Pacific Symphony Celebrates the Year of the Rabbit Sponsored by Bank Irvine

Abundant with symbols of good luck and prosperity for the year ahead, Pacific Symphony’s extravagant “Lunar New Year Celebration and Concert” delighted guests with a feast for all the senses on Saturday evening, Jan. 28. The lively event brought together the transformative and unifying power of music, art, and dance from both Eastern and Western cultures. 

Preceding the Symphony’s annual sold-out Lunar New Year concert in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, board member Charles Zhang and his wife Ling, along with Mei Yen Chang, honorary member of the Bowers Museum Board of Governors, co-chaired the sophisticated dinner for 200 guests in the Jewel Court of South Coast Plaza.

Gala-goers were stylishly attired in glamorous evening wear in shades of red and gold, colors associated with the Lunar New Year that represent good luck, joy, and happiness. And as luck would have it, the event raised more than $400,000 to support Pacific Symphony’s many education and community programs.

Upon arrival, each guest was handed a red envelope filled with a two-dollar bill (a symbol of good fortune) and treated to a champagne cocktail reception. The Jewel Court was transformed into a dazzling paradise redolent of spring flowers, including ranunculus, forsythia, and Chinese magnolias along with yellow orchids and dwarf citrus trees. Tables were richly decorated in pink, red, and gold, each with a resplendent centerpiece of spring flowers.

Pacific Symphony board member Charlie Zhang took the podium and thanked dinner guests for joining in Pacific Symphony’s 2023 Lunar New Year Celebration.

“This very special annual event brings the very best of ‘East’ and ‘West’ cultures together through music, dance, and visual art, and most importantly, community. With your generous support today, we ensure resources for future generations.”

The sumptuous, multi-course Pan-Asian dinner was conceived by Michelin-honored Chef Ross Pangilinan along with Nick Weber and catered by Mix Mix. During dinner, guests enjoyed traditional Lunar New Year entertainment including guzheng virtuoso Cindy Mei and the Chinese Dance Company of Southern California with dancers Annie Xiao, Elina Tsai, and Sophia Zhen.

Commenting on the festivities, Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte said, 

“The evening is a celebration of the rich heritage emanating from Asian culture and an opportunity to bring our diverse Southern California community together for a grand celebration framed in the glories of symphonic music, dance, art, and vocal music.” 

He went on to thank co- chairs, Charlie Zhang, Ling Zhang, and Mei-Yen Chang as well as the Symphony’s Jade Society, which supports musical engagement with Southern California Asian communities, and the event committee. He extended gratitude to the generous sponsors of the evening, Bank Irvine, South Coast Plaza, City of Hope, Van Cleef & Arpels, and East West Bank.

After the sumptuous dinner, gala-goers then headed to Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for the evening’s concert performance from the world-class musicians of Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair. Talented singers and dancers including the Yaya Dance Academy, long-time artistic partner Pacific Chorale, and the American Feel Young Chorus joined the orchestra to perform a variety of music celebrating the wonder of the Lunar New Year. The music included Li Huanzhi’s “Spring Festival Overture,” a number of Eastern traditional and classic folk songs, Peking Opera Impressions, along with “Sayuri’s Theme” from John Williams’s soundtrack to the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Returning tenor Nicholas Preston joined vocal soloists Nayoung Ban (soprano), I-Chin Feinblatt (mezzo-soprano), and Zaikuan Song (bass) to perform Beethoven’s triumphant “Ode to Joy.”

At intermission there was a VIP champagne reception on the Box Circle level with small plates available. The champagne continued to flow at an exclusive post-concert reception on the Box Circle level, offering both savory and sweet morsels and the opportunity for guests to mingle with the concert artists. All dinner guests were presented with a LIULI crystal bunny rabbit figurine to commemorate the celebration. The celebration was produced by Upon Request Events, which has partnered with Pacific Symphony on numerous successful galas and special events.

Charlie Zhang’s comments summed up the evening perfectly when he said, “Pacific Symphony’s Lunar New Year events, including a free, family-friendly Lantern Festival taking place on Feb. 18, bring cultures from both the East and West and our own community together. China has a unique culture and a long history that are both appealing to Americans. These events will allow everyone to learn about Chinese and Asian culture as we unite together.”

Pacific Symphony Celebrates the Year of the Rabbit Sponsored by Bank Irvine
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