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Rady Shell to host first outdoor holiday concerts in San Diego Symphony’s 111-year history

An aerial view of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the San Diego Symphony’s new, year-round bayside venue, will host five holiday concerts in December.
(Salvatore Villanueva / Tucker Sadler Architects)

The five concerts will include film screenings of two Disney favorites, ‘Frozen’ and ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol,’ both with live orchestral performances

Given Southern California’s famously mild winter temperatures, Jack Frost is highly unlikely to be nipping at your nose when the San Diego Symphony unveils its first holiday concert series at its new $85 million outdoor venue.

The five performances at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park downtown will all take place in December at the state-of-the-art bayside site, which opened in August as a year-round venue. The series will open on Dec. 10 and all five concerts will begin at 5 p.m.

This is the first time in the orchestra’s 111-year history that its holiday concerts are being held outdoors. The Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall, the orchestra’s indoor downtown home, is currently being renovated.

The renovation — coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — led to the symphony this month launching the first-ever outdoor edition of its annual Jacobs Masterworks concert series at The Shell, rather that at Copley Symphony Hall.

The holiday series will kick off with Dec. 10-12 performances of “Noel, Noel.” The three concerts will team the symphony with the San Diego Master Chorale, directed by Dr. John K. Russell, and the San Diego Children’s Choir, directed by Ruthie Millgard. The orchestra will be conducted by Ted Sperling.

The three “Noel, Noel” concerts will be followed on Dec. 18 by Disney’s “The Muppet Christmas Carol Live in Concert,” a film screening with live orchestral accompaniment. The symphony will be conducted by Susie Benchasil Seiter, whose previous credits include orchestrating and conducting “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” and “Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions concert tours.

The series will conclude with a Dec. 22 film screening of Disney’s “Frozen,” also with live orchestral accompaniment and also conducted by Seiter. The outdoor setting and The Shell’s ultra-modern audio and visual capabilities could provide new dimension to what in previous years was a strictly indoor affair.

All five holiday concert performances at The Shell will begin at 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $25 to $95 per concert. Front-row premium seats in The Shell’s Parkside and Bridgeview sections will cost an additional $10 for the three “Noel, Noel” concerts.

Tickets are now on sale online for symphony subscribers via the venue’s website, at theshell.org. Tickets will go on sale to the general public Tuesday at noon. They will also be available by phone at (619) 235-0804 and via email at tickets@sandiegosymphony.org.

Because of last year’s pandemic-fueled shutdown of live events, the symphony’s 2020 holiday concert series was trimmed to a single Dec. 18 performance of “Noel Noel.” It was filmed in advance and then streamed online, free of charge.

The streamed concert drew 10,000 viewers on Facebook and 9,752 on YouTube from around the globe. With a seating capacity of 3,500 for each of its five upcoming 2021 holiday concerts, the symphony could draw up to 17,500 live audience members if all five performances sell out.


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