By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer

        Los Angeles- The most festive and merriest time of the year is fast approaching. Yes, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, The Music Center will assist you to usher in Christmas with music and dance performances.

        The 61st Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration offers a new take on a holiday classic as L.A. based artists celebrate the season with uplifting, memorable performances.

        The Music Center presents a L.A. holiday tradition that has been around for six decades, 1959, to be exact. The 61st Annual L. A. County Holiday celebration takes on a vibrant new format for 2020. Filmed on location at both The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Jerry Moss Plaza and at sites around Los Angeles County, the beloved and treasured three-hour showcase of 22 L. A.-based artists will air on PBS SoCal starting at 3:00pm, PST on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2020), and simultaneously streamed on https://pbssocal.org/holidaycelebration, https://kcet.org and https://holidaycelebration.org PBS SoCal will air an encore presentation that evening at 7:00pm PST; KCET will rebroadcast the show on Christmas Day at noon PST.

        The Holiday Celebration is a production of The Music Center and PBS SoCal in association with CDK Production, the Emmy Award- winning holiday show features choirs, music ensembles and dance companies, representing the many cultures of Los Angeles. Highlighting the county’s rich creative diversity, the broadcast will also include five mini documentaries featuring artists from different neighborhoods as well performances on location at key landmarks, including the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro and Angel’s Point in Elysian Park.

        This year’s annual celebration will be like no other. Given COVID 19 restrictions as outlined by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the commitment to keeping artists and the public safe from community transmissions, the performances are presented without a live audience this year. No doubt, viewers will not be disappointed with this year’s celebration, despite not being in attendance.

        “The holiday season is about spreading joy and goodwill to all, which is so important this year, and we’ll do that with a special broadcast of beautiful and uplifting performances that showcase the talents and diversity of Los Angeles. While many other celebrations and gatherings have been postponed or altered this season, The Music Center is thrilled to be able to partner with PBS SoCal and CDK Productions to continue to bring Angelenos, family, and friends the time honored tradition of the L.A. County Holiday celebration,” said Rachel S. Moore, President and CEO, The Music Center. “Working with the same Emmy Award-winning team led by the program’s 25-year producer and director, Kenneth Shapiro, we have created a vibrant new format for 2020 that also features artists interviews and county landscapes. This broadcast and streaming event truly is a ‘celebration of Los Angeles-of resiliency and of community-that we can take pride in from the comforts of our homes.”

        Hosted by acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán and actor/producer Brian White, the 61st Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration offers Angelenos of all ages the opportunity to take a journey to experience and honor the dynamic, rich cultures of the county in the luxury of their own homes.

        Fire up the fireplace( if appropriate), turn on the heater, gather your immediate family, and get ready to enjoy this wonderful holiday celebration. Sit back and enjoy a quality, smorgasbord of music and dance performances. Hopefully, this will become one of your annual Christmas Eve celebrations/traditions for years to come. Your family will be thoroughly entertained while viewing these magical, uplifting performances.

        ARTISTS PERFORMING IN THE 61st ANNUAL L.A. COUNTY HOLIDAY CELEBRATION:

• American Youth Symphony* nurtures the concert artists of tomorrow as six young virtuosos perform “Candlelight,” a piece composed and conducted by Music Director Carlos Izcaray.

• Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles with Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar* showcase Mexican American culture with precise movements, colorful costumes and traditional instruments as they celebrate Nochebuena: Christmas Eve in Mexico, performing “White Christmas,” “Las Olas” and “El Gusto.”

• Cuñao, an alternative Latin folk band, will perform a villancico, a Latin American and Spanish Christmas carol called “Los Peces en el Rio” and debut their new original single “Noche Buena,” an homage to how families celebrate Christmas Eve.

• Daniel Ho Trio Hālau Keali’i o Nālani, featuring Tia Carrere and Friends, will perform “Colors in Harmony,” a piece written and arranged to illuminate the diverse cultures of Los Angeles and unity through the arts. With bandleader Daniel Ho and actress/singer Tia Carrere singing in English, Hālau Keali’i o Nālani will sing and chant in Hawaiian supported by the music of the Trio, Zendeko Taiko and other musical guests.

• Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles returns with its 26th consecutive Holiday Celebration appearance. Celebrating the joy and diversity in Los Angeles, the group performs the Hebrew tradition/Hanukkah favorite, “Ma’oz Tsur,” along with a pop medley of Christmas favorites and a traditional carol.

• Infinite Flow – An Inclusive Dance Company will perform “Dear Santa,” a letter by nine-year old twins Scarlett and Henry, featuring holiday-themed choreography and original music composed by Jay Manuel and Joey Noble, two Black disabled artists. Including Scarlett in her wheelchair, the six-minute routine mixes dance and acting as the performance balances the sadness of the pandemic and social inequities with the twins’ Christmas wish list, recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion.

• Jessica Fichot* and her band create an intoxicating multilingual fusion of French chanson, Shanghai jazz and gypsy swing with performances of the Chinese New Year classic, “Gong Xi Gong Xi” and the bandleader’s original song, “Gong Xi à Paris.”

• Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy, the official Korean cultural ambassador to Southern California, returns to the L.A. County Holiday Celebration in the company’s traditional red and white folk dress with a Korean janggu drum dance, highlighting movement and rhythm.

• Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts brings the celebratory traditional dance of theSouthern Philippines typically performed at Thanksgiving, which pays homage to the spirits for a good harvest, healing and peace.

• Lorenzo Johnson & Praizum returns to the L.A. County Holiday Celebration to harness the heart and soul of these times through music. Under the direction of Johnson with chorists from churches across Southern California, the inspiring group performs the hymn, “Only Believe” followed by the holiday classic, “Silver Bells.”

• Noteable* is the award-winning a cappella men’s barbershop quartet based out of Citrus College. Sharing the joys of the season, Notable performs favorites including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride.”

• Pacifico Dance Company, dedicated to the preservation and reconstruction of classical and contemporary Mexican dance forms, debuts an excerpt of the company’s newest work highlighting the southern coastal Mexican state of Veracruz and its Spanish, Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous cultural influences.

• Palmdale High School Choral Union and Sunday Night Singers, a select ensemble of current high school and alumni singers that has performed nationally and internationally, swings with Christmas favorites from the 1940s including “Big Band Carol Medley” and the poignant “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

• Rangoli Dance Company shares the colorful sights, sounds and glory of south Indian music and dance traditions. Under the guidance of founder and choreographer Malathi Iyengar, six dancers perform to “Mallari,” a traditional composition with a dance that represents the sentiment of courage as a celebration of hope and light.

Ricardo Lemvo (Photo Credit: Jeannie Jalbert)

• Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca* blends Afro-Cuban rhythms with pan-African styles and joyous music, bound to make audiences get up and dance. Under Lemvo’s direction, his Makina Loca ensemble performs original songs from its 30-year career.

• Sean Oliu and The Coastline Cowboys* is a young country trio from Southern California whose performance merges the classic country sound with holiday music such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” and “Please Come Home for Christmas.”

• Sound of China Guzheng Ensemble* puts the Chinese plucked zither instrument at the heart of its performances. Presenting a mix of Chinese and American music for Christmas, the ensemble performs “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Sleigh Ride” and “Fragrance at Night,” a popular Chinese song.

• Southern California Brass Consortium shares the exhilarating spirit of brass ensemble music for the holidays. Beginning with the traditional hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” the ensemble performs a “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer/Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” medley arranged by legendary Hollywood composer Jerry Fielding, which will be reproduced live for the first time since its original recording release 60 years ago.

• The Opera Company at LACHSA (Los Angeles County High School for the Arts) is the only high school opera company in the nation that performs a season with orchestra. Showcasing a song for the season harkening hope, peace and faith, The Opera Company at LACHSA performs a bilingual version of David Foster’s “The Prayer.”

• The Yuko Mabuchi Trio* performs a medley of three classic Christmas tunes tied together in a jazz style with improvisation on “Little Drummer Boy,” “Christmas Time is Here” and “Feliz Navidad.”

• Tres Souls, comprised of members Roberto Carlos, Jesús Martínez and Rocio Mendoza, represents a revival of “Trio Romántico” music. The group’s performance features its original song, “La Luna Eres Tu,” inspired by Hip Hop rapper Talib Kweli, but performed in a classic Bolero style, “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir” and the Motown classic, “My Girl.”

• Versa-Style Dance Company honors authentic Salsa music culture with Street dance styles in “Rooted Rhythms,” a playful, celebratory work that represents the diverse experiences of the Latinx communities in Los Angeles. The piece is bookended by the group’s performing traditional Latin dances together in festive harmony and cultural tradition.

* L.A. County Holiday Celebration debut

For more information about the 61st Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, visit https://holidaycelebration.org.  Artists and performances are subject to change.