Joyous Sounds and Jubilant Shows

Leeza Gibbons and Rick Caruso.

Do you hear what I hear? It’s the joyous sounds coming from The Sing-Off, NBC’s feel-good singing contest that’s a great fit for the holidays. A’cappella groups are challenged to perform a variety of songs over five episodes, leading up to the Monday, December 20 at 8 p.m. finale. The final groups will perform live from Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. It will be like watching the Glee cast compete for nationals, only it’s real high school groups, plus college students, and older choral teams who are hoping to win the $100,000 prize and a Sony Music recording contract. It’s exciting and the harmonies would make a choir of angels envious of the pure vocal talent. It’s incredible. Nick Lachey is the genial host, and the judges (Ben Folds, Nicole Scherzinger and Shawn Stockman) are likable too. Tune in while you’re decking the halls and passing the eggnog.

Now let’s talk about a local Christmas Eve tradition — the annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration. Did you know that the Holiday Celebration last year marked the event’s 50th anniversary? And the best performances from it have been made into a special that will air on PBS stations across the nation from now until Christmas.

But if you want to be part of the tradition and enjoy this year’s “Childhood Holiday Memories” themed extravaganza, go downtown to the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Christmas Eve, December 24. The show is from 3 to 6 p.m. Attendance and parking are free (yes, free). So bring the whole family to enjoy music, song and dance from the many cultures of Los Angeles. Seating is on a first come basis, and wristbands will be handed out starting at 11: 30 a.m. for seating. KCET will broadcast the show throughout the day, and it will be heard on radio KPFK 90.7 FM. But there’s nothing like seeing it live.

Toni Morrell, Linda Gray and Richard Chamberlain.

Always a highlight is a jubilant appearance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a group that pulls out all the stops to bring comfort and joy to everyone. So it’s not surprising that the GMCLA will have its own musical extravaganza called “Comfort & Joy” at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, December 18 and 19. Guest performers will be original “Dreamgirl” Sheryl Lee Ralph on Saturday, and country music darling LeAnn Rimes on Sunday. Making his GMCLA debut is guest conductor Tom Seelig who will be at the helm of a broad spectrum of classical and pop holiday songs, from “Ave Maria” to “All I Want for Christmas is You.” It’s sure to warm hearts and fill you with the spirit of the season.

More folks enjoying a great evening of music, Richard Chamberlain (looking just as handsome as his Dr. Kildare days) and Linda Gray (still a stunning Dallas doll) were seen catching Toni Morrell’s Remembering the Ladies show at the El Portal. Both went wild over the beautiful “Shambala” song composed by Toni’s husband and musical director David Dial. It was created in tribute to Tippi Hedren, one of the many legendary ladies Toni salutes in her show.

Hedren received another honor recently for her Shambala Preserve and animal advocacy efforts. An elaborate ceremony took place at Universal as characters from Whoville gave Tippi the first ever “Whomanitarian Award,” for working to protect big cats. Ironically, Max the Dog and the Grinch made the presentation. It was a fun event attended by a hundred local school kids helping to launch the Grinchmas holiday program at Universal.

A whole bunch of do-gooders were in the spotlight for the 25th anniversary of National Philanthropy Day. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Los Angeles Chapter honored Tina and Rick Caruso with the Philanthropist of the Year Award for their support for Para Los Ninos. The Legacy Award went to Carol and Doug Mancino for work with the Children’s Burn Foundation. Mindy and Gene Stein got the Spirit of Dedication for working with Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation. And for supporting Methodist Hospital, Lee and Mickey Segal got the Spirit of Inspiration Award. Leeza Gibbons served as host for the “I Am A Philanthropist” themed luncheon, which she said honored “extraordinary people.” Amen to that.