A refreshing way to spend part of your pre-Christmas lunch hours -- especially if you work in downtown Bakersfield -- is to attend the organ recitals at First Presbyterian Church.
Thursday is the first in a series of three 30-minute concerts during the Advent season. It will be followed by performances on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19.
Organist Phillip Dodson leads off and will be joined by his wife, violinist Jean Dodson in a "carol-sing" program.
"He (Dodson) enjoys the variety of organ sounds at First Pres, so people will hear his creativity and sensitivity as they are led into the sounds of Christmas," said Meg Wise, the church's resident organist.
On Dec. 12, Wise and Marcia Krause will play a piano-organ duet as well as solo pieces.
"We are preparing a variety of traditional Christmas music arranged for organ," Wise said. "The melodies will be recognizable with imaginative arrangements."
Carols they plan to play are "Silent Night," "What Child Is This," "The First Noel," "Shepherd Carols," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."
Bakersfield native T. Paul Rosas, who now is the senior organist at the Los Altos United Methodist Church, will perform the final recital on Dec. 19.
"We are happy to have Paul join us during this busy season," Wise said. "It's always interesting to hear what he comes up with."
His program will include one of his original compositions as well as Christmas music by William Bates, Jean Langlais and Michael Burkhardt.
The recitals are free but those who wish to can bring a gift of non-perishable food items.
Art Center's 2014 calendar
Even though winners of the many silent auction items being offered by the Bakersfield Art Association won't be announced until Saturday at their Christmas Open House Party, you can make a bid today and Friday.
I recently previewed the offerings at the Art Center -- it serves as the BAA headquarters as well as an art gallery -- and was impressed with the variety of contents in each of the attractively wrapped baskets.
There's everything from a selection of fine wines, passes to local theaters, gift certificates for Dewar's and Smith's Bakeries to art supplies and doggy treats plus grooming items for canines.
One amusing but utilitarian gift is a 36-inch metal shelf shaped like a dachshund complete with a floppy red tongue and a curlicue tail that wiggles. The donor is Alpha Canine Sanctuary and though it's called a shelf, it has little feet that put it several inches off the floor so it could also be used as footrest. Whatever the use, it's definitely a conversation piece.
Also in the silent auction are signup sheets for lessons of various kinds from about 10 member artists.
Of course the entire gallery is filled with artwork by various artists as well as pottery, wood carvings, hand-woven baskets, jewelry and individual hand-painted notecards.
A highlight on Saturday will be a drawing for two high-value items, said BAA member Stella Mullins. Tickets sell for $1 each.
"One is a portrait of your pet by Patti Doolittle -- that's worth $400," Mullins said. "And we have a getaway to the Rankin Ranch; it's a dude ranch up in the mountains with horseback riding and everything; it's a $300 value."
A non-auction item that caught my eye is the BAA 2014 calendar. On its cover is Elleta Abuliel's gorgeous painting of Kern County's famous wildflowers cascading down a hillside.
On the inside are paintings done by 12 local artists -- one for each month of the year.
Among those I especially liked are Kathy Schilling's "Fox Theater on 20th Street," a well-done collage incorporating various elements and certainly the most creative rendition of the theater I've ever seen; "The Original Clock Tower" by Gary Knerr, an impressionist painting of the historic tower on a rainy day prior to the 1952 earthquake that caused its demolition; and Cindy Stiles' "Arvin Winter Vines," depicting row upon row of leafless, neatly tied grapevines in the foreground with Bear Mountain looming in the background.
I see the calendar as a unique gift for out-of-town friends and family, one that shows many of the scenes our county is known for. It sells for $15 and is also available at Russo's Books in The Marketplace.