Those with a hankering for out-of-the-ordinary vocalizing have a couple of choices tonight. First up, Stormy Weather, a venerable doo-wop a cappella ensemble with a 20-year history, will be singing selections from their album Street Carols . . . December Voices for free at 8 at Barnes and Noble, 659 W. Diversey (871-9004). Down south, and a bit further afield musically, is Anonymous 4, which has a thing for medieval chants. Their program, “A Star in the East,” is also at 8, in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th. It’s $20, $8 for students; call 702-8068 for details.
Redmoon Theater presents holiday tales using large-scale puppets and contributions from locals in its Winter Pageant. It happen this weekend only at the Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, with shows tonight at 8:30, and tomorrow and Sunday at 6 and 8:30. Tickets are $5. Call 772-9069.
Looking for some unusual gifts? The state is holding an auction of the unclaimed contents of 39,000 safe-deposit boxes. Overseers say most of the material is what you’d expect, but there are some oddities, including tickets to the original Woodstock. Coins and stamps will be auctioned today at 11, jewelry, watches, and silver tomorrow at the same time. There’s no admission charge. The sales take place at Dunning’s Auction Services, 755 Church Rd. in Elgin. Call 708-741-3483 for more.
All Jane Austen needed for her novels, according to Eudora Welty, were two country households. “Convenient and constant communication goes on between those two households. The day, the week, the season fill to the brim with news, arrivals, tumult and crises, and the succeeding invitations.” You can celebrate the 220th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth with the regional chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America today at noon. The group anticipates a dramatic reading of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” by Steve Totland of Lifeline Theatre, along with toasts and speeches. It’s $15, at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. Call 334-7644 for reservations.
An experiment in gustatory performance continues at Randolph Street Gallery with “Notte Italiana/Italian Night,” part two of a Saturday series called Useful Cooking and Eating. Tonight chef-performers Douglas Grew, Frank Melcori, and Lionel Bottari will cook Italian style at 8. It’s $10, $6 for members, for the demonstrations and some food. Next week’s theme: “Last but Not Least Leftovers.” The gallery is at 756 N. Milwaukee; call 666-7737.
In its three-year history In Terra Vox, a Hyde Park-based a cappella ensemble, has performed with the Chicago Composer’s Consortium, the University of Chicago New Music Ensemble, and the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tonight at 8 it will perform a holiday program, “Nowell Sing We!,” which features works from the tenth century to the present and includes motets, hymns, and carols from England, France, Germany, and Sweden. It’s at the University of Chicago’s Goodspeed Recital Hall, 1010 E. 59th. Reserved seats cost $8, $5 for students and seniors. A donation will be requested at the door for general seating. Call 288-2010.
The Lyric Opera shows off its renovations today with a backstage tour. You can see dressing rooms, coaching rooms, prop rooms, the orchestra pit, and the wig, makeup, and costume shops. Two-hour tours leave every ten minutes from 11:30 to 3:30. It’s $17.50; an additional $7.50 gets you a lunch catered by Ann Sather. The Civic Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker. Call 332-2244, ext. 222, for reservations.
While Handel was acclaimed as perhaps the greatest musician of his time during his life, his works, with a few notable exceptions, have been well neglected since his death. His influence has been seen by some as less than positive: “Thanks to Handel, any British composer had to write elaborate choral pieces to prove himself, and, in effect, England went oratorio crazy. . . . His powerful influence has a stifling effect on English music,” writes Harold Schonberg. The Rockefeller Chapel Choir and the Symphony of the Shores team up at 2 and 8 today for the church’s 49th annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah. Tickets are $12. It’s at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn. Call 753-1191 for more.
The Chicago Nutrition Association’s ongoing attempt to educate Chicagoans on the realities of good eating and weight loss continues today with a talk by Barbara J. Rolls. Rolls, a nutrition prof at Penn State, is a heavyweight, so to speak, in the field of obesity research and the president elect of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. She talks for free at 3:30 in the auditorium of the First National Bank, Madison and Dearborn. Call 240-2653 for details.
Newsweek Washington bureau chief Evan Thomas has a new book on the CIA, The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA. He’ll talk at 6 at the Hotel Inter-Continental, 505 N. Michigan; cocktails are at 5:30. It’s $22, $12 for members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Call 726-3860 for more.
If you’re gay and a metal head, attendance is mandatory at Bag Yer Head, an annual “homosexual headbanger hootenanny,” as its organizers call it. Your deejay hosts, Pate and Chandra, will be collecting toys, clothes, diapers, food, and formula for the kids at A Children’s Place, an AIDS service agency. It’s at the Closet, 3325 N. Broadway from 7 to 11 tonight; admission is free. Call 477-8533 for details.
Beyond Category–The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington, a four-month exhibit on the life and work of one of America’s great composers, opens today at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which is displaying everything from Ellington’s own portable Wurlitzer piano to photos, posters, manuscripts, and videotaped testimonials from the likes of Wynton Marsalis. The museum, at 740 E. 56th Place, is open 10 to 4 Monday though Saturday, noon to 4 on Sunday. It’s $3, $2 for seniors and teens, $1 for kids. Thursdays are free. Call 947-0600.
Let’s see: over the past 15 years the Republican Party has attempted to dent government funding of whatever social programs it could get its hands on and has advocated removing governmental oversight of business. Lately the party has been accused of trying to balance the budget on the backs of women and children. To refute those who would say the party’s entirely heartless, the 43rd Ward Regular Republican Organization is collecting a few toys for economically disadvantaged kids tonight. Ten dollars and a toy get you into an hors d’oeuvres reception at DePaul University’s Commons, 2324 N. Fremont. Call 787-5858 for details.
Andres Serrano had his work introduced to much of America a few years back when conservative congressional opponents of government funding of the arts focused on his photograph Piss Christ, which featured a crucifix immersed in urine. This infamous work is included in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s new show Andres Serrano: Works 1983-1993. Serrano speaks at 6:30 tonight at the John B. Murphy Memorial Auditorium, 50 E. Erie. Admission is $8, $6 for museum members; reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 280-2696.