’Tis the Symphony: A Guide to the California Symphony Holiday Concerts

An animated holiday classic, a Grammy-winning choir, mulled wine & cocoa to sip at your seat… Get the scoop on what to expect when you come to one of the California Symphony’s holiday concerts.

There’s nothing quite like the buzzing atmosphere of the California Symphony’s holiday concerts, with the aroma of mulled wine in the hall, free activities in the lobby, and a program of music that’s geared to getting everyone into the holiday spirit.

’TIS THE SYMPHONY takes place Saturday, Dec. 22 at 4PM and 8PM at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, and 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 the holiday concerts.

Before the Show

Free, family-friendly fun starts in the lobby an hour before each performance.

Hot Cocoa and Mulled Wine in the Lobby

In addition to the usual selection of wines and sodas for sale in the lobby, hot cocoa with all your favorite toppings will be available at the Cocoa Bar. Meanwhile for those wanting to put a little more spirit into their season, mulled wine will also be available. (And if you’d like to get a head start on that festive feeling, check out California Symphony violist Catherine Matovich’s mulled wine recipe here.)

Pro tip: Save time at intermission by ordering your drinks in advance. Just 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 to place your order.

Instrument Petting Zoo

The 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.

Pro Tip: It’s not just for the kids.

Try a trombone… a violin, a cello, a flute, a clarinet and more at the Instrument Petting Zoo in the 3rd floor lobby.

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, A TANGO WITH MOZART.

“The Snowman” Crafting & Coloring

Feeling crafty? Then come to the activity tables on the 2nd floor lobby for coloring, dot-to-dot, and snowman mask-making. Get creative at the table or pick up your free activity “Make & Take” packet to go.

The Performance

The Grammy-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy joins the full orchestra to perform holiday favorites as well as singing to the Oscar-nominated holiday classic, The Snowman, which is played on the big screen as the orchestra and choir perform music from the soundtrack live. To learn more about the Oakland-based Pacific Boychoir Academy—the only full-time boys’ chorus school on the west coast of North America—read profiles of Head Boy Cadence Strange and chorister Tavian Roberts on our blog. You can also go behind the scenes with video production technician Kim Rooker and read about how the orchestra stays in time with the movie.

Full details of the music will be in the free program book you’ll be handed as you enter the auditorium. The duration of each piece is also listed in the program, 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

California Symphony—Donato Cabrera, music director

Pacific Boychoir Academy—Andrew Brown, music director

Anderson—A Christmas Festival (6 minutes)

Regney/Shayne Baker—Do You Hear What I Hear? (3 minutes)

Children’s Christmas Medley (9 minutes)

  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  • I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas
  • All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)—Selections from The Nutcracker (24 minutes). Miniature Overture, Marche, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, Russian Dance, Arabian Dance, Chinese Dance, Dance of the Reed Flutes, Waltz of the Flowers

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

Blake (b. 1938)—The Snowman (26 minutes) with the Pacific Boychior Academy

Audience sing-along

  • Deck the Hall (2 minutes)
  • Silent Night (3 minutes)
  • Jingle Bells (2 minutes)

Anderson—Sleigh Ride (2 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: absolutely!)

Whether you’re coming back for your 32nd year or joining us for the first time, we look forward to seeing you, and to sharing a holiday tradition with you. Thanks for coming to see the California Symphony—your resident professional orchestra that’s based right here in Walnut Creek!

’Tis the Symphony takes place Saturday, December 22 at 4:00PM and 8:00PM at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, with activities in the lobby starting an hour earlier, at 3:00PM and 7:00PM.

Tickets start at $42 for adults and $20 for students and are available at www.californiasymphony.org or by calling the Lesher Center at 925.943.7469.