Hot Picks 12.23.21

Many people throughout Monterey County go big with their Christmas decorations, but Candy Cane Lane in Pacific Grove (pictured) is especially famous as a destination for over-the-top lights and scenes.

Bach for Sleepless Nights

New Camaldoli Hermitage celebrates the holidays with some insomnia-curing Bach – relocated from the hermitage in Big Sur to SandBox in Sand City. First published in 1741, the “Goldberg Variations’’ for viola (Cynthia Black), cello (Michelle Djokic) and violin (Edwin Huizinga) were written for a man called Hermann Karl von Keyserling, a count, and the former Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony. The count used to visit Bach in Leipzig, bringing along a young performer who lived in his house full time, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. Those lively clavier pieces were requested for Goldberg to master and play to cheer his benefactor up – and help him sleep through the night. According to Bach’s early biographer, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Keyserling always called the pieces his variations. He never tired of them and often demanded: “Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.” [AP]

2pm Thursday, Dec. 23. SandBox, 440 Ortiz Ave. #A, Sand City. $35.,

Holiday Virtuosity

Something about the strings of a violin just feels cozier in the holiday months. Put them alongside a cello and piano and add Mendelssohn’s dramatic compositions to the mix, and suddenly you have quite the event. Violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu welcomes pianist Ines Irawati and cellist Tanya Tomkins for the Hidden Valley Music Seminars holiday event, “Bells, Bells, Bells,” a celebration of the chamber music of Mendelssohn, Anton Arensky and Jean-Marie Leclair. Wu – who has received international praise for her violin playing, has taught at the University of Southern California and currently serves as the music director at the New Asia Chamber Music Society – directs the event at the Carmel Valley venue. [CN]

7-8:30pm Thursday, Dec. 23. Hidden Valley Music Seminars, 104 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. $25. Proof of vaccination and face masks required. For tickets, visit

Let There Be Lights

OK, so maybe you’re not First Lady Jill Biden, who reportedly started working on the White House Christmas decorations in May. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go big and bold and festive and celebratory. And plenty of homes in Monterey County do just that – ringing in the holiday season with multi-colored lights and even displays of reindeer and the occasional Santa Claus. It’s true even in rural areas, where a light display will brighten a pitch-dark road this time of year, but it’s especially true in the cities of Salinas and Pacific Grove, where you can go for a chilly evening walk, maybe with hot chocolate (or a hot toddy) in hand and take it all in. Look for subtle, classy displays, as well as those super-mega-over-the-top displays (OK, maybe those people did start planning their full displays in May, if not before). None of them, at least as far as we’ve seen, are a match for the White House’s 41-tree display, but they’re bright and spirited and they’ll make you smile – unless you’re a Christmas grinch. [SR]

Anywhere and everywhere! Some suggested neighborhoods: Candy Cane Lane in Pacific Grove (Beaumont Avenue off Forest Avenue); Dennett Street from Sinex Avenue to 17-Mile Drive, Pacific Grove; Columbia Avenue, from W. Acacia Street to Lemos Avenue, Salinas; San Juan Drive (a loop at San Miguel Avenue) in Salinas, near SVMH.


Catch the Monarchs

For those fortunate to have some time off between Christmas and New Year’s, now is an ideal time to catch a glimpse of the monarch butterflies everyone has been buzzing about through the fall. After an abysmal season last winter, when alarmingly low numbers of monarchs were seen in Pacific Grove and at other overwintering spots along the coast (Butterfly Town saw an official count of zero last year) the monarchs are finally back in large numbers. Over 14,000 were counted in the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in mid-December. This means it’s a perfect time to go see P.G.’s visiting local heroes. Try the early morning to see the monarchs clustered among the hanging branches of the sanctuary. If the sun is out later in the day you may catch them fluttering around overhead. Bring a pair of binoculars to catch their spectacular colors, but leave dogs at home. [PM]

Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, 250 Ridge Road, P.G. Free. or

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