Sometimes the best things in life are free, but the parking will kill you. Well, here’s a fabulous show you may not know about that’s free – AND with free parking to boot!
On Thursday, December 24 – Christmas Eve – you’re invited to attend the 56th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, sponsored by the LA County Board of Supervisors. It will take place from 3:00 to 6:00 PM at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown.
What is the Celebration exactly? As Supervisor Sheila Kuehl described it to the LA Post, “Every year, a cadre of hugely talented singers and dancers perform in this free show at The Music Center.” This year’s show – LA’s largest holiday celebration – features 20 music ensembles, dance companies, and choirs representing the varied cultures of Los Angeles County’s diverse communities.
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra will open the program with holiday favorites performed New York “salsa dura”-style. Other groups scheduled to appear include the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, performing a repertoire of Negro spirituals; Korean American Youth Performing Artists, whose 22 members will present a celebratory Korean drum dance; Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, showcasing a Grammy-nominated all-female ensemble of 12 musicians; Mostly Kosher, performing a Hanukkah-inspired medley infused with a calypso beat; and many more, including the Mountainside Master Chorale, the Pacifico Dance Company, and the Salvation Army Tabernacle Children’s Chorus, the largest and youngest choir on the program.
The Celebration is a gigantic undertaking, a complex show with more than 500 performers, not only performed live onstage at the Dorothy Chandler, but also broadcast live on PBS and streamed on the internet. Prospective performers find out in October if they’re on the bill, and then have until the beginning of December to put together their act: at that time, there’s a “showcase” for the producers, who decide the order of the program.
Some groups will be making their debuts at the Music Center, but others are veterans. Attorney and West Hollywood City Council member John Duran (top row, second from left in the photo above) is a longtime member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, which has been performing at the Christmas Eve celebration for over 25 years. “Initially, we were treated with worry and apprehension,” he remembers. “But now – we are featured as one of the finale acts every year because we are that good!”
Invertigo Dance Company, making its third appearance, is an LA-based group which blends “highly kinetic contemporary dance with a whimsical theatricality,” according to Artistic Director Laura Karlin. The company’s Invert/ED education program works with students of all ages and abilities, and its Dancing Through Parkinson’s program has classes for people living with Parkinson’s disease, as well as their friends, family members, and care-partners.
In 2013, Invertigo performed a piece which Ms Karlin says “was very special to me because it included a dancer from our Invert/ED program, and a dancer from our Dancing Through Parkinson’s program, along with the professional Invertigo dancers.” This year, the company will be “performing a piece called ‘Sugar Plum Jam’ to a song by my friend Chris Thomas,” she says. “It sounds like a combination of Danny Elfman and Tchaikovsky, and it’s so fun! We have dancers tumbling out of giant gift boxes and lots of holiday mischief playing out onstage!”
Working on a gigantic live “spectacular” can be nerve-wracking, but also produces special memories. “In 2013, we had a dancer who was hospitalized two days before the show and we replaced him in one rehearsal the day of the show,” remembers Ms. Karlin. “Everyone was supportive and focused and positive. The piece was about family, and we are our own kind of family, so it worked out beautifully. Also, part of that piece was Linda Berghoff, who has Parkinson’s and helped us start our Dancing Through Parkinson’s program. She and I had a duet together that I will never forget. It was so full of love and she danced so beautifully, and we smiled at each other in the middle of it because we couldn’t believe we were dancing together on the Dorothy Chandler stage!”
Beyond the artistry and the joy and the sheer entertainment, though, the show also holds a mirror up to the people of LA County, by bringing together performers of various cultures and ethnicities, all of whom call LA home. “I love being part of the Holiday Celebration because of the wide range of artists I get to meet,” says Ms. Karlin. “[It’s] one of the things that makes Los Angeles so wonderful – diversity isn’t a catch-phrase, it’s real life and at its best, it’s magical.”
Mr. Duran, who has performed in every Holiday Celebration since 1998, will be part of the show again this year, and he’s looking forward to it, not only for the fun and the memories, but also because of what the Chorus’s presence means. “We hear from LGBT community members and their families every year about how proud they are to see the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA so prominently featured,” he said. “And it often sparks a family discussion at homes across the county about just how far the gay community’s struggle has come.”
Perhaps Supervisor Kuehl summed it up best: “The LA County Holiday Celebration is a joyous way to celebrate the holidays. I am so proud of this grand holiday tradition produced by the LA County Arts Commission on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.”
56th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration
Performing Artists from across Los Angeles County
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Thursday, December 24
3:00 to 6:00 PM
Doors open 2:30 PM
Entertainment on The Music Center Plaza for those waiting in line begins at 12:30 PM
FREE ADMISSION: no reservations or tickets to the show; first come, first seated.
FREE PARKING in The Music Center parking garage.
Broadcast live on PBS SoCal, and streamed live on www.pbssocal.org.
The program will be rebroadcast on PBS SoCal from 9:00 PM to midnight, and on December 25 at noon; and on PBS SoCal Plus on December 25 at 3:00 AM, 6:00 AM, 7:00 PM, and on December 26 at 11:00 AM.
Information hotline 213-972-3099 or http://lacountyarts.org/holiday.html