Tucson holiday concerts, events to put you in a ho-ho-ho mood

If you’re looking for a holiday event to put you in the ho-ho-ho spirit, you’re in luck. Tucson is rolling out the holiday magic beginning next weekend with concerts, movies and holiday events to fit nearly every taste.

We’ve scoured the venue websites, reached out to organizers and come up with your ultimate holiday entertainment guide to make the most of the season. We’ve even organized it by genre, from pop music to classical, movies to stage shows.

Pop go the holidays

Fox Tucson Theatre, at 17 W. Congress St., easily gets the prize for widest range of holiday pop concerts. The historic theater is devoting much of its stage in the coming weeks to holiday offerings beginning with Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro on Nov. 27. For tickets and more information, visit foxtucson.com.

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  • Jake Shimabukuro Christmas in Hawai’i will have you feeling like you left the Tucson desert for the sunny beaches of the Big Island. Shimabukuro is bringing along Justin Kawika Young, Jackson Waldoff and Herb Otha Jr. for the show.
  • Chicago singer and playwright Lisa Rock and her band will perform a tribute to 1970s pop singer Karen Carpenter with “A Carpenters Christmas” on Dec. 1. Rock has been doing critically-acclaimed tribute shows honoring the late singer for a number of years. You won’t want to miss their holiday concert featuring “Merry Christmas Darling” and the jazzy “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” 
  • Need a holiday performance jam-packed with music ranging from “Frosty the Snowman” to Chuck Berry’s rollicking “Run, Run Rudolph”? Big Bad Voodoo Daddy fits that bill with “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Holiday” on Dec. 3,  billed as a unique and spirited wild and swingin’ holiday party. 
  • Add a little twang and salsa to your holidays with the Mavericks when they bring their special holiday twist to Tucson on Dec. 10. The Grammy-award-winning band will perform selections from their 2018 holiday album “Hey! Merry Christmas!” The Mavericks, who have a loyal Tucson following, have a distinctive mix of rockabilly, Latino, folk, swing, blues, jazz and country. 
  • Need a holiday show to get the whole family on their feet? The Doo Wop Project features five guys who went from singing on street corners to creating smashing hits on the radio. Come out to see a high-energy show featuring classic and modern Christmas tunes and versions of modern hits from Michael Jackson, Jason Mraz, Maroon 5 and Sam Smith on Dec. 15.

The Rialto Theatre at 318 E. Congress St. is hosting the Tucson band The Jons in “A Very Jons Christmas” featuring Tucson country singer Drew Cooper on Dec. 10. It’s the Jons second annual Christmas extravaganza show. The band includes James Peters, Jon Villa, Michael Carbajal, Javier Gamez, Charlie Rodriguez and Paul Jenkins. 

Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., has several holiday concerts planned in December:

  • Ryan Green and Cameron Hood will bring their cozy “A Winter’s Evening with Ryanhood” to the Congress Plaza stage on Dec. 3. The concert will showcase high-energy and big harmonies from the pair as they sing some holiday songs and tell stories. 



Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands Quartet will perform at the Tucson Opry: Holiday Edition at Hotel Congress. 



  • Hotel Congress teams up with Rhythm & Roots to host the Tucson Opry: Holiday Edition on Dec. 10 on the Plaza, featuring hosts Chris Brashear and Peter McLaughlin with Laurie Lewis, Jon Graboff, Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis and poet Logan Phillips.
  • Want to hear some funky proper roots reggae, dub and dance hall takes on the holidays? Mark your calendars for Dec. 17 when Tucson reggae band ZeeCeeKeely joins Phoenix area bands Herb N’ Life and Chris Bowen Vibes, Tucson’s In Certain Truth and Class Acts for “The Holidaze Bash.” 

Classical Christmas

Arizona Repertory Singers is devoting its holiday concerts to women composers. “Women in Winter” features seasonal works in a wide range of styles, genres and perspectives on the season by nine women composers, anchored by Sarah Quartel’s five-movement “Snow Angel,” accompanied by piano, cello and djembe. Quartel’s “This Endris Night” opens the concert, which also features works by Kim Baryluk, Melinda Bargreen, Abbie Betinis, Nancy Grundahl, Elaine Hagenberg, Iris Levine, Rosephanye Powell and Annabel Rooney.

This is the first time in the 38-year history of the 40-plus mixed voice volunteer choir that it will perform a holiday concert of all-female composers. The ensemble, under the baton of Music Director Ryan Phillips, will perform the concert three times: Dec. 9 at St. Mark Catholic Church, 2727 W. Tangerine Road in Oro Valley; Dec. 11 at Desert Skies United Methodist Church, 3255 N. Houghton Road; and Dec. 18 at Christ Church United Methodist, 666 N. Craycroft Road. Masks are encouraged. For tickets and details, visit arsingers.org. 

The Arizona Women’s Chorus and the Sonoran Bells are joining forces for “Ringing in the Holiday Season” on Dec. 17. at St. Francis in the Foothills, 4625 E. River Road. The women’s chorus, conducted by founder and longtime Artistic Director Terrie Ashbaugh, will perform “Sing Hey!,” “Sleigh Bells,” “Silent Snowfall,” “Snow Is Falling,” “Water Under Snow is Weary” and other holiday classics. The audience also will be invited to join in on a few carols. Sonoran Bells will close out the concert. Details on Facebook at tinyurl.com/bd578ffh.



Inspired by the rich choral history of King’s College, Cambridge, True Concord continues its unique holiday tradition of “Lessons & Carols by Candlelight.” 



True Concord Voices & Orchestra will unwrap its annual holiday gift to Tucson in five performances over four days, Dec. 15-18. “Lessons & Carols by Candlelight” showcases the professional choir performing a program that includes John Rutter’s “Star Carol,” Stephen Paulus’s “How Far is it to Bethlehem?,” Weric Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque” and variety of holiday classics: “O Holy Night” and Allan Bullard’s “A Star As Bright as Day.” Here’s the real fun part, though: We get to sing along to classic carols including “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in a Manger” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Concerts will be held at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4400 N. Campbell Ave., on Dec. 15 and 17; at St. Francis in the Valley Episcopal Church, 600 S. La Canada Drive in Green Valley, on Dec. 16; at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte, at 3 p.m. Dec. 18; and at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Sabino Canyon Road, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

For tickets and details, visit trueconcord.org.

Tucson Symphony Orchestra is devoting three weekends in December to the holidays. For tickets and details, visit tucsonsymphony.org or call 520-882-8585.

  • With few exceptions, the TSO has made Handel’s “Messiah” and its glorious “Hallelujah” chorus a Tucson holiday tradition. On Dec. 10 and 11, TSO Conductor José Luis Gomez has paired selections from “Messiah” with “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and a pair of works by Britten — Interlude from “A Ceremony of Carols” and “Men of Goodwill: Variations on A Christmas Carol.” Also on the program: Mozart’s “Sleigh Ride” from “Three German Dances,” Strauss’s “Thunder and Lightning” Polka and “The Skaters Waltz” from French composer Émile Waldteufel. The orchestra will share the stage with the TSO Chorus, led by interim director Benjamin Hansen, and guest vocalists soprano Kathryn Mueller, mezzo Helen Karloski and tenor Joseph Tancredi. TSO Concertmaster Lauren Roth will have a solo spotlight at Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive.



TSO Music Director and Conductor José Luis Gomez has devoted the bulk of December to the holidays with three weekends of events including teaming up with Ballet Tucson for “The Nutcracker.”



  • “Happy Holidays ¡Feliz Navidad!” on Dec. 17-18 promises to be the ultimate uniquely Tucson multicultural holiday celebration. The orchestra and its chorus will share the Linda Ronstadt Music Hall stage, 260 S. Church Ave., with the Tucson Girls Chorus, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo High School and Compañía de Danza Folklórica Arizona. The concert is part of the orchestra’s season-long ¡Celebración Latina! series of concerts celebrating Tucson’s Latino culture and community.
  • Ballet Tucson has tapped the TSO for the ultimate holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker,” the ubiquitous ballet by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Tchaikovsky. There will be four performances from Dec. 22-24 at the Music Hall. Tickets are available through the symphony.

The University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music is hosting its annual Holiday Card to Tucson, featuring the Arizona and Symphonic Choirs, University Community Chorus, Collegium Musicum, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Tucson Girls Chorus in two performances on Dec. 4 at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave. For tickets and details, visit tucne.ws/1lu8.



New Orleans vocalist Britney Chauntae will be in Tucson to present a special show of jazzy Christmas songs and more.



Holiday jazz

The Century Room at Hotel Congress is hosting a pair of holiday shows. The duo of Nossa Bossa Nova bring their “Jazz Christmas Italiano” to the intimate jazz club on Dec. 23. On Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, New Orleans jazz singer Britney Chauntae is here with her Big Easy style holiday show.

Jazz up your Christmas at Fox Tucson Theatre with Tucson music producer extraordinaire Khris Dodge’s “In the Christmas Mood” show on Dec. 9, hosted by 94.9 MIX-FM’s “Greg & Mere in the Morning.” Dodge has assembled a cast of popular Tucson vocalists — Katherine Byrnes, Brian Levario, Chach Snook and Crystal Stark — for an evening of classic holiday carols from “Jingle Bells” and “Sleigh Ride” to “The Christmas Song” and “Happy Holidays.” 

On the big screen

Fox Tucson Theatre is screening three of our all-time favorite holiday movies. Bonus: 30 minutes before each showtime, the Fox will play holiday tunes on the historic theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer. Tickets are $8 through foxtucson.org.

  • The 2003 comedy “Elf” casts funnyman Will Ferrell as Buddy, who was raised by Elves but is very obviously not one of the pint-sized Santa crew members. Buddy branches out to find his birth father in NYC, experiencing the big city and all its glories from the innocent perspective of Santa’s helper. Showtimes at 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 4. 
  • Skeptical about the existence of Santa and his elves? Hop on “The Polar Express” and you might change your mind. The Robert Zemeckis classic about a young boy who just needs a little magic to believe takes us to Santa’s North Pole on a mysterious train loaded with children who just need a little holiday cheer to lift their spirits. Showtimes at 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 17.
  • The 1964 heartwarming classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will have you believing in the power of angels. George Bailey gives up on his dreams of traveling the world for the sake of saving his family’s small savings and loan that is a lifeline for his town. But when the pressure of losing his business comes crashing down on Christmas Eve, he considers how everyone and everything would be better off if he never existed. Enter his guardian angel Clarence, who shows George just what would happen if he had never been born. Showtimes at 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 23. 

Live on stage

Arizona Theatre Company invites you to spend time with “The Wickams: Christmas at Pemberley,” the second holiday play by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon inspired by the characters of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Performances run through Dec. 2 at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. Visit atc.org for showtimes and tickets. 

Rialto Theatre is hosting “An Irish Christmas” on Dec. 9 featuring award-winning dancers from Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Celtic Wings. This is the show you saw on PBS. 

Festivus is the bah humbug version of Christmas in which participants air their grievances. The Rialto is hosting its all-ages musical version on Dec. 17 featuring Something Like Appropriate, Then When, Armando Moreno & the Revival, Diluvio, Nocturnal Theory, Los Streetlight Curb Players and Orchadia. 



This year’s Old Pueblo Holiday Radio Show, hosted by David Fitzsimmons and narrated by the great Marty Bishop, will feature the return of the fabulous Arroyo Cafe Players.



Arizona Daily Star cartoonist and Tucson funnyman David Fitzsimmons is getting the Arroyo Café gang back together for the eighth annual Old Pueblo Holiday Radio Show on Dec. 18 at the Rialto. Fitz and the Arroyo Café Players join Rob Resetar and Sheryl Anne McKinley, The Cadillacs and Grandsons of the Pioneers for a hilarious variety show to benefit Planned Parenthood and Southern Arizona’s American Heart Association. 

“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” is the true story of Allied and German soldiers putting down their guns and setting aside their differences to celebrate Christmas on the frontlines of World War I. It’s at Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., on Dec. 18. 

Watch now: “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” is the true story of Allied and German soldiers putting down their weapons to celebrate Christmas on the frontlines in 1914.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch

Cassandra Scott is a University of Arizona journalism student apprenticing with the Star.

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