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Events abound to ring in the season

things to do this weekend

1. Simple Gifts with Billy McLaughlin

On their 15th anniversary tour, award-winning guitarist Billy McLaughlin and his ensemble,  Simple Gifts, will perform Sunday in Southwest Middle School’s Little Theatre in Albert Lea.

Simple Gifts and McLaughlin, who is known for his harp-like guitar playing and who has achieved Billboard’s Top Ten Chart, will play songs from their sixth CD “This Christmastide,” which was recently released.

McLaughlin said the record is focused on music that many other groups don’t pay attention to, namely traditional carols and hymns with a celtic flavor and an old-world feel.

“There’s an original song on this record, there’s an a cappella piece that’s an old hymn,” he said. “There’s a classic combination of guitar, vocals, percussion, violin, bagpipes, celtic whistles and concertina.”

The group is also teaming up with the Albert Lea High School Chorale on a piece McLaughlin wrote titled “Oh Mary.” The song started out as an a cappella song meant for three singers that references the traditional Christmas story of Jesus Christ but has been reworked into a choral arrangement by Minnesota standout choral arranger Nate Sabin.

Tickets are $20 for adults in advance and $10 for students or $25 for adults at the door.

People can purchase tickets online at www.simplegiftsmusic.net or at Marshall Street Music, Hy-Vee, Stadheim Jewelers and the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The show will begin at 7 p.m. This will be the ninth year for the show.

The annual drive-thru live Nativity at New Life Christian Church will be on Friday and Saturday at the church. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The annual drive-thru live Nativity at New Life Christian Church will be on Friday and Saturday at the church. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

2. Live drive-thru Nativity

New Life Christian Church will host its 23rd annual drive-thru live Nativity from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the church, 1705 S.E. Marshall St. in Albert Lea.

People are invited to drive their automobiles through the church’s parking lot to see live actors and animals re-enact the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

The event incorporates about 100 volunteers.

Admission is free.

Monroe Crossing — which showcases a blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals — will perform Friday at Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. - Provided

Monroe Crossing — which showcases a blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals — will perform Friday at Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. – Provided

3. Monroe Crossing: Bluegrass Christmas

Based in the Twin Cities, Monroe Crossing is a favorite among bluegrass connoisseurs and non-bluegrass audiences alike.

Named in honor of Bill Monroe, who is known as the father of bluegrass music, Monroe Crossing dazzles audiences with a blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals.

The group has entertained audiences across the United States, Canada and Europe and will perform in Albert Lea at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $18.

4. Set Memories Aglow

The annual Set Memories Aglow tree-lighting ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday in the front drive of Mayo Clinic Health System, 404 W. Fountain St.

Monetary donations can be made in memory of a loved one, friend or for someone living that people wish to honor. Donation forms are available at the Mayo Clinic Store on the first floor of the medical center or in the hospice office at 1705 S.E. Broadway.

Donations support the Albert Lea hospice program to provide patient care items, family bereavement services and free public groups.

The tree will remain lit through the holiday season.

5. “Hamlet”

National Theatre will broadcast “Hamlet” live at 7 p.m. Saturday to Marion Ross Performing Art Center.

Academy Award nominee Benedict Cumberbatch will take on the title role of William Shakespeare’s great tragedy.

Forced to avenge his father’s death, but paralyzed by the task ahead, Hamlet rages against the impossibility of his predicament, threatening both his sanity and the security of the state.

Admission is $20 for adults or $12 for students.