WESTMINSTER - Bassoons are not for everyone.
Only a courageous few opt to play the double-reed instrument, whose size and shape can intimidate fledgling musicians.
Norma Hooks of Finksburg, who teaches the brave few, is about to let her students fly.
Her group, billed as the Twelve Bassoons of Christmas, will produce carols and holiday melodies at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Hunt Valley Mall, Baltimore County, and at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Cranberry Mall here.
The sonorous, low tones are often not associated with the joyous sounds of Christmas, she added. The bassoon was the voice of the grandfather in Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf."
Still, the unusual musical ensemble, whose members range in age from 11 to 18, plans to fill the malls with the sounds of the season during its premiere performances.
Hooks, who offers private lessons on the oboe and bassoon, calls the group the first of its kind in the Baltimore area.
"It's extremely rare, and we're lucky to have this many bassoon players in one area," said Hooks. "My students are so enthused about their instruments, they decided to do something for Christmas."
The musicians, who will be decked out in red and green this weekend, include: Brett Cowan, Jill Weis, Kit Decker, Erika Glass, Sarah Jones, Jenny Nelson, Beth Bryant, Missy Rhoten, Debbie Fleming, Emily Metcalf, Tara Calloway, their teacher, Norma Hooks, and Robin Shamer, a music teacher at the Carroll County Exceptional Center.
Lori Shamer, a music teacher at West Middle School in Westminster, will conduct the ensemble.
Several students also play in their school orchestras. Emily and Tara have earned seats in the All-State High and Junior High bands, respectively.
"I tried the sax and the clarinet," said Brett, a sixth-grader at East Middle. "When they asked me to play the bassoon, I liked it better than the other instruments. It's harder, but the sound is different from what everybody else plays."
The 11-year-old son of Bruce and Jackie Cowan said he plans to play through high school.
Beth, 15, plays the clarinet in the Westminster High School band and the bassoon in the school orchestra.
After studying clarinet in elementary school, she decided to add the bassoon to her repertoire and began lessons with Hooks three years ago. She likes both instruments, she said.
"Not a lot of people play the bassoon, so we kind of stand out," she said.
Cranberry Mall plans to treat holiday shoppers to more seasonal tunes this weekend. Visitors can hear the choirs from Westminster Church of God at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Hampstead Baptist Church at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
If you are not frantically shopping, you will find a few other diversions to fill your hours this weekend.
* The New Windsor Lions Club sponsors a children's Christmas party at 1 p.m. Saturday. Santa and Mrs. Claus will bring snacks, treats and holiday balloons. A clown will entertain the little guests, too.
The festivities take place at the Fire Hall, High Street.
* Have a great time and stay sober from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, as the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Corp. celebrates Christmas without alcohol. The cost is $8 per person, which includes disc jockey, refreshments and door prizes. Put on your dancing shoes and head for Pleasant Valley Fire Hall, Richardson Road.