to make like the Rockettes, as the dance students of the Visual and Performing Arts Academy bring their annual Holiday Dance Concert to the school stage.

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JOYOUS, MAJESTIC INDOOR VOICES, PLEASE

A 2010 performance of the Monmouth Civic Chorus, conducted by Mark Shapiro, at the First Presbyterian Church, Red Bank.

It’s a local holiday tradition of which it’s been said, “It won’t be Christmas without it” — and when the voices and instruments of The Monmouth Civic Chorus assemble in Red Bank on the afternoon of December 18, they’ll return once more to a classic oratorio that formed the heart of the very first MCC concert more than 50 years ago, a work that’s become synonymous with the expression of joy and celebration.

When the familiar notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s The Messiah soar toward the grand ceiling of the Count Basie Theatre, however, they’ll carry with them an inaudible but distinctly bittersweet undertone — a realization that the 2011 performance of this seasonal signifier will be the final one under the baton of longtime artistic director Mark Shapiro.

The veteran conductor, who announced his departure effective next spring, has in his 20-plus years at the podium helped the borough-based MCC evolve from a dedicated suburban troupe of “weekend warriors” to an acclaimed and confident force that’s appeared at Carnegie Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica, hosted some top-notch guest soloists — and challenged audiences and vocalists alike with new, unfamiliar, even experimental programming that would be the envy of many big-city chorales.

For the Basie concert, of course, it’s all about the comfort and joy of some favorite holiday choral music — and this coming Saturday and Sunday, lovers of harmonious human voices in all their intricacy and splendor can rejoice in the fact that no less than THREE marvelous organizations will be making some beautiful sounds around the greater Green.

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