Windham Hill's Winter Solstice Tour: The label's seventh annual winter carnival of contemporary classical (read: new age) music is a perennial highlight--a hushed celebration amid the season's prattle. Celtic chamber ensemble Nightnoise anchors the bill, which includes bassist Michael Manring and singer-songwriter Patty Larkin. Shows are scheduled at 8p.m. Thursday and Friday at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Tickets are $19 and $24, available at the center and Ticketmaster. Call 994-2787 or 784-4444.
APS Fiesta of Light and Downtown Holiday Tree Tour: City of Phoenix's free holiday Fiesta features a 194-foot-tall tree and a bright new display. The scene is Phoenix Civic Plaza, Second Street and Adams. The free, self-guided Tree Tour includes stops at Arizona Center (see "City Lights" in Events listing), Bank One Center, Orpheum Theatre and Heritage Square. The display and the tour continue nightly, through January 1. For details or a free tour brochure, call 534-3378 or 254-8696.
A Christmas Carol: Actors Theatre of Phoenix's traditional production of Charles Dickens' ghost story, adapted by Richard Hellesen and featuring music by David de Barry, continues in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Final performances are at 8p.m. Thursday and 2 and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets range from $10 to $23.50, available at Herberger and Dillard's; call 252-8497 or 678-2222. Friday's early show is a "priceless matinee," in which patrons pay what they can afford; call 253-6701 for reservations.
Arizona Biltmore Celebrity Bake Sale: Desperately seeking the recipe for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Christmas cow-pie cookies? Look no further. The benefit for Biltmore Children's Charities, scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the resort's conference center, 24th Street and Missouri, also includes baked goods whipped up by Charles Barkley, Julia Child, Barry Goldwater, Glen Campbell, Martha Stewart, Skip Rimsza, Bill Frieder and many local-media talking heads. Every item is priced at $12, and all proceeds benefit the nonprofit organization. For details call 955-6600.
"Baroque Christmas": Phoenix Symphony Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Clotilde Otranto, joins Phoenix Bach Choir in holiday performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of Phoenix, 7000 North Central, and at the same time Friday at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue. The program includes Vivaldi's "Gloria" and J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048. Tickets to Thursday's show are $16, available at symphony and Dillard's box offices (call 264-6363 or 678-2222). Tickets to Friday's performance are $12, $15 and $18, available at the scene and Ticketmaster (call 786-3954 or 784-4444).
ZooLights: Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, is garbed in its usual Technicolor dreamcoat of lights--600,000 strong--during this glorious annual event. The after-hours fun continues from 6 to 9 nightly (except Sunday), through January 27. New this year: "The Enchanted Forest," including the Santalike "Mountain Father," costumed characters and nature workshops. Special admission is $4, $3.50 for members, free for kids age 3 and under; discount tickets are available at Fry's stores. For details call 273-1341, extension 7810.
"Italian Paintings From Burghley House" Lectures: The new installation at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central, features 60 16th- to 18th-century masterworks from the Elizabethan mansion of Brits John Cecil and Brownlow Cecil, the fifth and ninth earls of Exeter. Artists represented in the exhibition, which continues through February 25, include Dolci, Bassano, Calandrucci, Giordano, Recco and del Brescianino. The museum's associate curator, Karen Hodges, explores classical myths and imagery in the exhibit during a lecture titled "Gods, Goddesses and Mere Mortals: What Are They Doing?"; it starts at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. PAM docent Mary Bunyan speaks on "Burghley: The Life of a Great House" at 7 p.m. Wednesday and 12:15 p.m. December 28. Admission and viewing are free. For general information, see the Art Exhibits listing or call 257-1880.
International Christmas XV: The annual holiday show, held in conjunction with APS Fiesta of Light (see above), continues at Bank One Center Concourse, 201 North Central. The highlight of the free event is the display of live Eldarica pines decorated in the traditional styles of Japan, Iceland, Serbia, Sweden and 38 other nations. ICXV also features an exhibition of wooden Santa carvings by Joseph Cabeen, the Nativity collection of Bill Wilbur and a doll show by Arizona Doll and Toy Museum. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, through December 29. For more information, call 221-1005 or 534-3378.
Ballet Arizona's Nutcracker: The troupe continues its tenth season with this presentation of Tchaikovsky's classic, choreographed by the ballet's artistic director, Michael Uthoff. Phoenix Symphony, conducted by James Sedares, performs the score. This week's performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7p.m. Tuesday and 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. The show continues through December 29. Tickets are $18, $26 and $33, available at ballet and Dillard's box offices. For details call 381-1096 or 678-2222.