A Warm Holiday Welcome to One and All

We give you the inside scoop on what to expect when you attend A LEMONY SNICKET HOLIDAY, the California Symphony’s holiday program.

A LEMONY SNICKET HOLIDAY features The Composer is Dead by Nathaniel Stookey, with text by Lemony Snicket. — Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Carson Ellis, used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

There’s nothing quite like the buzzing atmosphere of the California Symphony’s holiday concerts, with family-friendly activities in the hall and a program that’s geared to getting everyone into the holiday spirit. Our two performances of A LEMONY SNICKET HOLIDAY — December 23 at 4PM and 8PM at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek—attract an audience of all ages and with a wide range of orchestra experience: For some, it will be their first ever time seeing a live, professional orchestra, while for others the Symphony has been an annual holiday tradition for up to 20 or 30 years already, maybe enjoyed with kids and grandkids of their own now!

Whether you’re a regular or a first timer, we want you to feel welcome at the California Symphony, right here in Walnut Creek. Here’s a quick run down on what to expect for these special holiday concerts.

Before the Performance

Family-friendly fun starts in the lobby an hour before the show and continues during the twenty-minute intermission.

Hot Cocoa in the Hall

In addition to the usual selection of wine and sodas, hot cocoa will be available in the lobby (price: $2). You can even have your intermission drinks order lined up in advance when you flag down one of the gold vest-wearing, iPad-wielding members of the catering staff in the 2nd and 3rd floor lobbies before the performance.

Instrument Petting Zoo (Hint: It’s Not Just for the Kids)

Want an up close look at orchestra instruments? Our always popular instrument petting zoo is a place where you can touch, hold, and even try playing the different instruments in the orchestra. Try your hand at bowing a violin or a cello, or pucker up and try the trumpet or trombone. Find the petting zoo in the 3rd floor lobby.

Getting to know you… Trying out the musical instruments in our Instrument Petting Zoo.

Pick Up a Baton!

Step up to the conductor’s podium in the 2nd floor lobby, take up the baton and pretend you’re our guest conductor for the evening! Post your podium pictures to Facebook or Instagram and tag #CaliforniaSymphony for a chance to win tickets to our January performance, PASTORAL BEETHOVEN.

WANTED: Help to Solve “The Composer is Dead” Whodunit Mystery

The Composer is Dead and someone in the orchestra is guilty… The Inspector invites all the young amateur sleuths in the audience to come and collect your musical instrument suspect cards packet at the info table in the 2nd floor lobby. Match the suspects to their orchestra family and alibis in the center pages of your free program book to help solve the case.

The Performance

You can learn more about the program in another blog post here.

Full details will be in the free program book you’ll be handed as you enter the auditorium but here, in a nut(cracker)shell, is a preview of the music you’ll hear. The duration of each piece is listed in the program for your convenience, and you’ll find the words for the audience sing-along in the book too—so you can join in the singing with gusto!

The Program

Anderson—A Christmas Festival (6 minutes)

Tchaikovsky—Selections from The Nutcracker: Overture Miniature, March, Russian Dance, Arabian Dance, Chinese Dance, Dance of the Reed Flutes, Waltz of the Flowers, Waltz of the Snowflakes (28 minutes)

—I N T E R M I S S I O N (20 minutes)—

J. Strauss Sr.—Radetzky March, Op. 228 (3 minutes)

Stookey, Nathaniel—The Composer is Dead, With text by Lemony Snicket Manoel Felciano, narrator (30 minutes)

Audience Sing-Along (Hint: Find the Lyrics in the program book.)

Deck the Hall (2 minutes)

Silent Night (3 minutes)

Jingle Bells (2 minutes)

Anderson — Sleigh Ride (3 minutes)

Pro-tip: You can listen to Music Director Donato Cabrera’s holiday program playlist on Spotify.


Our online Guide for Newcomers has answers to all the FAQs we could think of about attending the Symphony for the first time, including what to wear (A: whatever you like), are phones allowed in the auditorium (A: yes, but in silent mode), and whether you can take your drink into the auditorium (A: yes, you can!)

Whether you’re coming back for your 31st year or joining us for the first time, we look forward to welcoming you, and to sharing a memorable holiday tradition with you, your friends, and your family. Thank you for supporting live music and your resident professional orchestra that’s based right here in Walnut Creek!


Saturday, December 23 at 4:00PM and 8:00PM at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, with activities in the lobby starting one hour earlier, and 3:00PM and 7:00PM.


Tickets start at $42 for adults and $20 for students, subject to change. Tickets are available at www.californiasymphony.org or by calling the Lesher Center at 925–943–7469.

** UPDATE: The matinee program is almost sold out. For better availability and better prices, choose the evening performance.**

This program is also part of our new Saturday Night Series, with tickets from $33 when you choose all three concerts in the series, including:

A LEMONY SNICKET HOLIDAY — Saturday, December 23 at 8pm

PASTORAL BEETHOVEN — Saturday, January 20 at 8pm

MOZART REQUIEM — Saturday, March 17 at 8pm

For details, visit our website.


The California Symphony, now in its fifth season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is a world-class, professional orchestra based in Walnut Creek, in the heart of the San Francisco East Bay since 1990. Our vibrant concert series is renowned for featuring classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians who have performed with the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and many of its musicians have been performing with the California Symphony for nearly all its existence.

Outside of the concert hall, the symphony actively supports music education for social change through its El Sistema-inspired, “Sound Minds” program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to Contra Costa County schoolchildren for free, in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program.

We also host the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program, which this year welcomes its first female composer, Katherine Balch.

California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today’s most-performed soloists and composers, including violinists Sarah Chang and Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and composers such as Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts. The Orchestra performs at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

For more information, please visit californiasymphony.org.