For anyone looking to put a new ribbon on a season of Christmas perennials, Michael Feinstein happily arrives Saturday at the Musco Center for the Arts in Orange bringing his kaleidoscopic exploration of the Great American Songbook, through the lens of a holiday-themed program.

“People are so inundated with specific Christmas songs, that I try to find songs that are timely (but) aren’t filled with sleigh bells and don’t drive people crazy,” Feinstein says.

Feinstein, of course, offers much more than what he’ll sing in this one set. His scholarly, yet never stuffy, approach to researching and then showcasing songs, the history, quirks and even gossip that led to their creation, elevates his presentation.. His performing range will be on view in multiple appearances in the coming months across Southern California.

At Musco’s holiday show, he is fronting an intimate three-piece combo of piano, bass and drums. In Feinstein’s Feb. 15 and 16 shows at the McCallum Center in Palm Springs, focusing on Broadway and movie tunes, he will be backed by a big band. A week later he will present one of his Frank Sinatra-based evenings with the San Diego Symphony.

And across four appearances in the Pasadena Pops summer series at the LA Arboretum in Arcadia, he will lead a full orchestra of 40-plus players through programs ranging from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to a salute to MGM musicals, tied to the 80th anniversary of “Wizard of Oz.”

Q: Will there be some Hanukkah titles in this holiday show at the Musco Center?

A: I have found that Hanukkah songs are pretty dreary. In fact, (laughing) even most Jews prefer the Christmas songs! There is a song by Tom Lehrer — “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” — that is one of my most requested numbers because it’s a delightful piece. It’s fun.

Q: Most of the biggest non-religious Christmas songs from the 20th Century were written by Jewish songwriters, right?

A: That’s largely the case. The first Christmas popular song to become a huge hit, one we all still know, was Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” in 1941. Earlier, to a lesser degree, in the mid ‘30s, entertainer Eddie Cantor popularized “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and a Jewish songwriter named Felix Bernard came up with the music for “Winter Wonderland.”

Q: How did this come to be?

A: Many of the songwriters on Tin Pan Alley were Jewish and after “White Christmas” was so huge it is likely that the music publishers of the time were saying, “We need Christmas songs.” So everybody jumped on the bandwagon. Not, of course, that all of these songs were good, but there were a lot.

Q: Do you have a Christmas song you think is especially terrible?

A: (Slight groan) There’s many which aren’t heard for good reason. One I’ve heard that is really silly, not in a good way, was called “Christmas in Brazil.” It was clear whoever wrote it had never gone anywhere near Brazil. … You won’t be hearing that one in the show!

Q: Did this disconnect — songs about places that writers knew nothing about — happen a lot? Plenty of tunes from those times seemed to have the names of far-flung places in them.

A: Al Jolson’s massive hit “Swanee” is a great example. In 1919 George Gershwin and lyricist Irving Caesar wrote it in about 10 minutes while they were riding on a New York bus, at least that is how Gershwin later recalled it. Neither of them had ever seen the Swanee River.  After the song became a hit, Caesar decided he should go see the river so he traveled down south and he found this little stream. He said that if he seen the place first he never would have written the song.

Q: What dictates which songs from the Great American Songbook you choose to sing, but not others?

A: I think if the songs have something to say for me and that I feel touched by them. Other songs don’t resonate for me… I started playing in piano bars for years and I find it hard to sing “Over the Rainbow” just because it is so overdone. Now, of course, it is overdone because it is a great song, but what can you do with it that hasn’t been done well by others or, at least, done a lot?

Q: While you frequently sing songs associated with Frank Sinatra, you aren’t likely to perform “My Way.”

A: When I was doing my Sinatra project, people were constantly calling to hear “My Way.” The idea of the song is what attracts people, but I think “My Way” is a bad collection of lyrics (by Paul Anka) that is impossible for me to sing. The song itself is just ludicrous… lines like “I ate it up and spit it out,” some of the most self-pitying stuff. I just found it creepy, at best.

Q: Sinatra himself didn’t like it, did he?

A: He loathed it. In one show, I have a recording of him saying, in a show of Gershwin songs, “It is so great to sing Gershwin and not that goddamn  ‘My Way.’”

Q: You appear to make singing this material look easy, but I bet it’s harder than we think. How do you judge your own singing?

A: These days I am less of a judge, more forgiving. But I am very hard on myself because it is an exacting art and I am always trying to do the best that I can, and if I don’t feel that I hit it, I am rarely satisfied. For an audience, I am always striving to be better.

Q: You seem to have enjoyed performing for the past four decades plus, how long do you intend to keep at it?

A: I can’t really say. One must look at the circumstances. Jo Stafford, who was one of the great singers of the last century, stopped. And I asked her why she stopped and she said “It just wasn’t as good.” She thought it was time to stop. I admire Doris Day for doing that.