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The Blind Boys of Alabama perform during a 90th birthday celebration for civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph Lowery, at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, Oct. 9, 2011, in Atlanta. (John Amis/Associated Press)
The Blind Boys of Alabama perform during a 90th birthday celebration for civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph Lowery, at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, Oct. 9, 2011, in Atlanta. (John Amis/Associated Press)

What to do in Toronto, Dec. 1-7: Blind Boys of Alabama, Leonard Cohen, and lots of Christmas cheer Add to ...

Blind Boys still singing after 73 years

The gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama was formed by glee club members at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. The name of the school alone is a clue that we’re going back a few years. It was, in fact, in 1939 that Jimmy Carter and five other singers began an extraordinary odyssey, which brings the troupe to Roy Thomson on Dec. 7 for a show of festive-season sacred music. Mr. Carter, one of two surviving members, may or may not recall the state of things in 1939.

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In 1939, Gone With the Wind, a romantic epic film starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and set in the American Civil War, was the talk of Hollywood.

In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt, after consulting with the superstar physicist Albert Einstein, initiated a program to develop atomic weaponry. In 2005, the Blind Boys recorded (Jesus Hits Like the) Atom Bomb, a song from 1950

In 1939, hit songs included Irving Berlin’s God Bless America (as recorded by Kate Smith) and the Billie Holiday-sung Strange Fruit. The former included a verse which rhymed “land so fair” with “solemn prayer,” while the latter addressed the lynching of African Americans.

ART & MUSEUMS

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

 

Some 30 prints from the late, controversial New York photographer include nudes and famously striking shots of the unreasonably perfect physique of Lisa Lyon. To Jan. 31. Free. Olga Korper Gallery, 17 Morrow Ave., 416-538-8220.

 

CONCERTS

 

Leonard Cohen

 

Laughing Lenny gets the last laugh: The brooding Montreal bard continues his late-career bloom, bringing the autumnal material of this year’s Old Ideas to an arena near you. Dec. 4 and 5, 8 p.m. $39.75 to $270.25. Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St., 1-855-985-5000.

 

Chick Corea and Gary Burton

 

The jazz-star piano-vibraphone duo tours its 2012 album Hot House, here made hotter by the appearance of special guests the Harlem String Quartet for a night of interpretation – of Kurt Weill, Thelonious Monk and another twosome of note, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Dec. 5, 8 p.m. $45 to $99. Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208.

 

CLUBS

 

Kelly Hogan

 

The Neko Case-endorsed backup singer presents her own album I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, an exercise in sad-styled country-soul, as written by M. Ward, Andrew Bird, Robyn Hitchcock, Vic Chesnutt and Stephen Merritt. What can we say, but that their pain is our and the Georgia singer’s gain. Dec. 1, 8 p.m. $15.50 to $18 (available at Soundscapes and Rotate This). Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042.

 

Sheesham & Lotus & Son

 

From Kingston, here comes high-stepping Americana music from the 1920s, an era which in the imagination of this trio is incomplete without a “contrabass harmoniphoneum” and a “sepiaphonic-monophone.” Dec. 2, 6 p.m. $10. Rivoli, 334 Queen St. W., 416-596-1908.

 

THEATRE

 

A Christmas Carol

 

Most of the year they’re at regular body temperature, but Soulpepper’s beloved annual production of Dickens’s triple-ghost classic totally toasts our heart’s cockles. To Dec. 29. $32 to $68. Young Centre, 50 Tank House Lane, 416-866-8666.

 

Terminus

 

A darker-than-dark Irish play written in vividly vulgar verse and involving three interlocking monologues is presented uniquely, with ticket-holders seated on 200 on-stage seats. To Dec. 16. $69. Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W., 416-872-1212.

 

This is What Happens Next

 

An autobiographical one-hander from the team of Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks is self-billed as a “scary fairy tale with a happy ending,” which also describes the troubled administration of our city’s embattled mayor. Dec. 4 to 9 (previews begin Dec. 1). $15 to $25. Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St., 416-504-9971.

 

Fare Game: Life in Toronto’s Taxis

 

The meter is running, and so is this multimedia exploration of the men and women who get us where we’re going. To Dec. 8. $25 to $35. Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., 416-504-7529.

 

DANCE

 

Perreault

 

By Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, an homage to the late Montreal choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault includes dance and Tim Southam's elegant documentary Danser Perreault. Dec. 4 to 8. 8 p.m. $25 to $35. Citadel, 304 Parliament St., 416-364-8011 or colemanlemieux.com.

 

National Ballet of Canada: Giselle

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