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Pacific Symphony To Welcome Chinese New Year With LOVE FEAST And LANTERN FESTIVAL, 1/28

Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, is celebrating the 2017 Chinese New Year with the Southern California community by offering a number of unique and multi-faceted events. First, all are invited to the inaugural concert, "Chinese New Year: A Love Feast," which offers a joyous mix of Eastern and Western music and dance, on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Surrounding the concert is a VIP Chinese New Year Celebration reception and formal dinner in collaboration with LUILI crystal art. Then, the Symphony partners with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/Irvine Chinese School to present the "2017 Lantern Festival," commemorating the end of the Lunar New Year. This free, family-friendly festival-with numerous activities and performances traditionally associated with the end of the Lunar New Year-takes place Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

"These events will bring cultures from both the East and West and our own community together," says Charles Zhang, Symphony board member and founder of Pick-Up Stix and Zion Enterprises, who considers himself an ambassador for Orange County's Chinese-American community, as well as the Symphony. "China has a unique culture and a long history that are both appealing to Americans. These events will allow everyone to learn about Chinese culture as we unite together."

The festivities begin with the Symphony's first concert dedicated to the lunar holiday. "Chinese New Year: A Love Feast" is a colorful presentation of Eastern and Western music and dance ushering in the "Year of the Rooster" (according to the Chinese zodiac). For this special performance, Maestro St.Clair leads the orchestra as they are joined by an array of talented dancers and singers, including Pacific Chorale and a community chorus, for a program that is both a visual and aural wonder. Tickets range from $18-$88. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit This event is made possible through the generous support of The James Irvine Foundation.

"The program is an offering of incredible breadth, covering a wide spectrum of music, but mostly music that especially resonates for such a celebration," says Maestro St.Clair. "One great wish I had for this concert was to do the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth with a collective chorus. I felt that its message was absolutely the motto needed for such a joining of spirits and friends: that 'all men should become brothers' is exactly our hope for celebrating the Chinese New Year with our friends of the Chinese-American community. I am so very thankful that they have invited us to unite with them in such an important moment in their year."

The concert includes a variety of music to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the Chinese New Year, including "Butterfly Lovers Concerto" by He Zhanhao/Gang Chen and Hua Wu's "Deep into the Night" featuring erhu master George Gao, and Li Huanzhi's "Spring Festival Overture" and Debussy's "Clair de Lune." Accompanying the music are dance performances by Jill and Amnon Damti, members of the Yaya Dance Academy, the Awakened Blessing Lion Dance Troupe of the JC Culture Foundation and the UC Irvine Department of Dance led by choreographer Tong Wang. Vocalists include Orson Van Gay II, Jessica Zhu and Gloria Xiong.

The evening culminates in the inspirational "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, featuring Pacific Chorale (John Alexander, artistic director) and the American Feel Young Chorus (Sam Wei-Chih Sun, artistic director).

The concert flow has been designed by Yaya Zhang, an award-winning artist with 20 years of stage performance, choreography and dance instruction experience, who graduated from the department of Folk Dance at the Secondary School of Beijing Dance Academy in 1999. Zhang received a B.A. in choreography from Beijing Dance Academy in 2003, and during her decade-long study at the Beijing Dance Academy, Zhang mastered many different Chinese ethnic folk dance traditions as well as sword, fan, ribbon and sleeve techniques. Before moving to the United States in 2007, she worked in many productions in China including musicals. She now teaches at several dance companies in Los Angeles and serves as artistic director of Yaya Dance Academy.

In addition to the concert, Charles and Ling Zhang are hosting a special "Chinese New Year Celebration" on the Box Circle Level of the concert hall to raise additional funds for the Symphony's artistic and education programs. Around 200 guests will enjoy an elegant cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by a formal dinner and entertainment provided by the award-winning Chinese pianist Fei-Fei Dong. LUILI crystal art will be on display, and the founders of LUILIGONGFANG-Loretta Yang, art director, and Chang Yi, creative director-will be in attendance as honored guests. A ticket to this event also includes a premiere ticket to the Chinese New Year concert, a VIP intermission reception and exclusive post-concert reception featuring guest artists. For more information and pricing, please contact Pacific Symphony's special events department at (714) 876-2364 or email

"Pacific Symphony is also looking forward to celebrating the 'Year of the Rooster' by welcoming the public to join us on Feb. 4 for our '2017 Lantern Festival,' a Chinese festival dedicated to family, renewal and community that is celebrated around the world," says Alison Levinson, the Symphony's director of community arts participation. "We have once again partnered with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association/Irvine Chinese School to co-present what is sure to be a fun and festive afternoon honoring Chinese culture, music and the arts, and this important time of year for many within our community."

The "Lantern Festival" is the Symphony's second annual event commemorating the end of the Lunar New Year, and takes place throughout the Symphony's concert hall, with performances in the theater, activities in the lobby and interactive demonstrations in the studio performance space. The Lantern Festival is free and open to the public. This event is made possible through the support of The James Irvine Foundation, and is presented in cooperation with Segerstrom Center for the Arts, with additional support from the World Journal and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

Upon entering the concert hall, attendees will find the lobby transformed into an awe-inspiring sea of red lanterns curated by artist and curator Trinh Mai and created by Irvine Chinese School students, as well as seniors from Nguoi Viet, who are part of the Bowers Museum Treasures program and the Chinese Artist Association. Family-friendly festivities include the opportunity for everyone to decorate their own lantern (led by members of the Bowers Museum), take in live music, try their hand at Chinese knotting and paper cutting, solve a riddle (and win a prize), participate in a Chinese folk dance lesson, have their photo taken and more! Inside the studio performance space, attendees may participate in interactive demonstrations of Chinese instruments, Tai Chi, Chinese folk dances and workshops.

Inside the theater, musical highlights include a Pacific Symphony percussion ensemble, led by the Symphony's principal percussionist, Robert Slack, a string quartet by Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as Chinese folk dance and customary Chinese songs sung by the Irvine Chinese Chorus and New Orange County Children's Choir. Strings for Generations, an intergenerational string and percussion ensemble for families and a collaboration between the Symphony and SCCC/ICS, performs "Chinese String Fantasy," "Dragon Dance" and "New Year Celebration," led by Irene Kroesen. For those interested in learning more about the Lunar New Year, there will be a talk given by a representative from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

"Last year, we were blown away by the interest from those in our community for this event," says Levinson. "We welcomed more than 4,000 guests to the concert hall lobby for performances by Pacific Symphony musicians, students and musicians from our community. This year, we have expanded the festival to include more spaces within the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, more performing groups and more activities, giving guests the opportunity to customize their own experience!"

The Lantern Festival, which can be traced back 2,000 years, takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year-on the first full moon night in the lunar calendar-and marks the return of spring, representing the reunion of family. Traditionally, the Lantern Festival is an act of lighting and appreciating lanterns as a way for people to let go of the burdens of their old selves and express their best wishes for their families for the future.

"Regardless of whether the Lunar New Year celebration is part of your family's cultural tradition, we encourage everyone to join us in learning more about the Lantern Festival and taking part in this festive time of year through music, the arts and culture," Levinson says.

The Symphony's Chinese New Year events are significant for a number of reasons. They serve as part of a series of free or low-cost community concerts and events within a multi-year initiative for the Symphony to engage local Chinese-American communities. This initiative has been funded in part by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation's New California Arts Fund. Throughout the course of the grant period, the Symphony has focused on building partnerships with local organizations that serve Chinese-Americans, producing events in Chinese-American communities and encouraging Chinese-Americans to deepen their involvement with the Symphony as volunteers, donors and board members.

Irvine Chinese School is part of South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote Chinese language learning, to preserve Chinese heritage, to enhance the understanding of the value of Chinese culture and to advocate cultural diversity in America. The school was founded in 1976, and in the past 40 years has transformed itself from a local language school into an award-winning school and a leading Chinese language education institute. Currently, Irvine Chinese School provides multiple-level language classes for students from kindergarten to 12th grade and adults.

(Photo Credit: Pacific Symphony)

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