Most Christmas music is vocal music, and suddenly choral concerts are happening all over the landscape. One of the most lavish harbingers of the season is Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," a classic American opera, which will be performed almost around the clock beginning Tuesday at the Eisenhower Theater.

Another classic American opera -- this one with no seasonal implications -- "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," will be performed twice Saturday at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre by the Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, and a musical theater piece called "Madrigal Dinner" will be performed by the American University Singers, with traditional Renaissance costumes, Friday and Saturday nights at American University's University Club.

Other seasonal and/or vocal music this week will include: Arlington Metropolitan Chorus, today at the National Presbyterian Church; the Chancel Choir, today at the Westmoreland Church; La Rondinella, today at All Souls Episcopal Church; the Chancel Choir of North Chevy Chase, today at North Chevy Chase Christian Church; the Washington Men's Camerata, today at Old Presbyterian Meeting House and Saturday night at National Cathedral School; a Messiah sing-along, today at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church; Sally Martin, soprano, Tuesday night at George Mason University; the Gay Men's Chorus, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at the Church of the Epiphany; Chanticleer, Wednesday at Baird Auditorium; the Alexandria Singers, Saturday and next Sunday at Christ Church Parish House; the Cathedral Choral Society, with the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, Saturday and next Sunday at the Washington Cathedral; the Cantate Chamber Singers, Saturday at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church and next Sunday in Gaston Hall; the Amadeus Orchestra, with the Washington Camerata, Saturday at Providence Baptist Church; the Florida Mass Choir, Friday night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; Catholic University's annual Christmas concert, Friday night at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; the Barnes and Hampton Consort in "A Celtic Christmas" with readings by Robert Aubry Davis, Friday, Saturday and next Sunday at the Dumbarton Church.

John Eliot Gardiner will be the National Symphony Orchestra's guest conductor this week, with Joshua Bell as soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto. The National Gallery Orchestra, conducted by George Manos, will give a free all-Mahler concert tonight at the National Gallery of Art. The American Chamber Orchestra will present an all-Bach program tomorrow night in the Terrace Theater. Other orchestral activity will include the National Medical Musical Group, Wednesday night in Constitution Hall, and the D.C. Youth Orchestra, Saturday night at Coolidge High School.

Highlights of the week's chamber music will include: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center; the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, today at NIH; the Emerson String Quartet, Saturday in Baird Auditorium; the Cleveland Institute of Music Chamber Players, Friday night in the Terrace Theater. Also worth noting: the Washington Camerata, today at the Lyceum; 11-year-old violinist Julia Park, violin, tomorrow night at the Netherlands Embassy; the Contemporary Music Forum, tomorrow night in CU's Ward Recital Hall; the Commonwealth Brass Quintet, tomorrow night at Strathmore Hall; the Washington Bach Consort, Tuesday at the Church of the Epiphany; Leland Chen, violin, Tuesday night in the Terrace Theater; Andrew Shulman, cello, Friday night in the Hall of Musical Instruments; Raphaella Smits, guitar, Friday night at National Presbyterian Church; the Manchester String Quartet, Friday night at the Holton-Arms School.

Pianist Andre Watts will play Saturday night at George Mason University's Center for the Arts. Other keyboard performers this week include pianists George Winston, tomorrow night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; Rita Bouboulidi, Thursday night in the Terrace Theater; Jose Feghali, Saturday night in the Terrace Theater; Meral Guneyman, tomorrow night at the IMF Visitors' Center; and harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova, today at the Phillips Collection. DANCE The Dance Performance Group, Nancy Havlik, artistic director, performs at All Souls Unitarian Church this afternoon. Andrew Mellen, performance artist and newly installed director of the D.C. Arts Center, presents his solo "My Life as Kim Novak" at d.c. space Thursday evening. The annual flurry of "Nutcrackers" and "Nutcracker"-surrogates gets off to an early start this week with the American School of Performing Arts (formerly Montgomery Ballet) production, "Scrooge's Christmas," at the Publick Playhouse Friday through Sunday; the Maryland Ballet's version of "The Nutcracker," staged by artistic director Phillip Carman, at Goucher College Friday through Sunday; and the Richmond Ballet's "The Nutcracker," Friday through Sunday at Richmond's the Mosque. The Washington debut of New York's Doug Elkins Dance Company is being co-presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society (celebrating its 25th anniversary) and Dance Place (celebrating its 10th anniversary) in a program at Dance Place Saturday evening and next Sunday afternoon featuring Elkins's choreographic mix of boisterous vernacular idioms and postmodern formalisms. The Center Dance Ensemble performs choreography by Alcine Wiltz, Maria Castello and Deborah Riley in its program at the Jewish Community Center Saturday and next Sunday evenings; the artists of Deborah Riley Dance Projects will also join in the performance. FILM The Biograph Theater's first Washington Jewish Film Festival continues today with the D.C. premiere of "The Jewish Cemetery," a film in Russian about Soviet Jewry after glasnost, and "Passport," a co-production from France, Israel and the U.S.S.R, set in Soviet Georgia. Both films will be followed by panel discussions. In addition, Michael Verhoeven, director of "The Nasty Girl," which opens Friday, will be part of a panel titled "Memory and Moral Responsibility: Challenges for Reunified Germany," beginning at noon. POP MUSIC The Birchmere's lineup this week underscores why it's one of the best clubs in America: On Sunday, it's contemporary singer-songwriter Ferron; Monday, the brother-sister duo of Tim and Mollie O'Brien celebrate old-timey country traditions; Tuesday, England's first family of song, the Watersons, team up with the extraordinary guitarist Martin Carthy; Wednesday, it's new country star Marty Stuart; Thursday (as always) the Seldom Scene; Friday brings Irish legend Tommy Makem; and Saturday, it's folk vet Tom Rush.

PMRC alert: Wednesday, the 9:30 club hosts an ear-blistering death metal show with Brazil's Sepultura, Obituary and Sadus; next Sunday, Cap Centre does similar honors with Judas Priest, Megadeath and Testament. Ouch.

Soulful reggae or reggae-tinged? Maxi Priest just wants to get close to you at Lisner on Wednesday.