An extended season of holiday merrmaking continue to build this weekend with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's production of Handel's Messiah, Nutcracker Fantasy by Dance Wisconsin, the Wintersong benefit concert, and the Making Merry: Holiday Magic for All Ages fundraiser. The calendar also includes: the Tandem Press: Twenty-Five Years opening at the Chazen; a book reading by Joe Meno and spoken word by Rafael Casal; productions of She Loves Me and Rock of Ages; performances by the UW Choral Union & Symphony Orchestra and Candid Concert Opera; the Madison Music Foundry's Rock Workshop Showcase and a Duke Otherwise release party; and, more live music from Over the Rhine, Kill the Vultures, Mac Lethal, Jaill, Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, Willy Porter, New Medicine, Zongo Junction, Studebaker John, Those Poor Bastards, and High on Fire.
NOTEWORTHY: Instant replay debuts during Army-Navy football game, 1963.
Blackhawk Church, 7 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 9, Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo, 3 pm
For its annual version of Handel's Messiah, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra gathers formidable forces: four soloists, the WCO Chorus, the Festival Choir of Madison and the Madrigal Singers. Brace yourself -- last year's performance at Blackhawk Church made the angels weep.
Madison College-Truax's Mitby Theater, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 7:30 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Dec. 8 & 9
Dance Wisconsin's annual Nutcracker features carolers from Monona Grove High school, ballroom dancers and the cutest dancing snowmen ever. The 80-person cast is joined by Ashley Bouder, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, and her husband, Matthew Dibble, who has danced in England's Royal Ballet.
Overture Center Playhouse, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (7:30 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Dec. 8 & 9; through Dec. 16
Four Seasons Theatre presents a love story about two anonymous pen pals who quarrel in their daily life as coworkers, not knowing the one they hate is also the one they love. The 1963 musical is based on the same short story as You've Got Mail.
Overture Hall, 8 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 8 pm) & Sunday (1 & 6:30 pm), Dec. 8 & 9
The 1980s come to life in this touring Broadway show, a goofy 2009 paean to hair metal that recently spawned a Tom Cruise film. It tells the story of a small-town girl who meets a rocker in 1987 Los Angeles.
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
In the '90s, this folky art-pop band earned comparisons to 10,000 Maniacs and Shawn Colvin. Twenty years and 12 studio albums later, they're more likely to be found consorting with folky country artists like John Prine and Lucinda Williams.
UW Union South Sett, 9 pm
Using crime stories, incisive social commentary, horn and string samples, and live instrumentation, this rap duo channels the chic aura of film noir and the gritty beauty of rust-belt cities. With Kristoff Krane.
Frequency, 9 pm
Lethal is known to YouTubers as "that geeky rapper who makes pancakes in his videos." His oeuvre should be called flip-hop by now (see Tour Stop).
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
These Milwaukee indie rockers made Wisconsin proud by getting signed by Sub Pop a few years ago. Their newest album, Traps, veers into power-pop territory, which has impressed critics at AllMusic and Consequence of Sound. With Surgeons in Heat.
Mills Hall, UW Humanities Bldg., 8 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 9, 7:30 pm
Two UW ensembles combine to bring us Brahms' tender and gently sorrowful "Requiem."
NOTEWORTHY: John Lennon murdered in New York City, 1980.
Chazen Museum of Art, through Feb. 3. Reception: Thursday, Dec. 13, 5-8 pm The UW-affiliated press celebrates 25 years of innovative printmaking with works by Judy Pfaff, Suzanne Caporael, Robert Cottingham and others. The opening reception features a talk by Paula McCarthy Panczenko and music by the Stellanovas (see Madison Music Foundry's Rock Workshop Showcase and Student Jam
High Noon Saloon, noon
Arrive at noon for a jam session where more than 70 students will tackle British fare from the 1960s and '70s, such as the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and Black Sabbath's "Paranoid." Around 1:45 pm, six groups of young rockers and one group of grownup students will perform original tunes, and a new percussion ensemble will explore rhythmic traditions from Brazil.
A Room of One's Own, 6:30 pm
The Madison Review presents the Chicago-based fiction writer and playwright. Known for his honest, experimental, often absurdist writing (The Boy Detective Fails, Hairstyles of the Damned) and fierce support of independent publishers, he'll discuss his latest novel, Office Girl.
Capitol Lakes Retirement Village, 333 West Main St., 7 pm
The local ensemble seeks to make opera accessible with its free performances. A production of Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio -- in which a hero tries to rescue his beloved from a harem -- features a chamber orchestra and emerging voices.
Gates of Heaven, 7 pm
Wisps of folk, Americana and indie pop will waft through the Gates of Heaven synagogue during this concert benefiting the Second Harvest food bank. The lineup includes more than a half-dozen local acts, including Anna Vogelzang, Count This Penny and PHOX (see Music).
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
LaFarge and his backing trio make old-timey jazz, blues and folk influenced by Skip James, Sleepy John Estes and other bluesmen who shaped the first half of the 20th century.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 8 pm
In addition to helping launch the UW's First Wave program, Casal is an accomplished spoken-word artist, freestyle rapper and hip-hop theater trailblazer who got his start on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. With Ragelife, Crashprez and UW First Wave students.
Majestic Theatre, 8:30 pm
Porter is a disciple of Leo Kottke's 1969 album 6 & 12 String Guitar, and his guitar playing has earned praise from critics at the Village Voice and the Washington Post. He'll pull out all the stops when he performs selections from his brand-new album, Cheeseburgers & Gasoline. Bonus: Fans who donate to Toys for Tots upon entry get discounted tickets. With Charlie Abbott.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
These Twin Cities hard rockers aren't afraid to adopt a mainstream sound, even in indie-obsessed Madison. Expect to hear "Rich Kids," the latest single from Race You to the Bottom, their Billboard-charting debut album. With Deuce.
UW Union South Sett, 9 pm
Five horns plus a six-piece rhythm section and a smattering of West African grooves equal musical bliss for this Afrobeat ensemble from Brooklyn, N.Y. They'll share songs from an album due out in 2013, which was inspired by artists such as avant-garde jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler and Swedish metal band Meshuggah.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
This Chicago blues practitioner specializes in slide guitar, which he learned to play after becoming enamored of Hound Dog Taylor at a young age. This show will most likely revolve around Old School Rockin', a new record filled with swamp shuffles and plenty of upbeat boogies.
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
This local duo tend to stay under the radar when they're close to home, but their mysterious-stranger vibe works like a charm in other cities. Though they typically play small bars here in Madison, their gothic country draws droves of fans to Reggie's, a popular multi-stage venue on Chicago's South Side. With New Years Gang.
NOTEWORTHY: United Arab Emirates join United Nations, 1971.
High Noon Saloon, 1:30 pm
Madisonian Noah Riemer, a.k.a. Duke Otherwise, isn't your safe, run-of-the-mill children's entertainer. Stomp, roar and dance along at this off-kilter album-release party for his latest, Creepy Crawly Love. It's where the wild things are.
Overture Center's Promenade Hall, 2 pm
Madison Music Makers, the local group that provides free or reduced-rate music lessons and performance opportunities to low-income children, hosts this family-friendly holiday-themed fundraiser. There'll be performances by the Madison Ballet and Mt. Zion Church Children's Choir, as well as a celebrity auction. Put your money where your music is.
High Noon Saloon, 7:30 pm
An offshoot of the venerable doom-metal band Sleep, this group addresses its aggressive impulses the healthy way: by melting faces with guitar riffage, drum pummelings and vocals that range from snarls to roars. With Goatwhore, Lo-Pan and Zebras.