The holiday arts season is in full swing, with the annual Christmas spectacular by the MSO, The Nutcracker by Dance Wisconsin, and a concert by the Festival Choir of Madison. Shop for gifts, meanwhile, at the Fair Trade Holiday Festival, the Madison Hours Holiday Trade Fair, and the Holiday Craftacular. There's much more this weekend, including: the Ebony Fashion Fair; the Madison for World Health Concert and the Machara Miracle Network Benefit for Darfur; more live music by Everything, Now!, Adam Diller, The Sadies, Pert' Near Sandstone, Denison Witmer, Jim Post and Randy Sabien, The Afromotive, John Brown's Body, Ka-Boom!Box, and Athens; an art opening with Barbara Probst at MMoCA; and book readings by Sharon Kaye and Mary Bergin.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 6:30 pm
The New York- and Munich-based photographer appears at MMoCA's First Friday event to talk about the new exhibit Probst: Exposures. Probst uses arrays of coordinated cameras to capture events -- a family walking across a city street, say -- from several angles simultaneously.
Electric Earth Cafe, 546 W. Washington Ave., 7 pm
A grab bag of Madison bands teams up with Indiana-bred psych-rock experimentalists Everything, Now! for an evening packed with garage, glam, noise and more. Also playing: Pax Americana, Alethio, Social Science Riot, El-Tin Fun, Hunger Strike Riot.
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Overture Center's Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Dec. 6 & 7
The annual Christmas spectacular -- with selections from Handel, Puccini and Mel Tormé, among many others -- features not only John Demain's MSO, but also the Madison Symphony Chorus, the Madison Youth Choirs, the Mount Zion Gospel Choir, Madison Area Concert Handbells and Samuel Hutchison on the big organ, plus soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine and tenor Gregory Turay. Now that's what we call a Christmas spectacular.
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, 8 pm
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based film composer Adam Diller leads a double life as the sax-playing frontman of the hip-hop-free-jazz fusion group $.99 Dreams. Think Sun Ra meets Lord Finesse, with the score of a Kubrick movie thrown in for good measure. Also appearing: Local saxophonist JoAnne Powers.
Four-man alt-country outfit The Sadies helped spur the late-'90s alt-country movement in their native Canada as well as here in the U.S. In addition to collaborating with groups such as the Tragically Hip and acting as Neko Case's live backup band, they've released eight albums of their own, including last year's New Seasons, from which they'll play songs at this week's show. Also playing: Tim Easton, Jentri Colello.
Pert' Near Sandstone
Cafe Montmartre, 10 pm
Like Old Crow Medicine Show and other string-music revivalists, the energetic Twin Cities combo Pert' Near Sandstone serves up an acoustic, old-timey country sound without getting hung up on bluegrass orthodoxy. Good stuff.
Fair Trade Holiday Festival
Monona Terrace, 9 am-4 pm
Attention, holiday shoppers: Still no need to panic. There's plenty of time till your gift-swapping winter holiday of choice, and you can pick up socially conscious art and crafts from Bali, Guatamala, Kenya and all points in between at this confab, brought to you by Community Action on Latin America.
Madison Hours Holiday Trade Fair
High Noon Saloon, 11 am-3 pm
If you'd like to keep your holiday-shopping bucks in the community, visit this daytime expo at one of downtown's coolest nightspots, featuring vendors purveying locally made food, beauty products, clothes, crafts and other goodies.
Booked for Murder, 1 pm
Madison native Kaye, a philosophy professor at Ohio's John Carroll University, comes to talk up The Aristotle Quest, Book One: A Dana McCarter Trilogy, a sexy suspense thriller about an academic researcher who encounters hitherto undiscovered Aristotelian writings.
Disney Live's Winnie the Pooh
Alliant Energy Center's Coliseum, 1:30 pm
Bring the kids to this extravaganza, featuring the singing and dancing of Pooh, Piglet and the gang. Many of us grew up with Disney's take on A.A. Milne's characters, and we still can't get that willy nilly silly tune out of our heads.
The Frequency, Dec. 6, 7 pm
On his latest album, the brand-new Carry the Weight, Philadelphia singer-songwriter Witmer performs appealing, folkish rock propelled by his sweet tenor voice and fingerpicked acoustic guitar. "Carry the weight of your neighbor," he implores on the langourous title track; we can dig it. Also appearing: Ben Weaver.
Dance Wisconsin's The Nutcracker
Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 7, 2 pm
The holiday arts season is in full swing, which brings us to this production by the local troupe for young dancers. The performance features guests Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, among the principal dancers of American Ballet Theatre.
Madison for World Health Concert
Majestic Theatre, 7:30 pm
You may have seen the CDs around town, but the benefit concert hosted by Madison for World Health is sure to be one of the year's most memorable. CD contributors such as Rob Dz, Amy Curl and Dan Kennedy, Jim Schwall and Mark Croft will all make appearances, as well as the Fountain of Life Gospel Choir and 105.5's Jonathan Suttin, who is emceeing the event. Learn more about the concert -- and its mission of fighting the HIV, tuberculosis and malaria pandemic in developing nations -- in this week's music feature, and visit madisonforworldhealth.com for the full concert roster.
Machara Miracle Network Benefit for Darfur
Mercury Restaurant Lounge, 8:30 pm
Chicago's the Interiors spin math rock, post-punk and a soulful sort of funk into a thoroughly addictive type of ear candy. Madison's This Bright Apocalypse and Chris Quimbo round out the bill for the night's anti-genocide fundraiser.
Jim Post and Randy Sabien
Cafe Carpe, 8:30 pm
Accomplished jazz violinist Randy Sabien takes the stage with witty folk troubadour Jim Post for a performance that's sure to be entertaining as well as musically gratifying.
Rathskeller, Memorial Union, 9 pm
North Carolina eight-piece The Afromotive explores funk music's African roots with heavy beats, a huge dose of horns and an impressive amount of onstage energy.
John Brown's Body
The Annex, 8 pm
The Massachusetts-based reggae band, which incorporates rock and electronic elements, has seen jarring changes since the release of its 2006 album Pressure Points, especially the death of bassist Scott Palmer. But they're back with this year's appealing Amplify. Also appearing: Spiritual Rez.
Mickey's Tavern, 10 pm
Madison-based DJ collective Ka-Boom!Box solders together electronica, dub and pop in a way that sounds at least as great live as it does on your iPod.
Orange Tree Imports, 1 pm Snap up the perfect solstice gift for the foodie on your shopping list as the local author plugs her book Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers.
Festival Choir of Madison
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 2 pm
Now in its 36th season, the choir performs a mix of holiday fare familiar and less familiar in this concert, dubbed "Rejoice!"
Ebony Fashion Fair
Monona Terrace, 8 pm
Nothing chases away the cold-weather blues like haute couture, and this traveling show features designs by Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta and others. On hand is model Jada Collins, who's promoting her self-help book Be-You-Tiful: The Three Fold Process to Becoming You.
Frequency, 9:30 pm
Athens casts a gothic shadow over its brand of jangle pop with spooky vox and synth sounds and lyrics that are creepy at one moment, comical at the next. Also playing: American Fiction.