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Timely song cycle

Originating one cold winter’s day in 2004 as a song circle for heartache, the Winterpills have blossomed into one of the more talented and successful bands to emerge from the Meadow City music scene. A chamber-pop quintet whose “ghostly, shimmering music, beatific harmonies” (Harp) and “elegant arrangements steeped in 1960s folk-pop and rootsy rock” (The New York Times) are like “densely packed but hugely evocative, tiny bombs of feeling and meaning” (The Washington Post), the group has seen their four albums highly praised in the national press and their songs enlisted for various television shows (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” NBC’s “Parenthood”), gaining them an audience well beyond the confines of New England.

Appearing tonight at the Parlor Room at Signature Sounds in Northampton, they’ll be performing selections from their most recent album, “All My Lovely Goners,” a work whose overall theme seems fortuitously suited to recent events: “Every song is about the tenuous threads that hold us to the split second dream of life,” says Winterpills frontman and songwriter Philip Price, “...the people we’ve loved, the people we miss, the people who stand in our backyard and are always looking through our windows.”

Two sets, at 7 and 9 p.m. $15. The Parlor Room is at 32 Masonic Street in Northampton. 665-4036, parlorroommusic.com

Out of the box

The story goes that while he was engaged in composing the music for “The Nutcracker” Tchaikovsky accepted a bet that he could not write a theme based on the notes of the octave in sequence (do, re, mi, etc.). Improbably, the result is one of his most beautiful melodies, the adagio from the Grand Pas de Deux of the second act, where Clara dances with her magical Christmas present, the Nutcracker Prince.

While the version of the ballet created by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1954 remains the definitive “Nutcracker” for American audiences, the work exists in many choreographic incarnations, with numerous plot variations, titles ranging from “The Magic Nutcracker” and “Winter Carnival” to “Sugar Plums,” and a heroine who is sometimes known as Clara, sometimes as Marie or Maria (or Masha, as she is affectionately called in Russia), the one constant being Tchaikovsky’s brilliant music.

Set for performances this weekend, East Street Ballet’s 50-minute modified version is titled “The Christmas Treasure Box” and will feature all the familiar sequences set to new choreography by Irina Vakhromeeva, East Street’s artistic director for the past six years and a former principal dancer with the Moscow Ballet. “Irina’s work is based more on the earliest Russian versions,” says East Street director Barbara Kauff (and, yes, the heroine named Masha). Under the overall title of “Holiday Jewels,” East Street dancers will also be presenting works from their repertory, including ballet and modern dances by Claire Maurey, Tai Jimenez and Onalie Arts.

Performances are Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the East Street Dance Center Studio Theater, 47 East Street in Hadley. $12 general admission; $10 students and seniors; $8 children under 12. 584-5535

— Dan DeNicola

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