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Jean Oelrich
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joelrich@pacificsymphony.org

Making spirits bright! Pacific Symphony captures holiday magic with toy soldiers, waltzing flowers and sugar plum fairies in its annual favorite Nutcracker for Kids

November 12, 2012

A holiday treat so good even Santa can't resist stopping by!

Mirroring the magic that brings Clara's nutcracker to life in Tchaikovsky's Christmas ballet, "The Nutcracker," Pacific Symphony enchants audiences with battling toy soldiers, waltzing flowers and visions of sugar plum fairies in its popular Family Musical Mornings concert, "Nutcracker for Kids." Reinvigorating the cherished masterpiece created by Tchaikovsky, the Symphony collaborates with the talented dancers from Festival Ballet Theatre (FBT) and narrator Bree Burgess Rosen (as Mrs. Claus—yes, the one married to Santa) to bring the ballet to life in a condensed 45-minute version, specially created for children ages 5-11. Under the direction of the Symphony's Assistant Conductor Maxim Eshkenazy, who conducts his final family concert and passes the baton to Alejandro Gutiérrez, the Symphony tells the tale of Clara, a girl who receives an extraordinary gift—a nutcracker that magically turns into a prince! (Gutiérrez makes his official debut as the Symphony's new assistant conductor on Jan. 12, when he leads "The Magic Flute.")

After a fierce battle with the Mouse King, the prince whisks Clara away to The Kingdom of Sweets, where she encounters a variety of delightful characters including the Sugar Plum Fairy. This seasonal favorite concludes with a holiday sing-along featuring the young members of Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings as the Elf Philharmonic and a special guest—Santa Claus himself! Taking place Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, children are invited to participate in a festive Musical Carnival before and after the show (more details below.) Tickets for the concert are $29-$46; for more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

"My favorite part of our ‘Nutcracker' is seeing the faces of the kids after the performance," says Maestro Eshkenazy. "They are so happy after hearing the timeless music of Tchaikovsky, which has become synonymous with celebrating the holiday season. To be a part of the Christmas magic the Symphony and the FBT dancers create for them through our version of ‘Nutcracker'—created just for children—makes this concert that much more special."

"With this being my final family concert, I hope to leave the audience with a smile," says Maestro Eshkenazy. "I have treasured working with the Symphony's talented musicians, the time I've spent with the kids after concerts and being a part of the Symphony—an influential mechanism that creates and gives so much to the Orange County community."

Continuing in the effort to make spirits bright—and as a part of the Family Musical Mornings—the Musical Carnival, which begins at 9 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert), is filled with fun holiday music for the whole family and hands-on activities for children. This year, the carnival features roaming carolers from "Caroling Connection," three hand-bell choirs from Trinity United Presbyterian Church and a ballet museum, where pointe shoes, tiaras and ballet costumes are on display courtesy of FBT. Children may also: meet the dancers from FBT, ask the orchestra questions about conductors and meet the musicians, including musicians from Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles, make holiday cards, participate in an instrument test drive and share holiday wishes while visiting with Santa.

"The collaboration with the Festival Ballet Theatre has been one that results in perfection every year and further inspires the kids' interest in the arts," continues Eshkenazy.

FBT, founded in 1988 by Salwa Rizkalla, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the artistic enrichment of the Orange County community through professional productions, educational programs and by providing nurturing and intensive artistic home base to some of Southern California's most talented young dancers. The dancers appearing in this production are students of Southland Ballet Academy (SBA), the official school of FBT. Founded in 1983, SBA provides the professional level of training in classical ballet that students require before joining the company.

Family Musical Mornings continue on Jan. 12, 2013, with Mozart's musical fairy tale, "The Magic Flute," a tale of a triumph of love in a world of enchantments and magic brought to life by professional opera singers and framed by Mozart's enthralling music. Then on March 23, 2013, the Symphony presents Prokofiev's "Cinderella" brought to life by life-sized puppets! The family concert season concludes on May 4, 2014 in "Under the Sea" with music from Disney's beloved "The Little Mermaid" and Debussy's "La Mer."