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Applause: Groundbreaking launches new projects at Segerstrom Center

Philharmonic: Sam Ersan and John Mangum

With trumpet fanfare and a chorus line of patrons pitching dirt with gold shovels, the groundbreaking ceremony for Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ new Julianne and George Argyros Plaza and the Center for Dance and Innovation took place under sunny skies that only minutes before had threatened rain.

“This is the beginning of a new beginning!” exclaimed Julianne Argyros, who, with her husband, George Argyros, donated $13.5 million for the plaza-naming opportunity, part of the center’s Next Act campaign, a trio of transformative projects including the plaza, the Center for Dance and Innovation and the Center Without Boundaries.

Segerstrom Center President Terry Dwyer “had a $25 million price tag on the plaza,” a beaming Julianne Argyros told the crowd of faithful arts patrons who had assembled for brunch – chicken and waffles on skewers, cinnamon rolls served up in cones, mini churros, steaming coffee – before the official festivities began. “But I got our (foundation) director, Wendy, to talk to him and she got it down to $13.5 million!”

Joining Argyros onstage during the tented celebration was plaza architect Michael Maltzan, who vowed, after some playful coaxing by Argyros, that the plaza “would be the best project I have ever done.”

Afterward, guests gathered at the Samueli Theater for a luncheon featuring butternut squash soup, brick chicken (“they flatten the chicken using a brick,” explained a caterer), and cranberry and pear tart. The silky sounding Dallas & Doll band provided celebratory jazz entertainment.

Not only will the new plaza, opening this fall, offer food and beverage service to Segerstrom Center visitors, it will “provide an opportunity to populate the campus during business hours for the people working in area office buildings,” observed Tim Strader, founding president of the center. “Hopefully, these visitors will see the playbills of coming events and become ticket buyers.” 

Performing arts events also will be held on the plaza. Might Julianne Argyros, herself a comedienne, singer and dancer, entertain there? “Now, that would be fun!” she said.

Also among those on the scene: Capital campaign Co-chairs Larry Higby and Stephen Fry,  center chairman John Ginger (who dubbed the Argyroses “community heroes, fellow friends,”) Toni Ginger, Judy Morr,  Dee Higby, S.L. and Betty Huang, Carol and Kent Wilken, Ginger and Tony Allen, and Tom Nielsen.

Pacific Chorale concert: Celebrating his 45th and final year conducting the Pacific Chorale, conductor John Alexander received an early holiday gift from Segerstrom Center for the Arts president Terry Dwyer during his last “Tis the Season” concert at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. 

Henceforth, the hall’s Choral Terrace will be known as the John Alexander Choral Terrace, Dwyer announced. Supporters of the resident choir for Segerstrom Center for the Arts convened at the Center Club after the concert to enjoy a Viennese gala, the theme celebrating  the chorale’s 2016 tour to Budapest and Vienna. Guests dined on chicken schnitzel and beef rouladen, kasnocken and mouthwatering desserts including raspberry Linzer torte.

A trio of chorale singers – Maria Cristina Navarro, Jason Francisco, Matthew Kellaway – entertained guests with songs by German and Austrian composers. Tom and Bonnie Pridonoff were co-chairs. Sponsors included Phil and Mary Lyons (whose son, Craig Lyons, underwrote the concert in a tribute to his mother, a singer with the chorale), Leonora Meister, Hans and Valerie Imhof, Jerry and Maralou Harrington, and Martha and Peter Wetzel.

Philharmonic Society concert: Bach’s thrilling Brandenburg Concertos – all six – were on the musical menu for Philharmonic Society’s year-end concert at the Segerstrom Concert Hall. Performed by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the works, composed circa 1711-20, offer “great music to enjoy during the holidays,” said society executive director John Mangum. “They’re so festive, you leave the concert hall in a great mood!” The pre-concert reception for major donors – held in the Box Circle Lobby – was whipped up by Patina, due to open a Patina Café on the new Julianne and George Argyros Plaza this fall. Up for sampling were innovative offerings that included mini crab tacos, crunchy servings of Caesar salad presented in edible cones, tiny cranberry cheesecakes atop a rich chocolate crust, and an appetizer feast that has become a Patina signature: hunks of soft cheese presented on a silver tray with whole-grain crackers and baguette slices surrounded by marcona almonds, sliced dates and dried apricots. 

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