The holiday season is well underway, and next week one of the biggest events in the Los Angeles area returns for its 60th year.
The Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration returns on Tuesday, Dec. 24, with 22 acts performing over the course of three hours, from 3-6 p.m. The show mixes dance, choral performances and other musical groups. As with previous editions, the event is free to attend, with free parking at the Music Center, and seating is first come, first served (seats do open up over the course of the show). Those who cannot make it to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion can watch it live on PBS SoCal and KCET, and stream it online.
As with year’s past, the show will also be rebroadcast at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas, at noon and 7 p.m.
The holiday concert started in 1959, created by the County Board of Supervisors as a “gift” to the county’s residents, and features a blend of returning and new acts. This year the event is hosted by singer Suzanna Guzmán and actress Marissa Ramirez. Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval opens the show, playing a jazz version of holiday classics. Fresh additions this year include drum and dance group African Soul International, as well as Latin folk group Cuñao.
In order to fit everyone into the show, each act gets roughly 10 minutes to perform. For musical groups, that generally allows three songs per each set.
Returning acts range from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles to Halau Keali’I o Nalani & the Daniel Ho Trio. Another of the returning bands this year is the klezmer — Jewish folk music with roots in the Balkans — act Mostly Kosher. They’re joined by the Urban Voices Project, a choral group made up of residents of Skid Row. The two groups will be teaming up to premiere a new song, “Let’s Think About a Holiday.”
Mostly Kosher leader Leeav Sofer, who also co-founded the choral, said the song was developed over the last few months. He said the band will start out the set, then roughly 30 members of the choral will come and join them on stage.
“The song will be bookended by a traditional Hanukkah song, ‘Ma’oz Tzur,’ which we’re doing in a very Balkan way, with lots of energy,” Sofer said. “Then it’s the premiere piece, and then a Kirk Franklin piece called ‘I Smile.’ That’s a very festive tune.”
Back for its second year is Infinite Flow, a dance company partly made up of disabled dancers. The group will do a mix of styles, including a foxtrot set to “Winter Wonderland,” and a hip-hop version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” This year the youth program Infinite Flow Kids is joining the adult troupe on stage. Marisa Hamamoto, the group’s founder and artistic director, said that song was chosen to help showcase the need for inclusivity.
“Rudolph is made fun of initially by his peers because of his red nose making him ‘different’ but is liked after Santa makes use of his uniqueness for everyone’s good,” Hamamoto told Los Angeles Downtown News.
Since the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion can only seat 3,156 people, not everyone can initially attend. Many don’t stay for the entire performance, opening up seats during the programming, but a number of audience members actually watch the show from outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the now-renovated Music Center Plaza. This year, the Music Center is adding additional programming to the space, according to Rebecca Baillie, the Music Center’s associate director of presentations.
“People come here really early, these big groups of people with not much to do besides wait in line. We wanted to take advantage of this big beautiful wide open space,” Baillie said. “We get to bring in even more L.A. artists than we get to feature on the stage, with artists hosting art making workshops, as well as movies.
The “Plaza Wonderland” opens at noon and runs to 5 p.m., with flores de papel poinsettia making classes, watercolor card stations, and plenty of hot cocoa for visitors. There will also be screenings of the 2018 animated film The Grinch, plus the 1964 version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, before switching to a live broadcast of the Holiday Celebration at 3 p.m. People can drop into the workshops at any time. It is all free to attend, however visitors will have to pay for the tamales on sale.
Some of the performers said that tradition plays a part in why the Holiday Celebration has lasted so long. Sofer said that it’s also the mix of acts the County brings in that helps keep things fresh and interesting.
“We all know Los Angeles is divided into these little bubbles that we sometimes isolate ourselves in,” Sofer said. “They’re pulling in diverse groups and bringing people together. It’s three hours of fun and joy for the holidays, but those bubbles are popped a little bit.”
The Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration is Tuesday, Dec. 24, 3-6 p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. or holidaycelebration.org.