When Dorothy “Buffy” Chandler went to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn to get his support for the construction of the Music Center in 1959, she got it. But Hahn asked for a favor in return.
His request — that one day each year be set aside for the community to enjoy a free performing arts event.
And what is now the L.A. County Holiday Celebration was born.
This “gift to the community” celebrates its 54th year with a show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion featuring more than 20 handpicked choirs, dance companies and musical groups that represent L.A.'s rich and varied cultural tapestry.
“What the Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration is about is celebrating the artists and the cultures of Los Angeles on that stage, and we do that,” says Adam Davis, who has been producing the holiday celebration for the last eight years.
Highlights include the vocal ensemble ArteMusica's performance of seasonal classics in the baroque style, Gypsy Allstars' (featuring the sons of the internationally renowned Gipsy Kings) fusion of Spanish rhythms with Eastern sounds, and Sarah Reich and Tap Music Project's moves to live holiday music.
The Harana Men's Chorus under the direction of L.A. Master Chorale singer Ed Nepomuceno will perform seasonal repertoire in English and Tagalog; Aditya Prakash Ensemble brings a blend of classical Indian music with jazz and Latin rhythms; Grammy-winning Chicano rock outfit Quetzal will appear; and the Ate9 Dance Company, under the direction of former Batsheva dancer Danielle Agami, will premiere a modern dance piece.
“It's a hot ticket,” Davis adds. “We've been told it's like the Rose Parade because it owns Christmas Eve” the way the parade owns New Year's Day.
“We know we're always going to have a full house. But if you don't get there early, it's going to be tough to get a seat because people start lining up at 9:30 for the 3 p.m. start time.”
Those who don't get into the 2,500-seat venue can watch the show on screens in the Music Center plaza. Those who decide to stay home can always catch the broadcast live on KCET-TV and www.kcet.org live from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 8 to 11 p.m.
Among the performers are Invertigo Dance Theatre, a dance troupe returning to Holiday Celebration.
“It's a dream for us to be able to join these incredible L.A. groups and celebrate our year and the year that Los Angeles has had,” says Laura Karlin, the company's artistic director and choreographer who was honeymooning in Cambodia during last year's performance.
This time she'll be in the thick of it as one of seven dancers.
Karlin will premiere her new work, “Mishpachah” (Hebrew for “Family”). Based on her Jewish heritage and upbringing, the work that opens and closes with a family portrait session is injected with humor, celebration and reflection. It also features music by her brother, Toby Karlin.
“In doing research, I found mishpachah can mean the family you create and the connections that tie you together, which I love because I have strong ties with those kinds of families,” says Karlin, a Brit who grew up stateside surrounded by an extended family.
Among the members of the extended family is Linda Berghoff, a lifelong dance hobbyist with whom Karlin founded a therapeutic dance class for people with Parkinson's disease and their loved ones. Berghoff was diagnosed with Parkinson's eight years ago and now leads Dancing Through Parkinson's classes at the Electric Lodge dance studio in Venice on Monday afternoons.
“She is my mishpachah,” Karlin says of her former neighbor. “She was one of the first people to encourage my dance career. So for her to dance with me on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage is very special.”
54th annual l.a. county holiday celebration
What: More than 20 music ensembles, choirs and dance companies from throughout Los Angeles County celebrate the season in this free, three-hour holiday show where even the parking is free. Those who can't make the show can watch the live broadcast on KCET-TV or www.kcet.org, which repeats at 8 p.m. and again at 3 and 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Information: www.holidaycelebration.org or 213-972-3099.