The Crowd: It's the Year of the Horse, of course, of course

Welcome to the Year of the Horse. The Lunar New Year debuts Friday. Last week in the O.C., the Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Los Angeles, Ambassador Liu Jian, traveled to Costa Mesa to cut a ribbonand front opening ceremonies for the Lunar New Year celebrations at South Coast Plaza.

Hundreds of guests converged upon Jewel Court, sampling gourmet Asian cuisine and signature cocktails. The crowd enjoyed performances by members of the Zhejiang Cultural Festival from China's Zhejiang Province.

A roster of upscale South Coast Plaza merchants will participate in Lunar New Year celebrations, including the venerable Tiffany & Co., offering unique creations that will honor the Year of the Horse.


Music in the air

Across the plaza from Year of the Horse festivities, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County joined forces with the culturally motivated South Coast Plaza executive team to sponsor a most unusual art installation in the Eileen Fisher Boutique.

On the eve of Jan. 23, artist, inventor and musician Trimpin unveiled an installation of a deconstructed baby grand piano suspended from a tripod and rigged to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" when movement in its sphere dictates the keys to perform.

Sponsored by O.C. music patrons including Corona del Mar's dedicated Sharon McNalley, Deborah and Richard Polonsky, the Shanbrom Family Foundation and the Segerstrom Foundation, the event is raising funds for the youth education programs of the Philharmonic Society. The exhibition will run through Feb. 20.


Romance in the making

O.C. native son Matthew Morrison, a talented singer and actor best known for his lead role as Mr. Schuester on the Fox Network series "Glee," will appear in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall from Feb. 13 to 15 for a special concert billed as "Valentine's Day with Matthew Morrison."

Morrison is an Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe nominee who has been seen in such Broadway musicals as "Hairspray," "Footloose" and "The Light in the Piazza."

Pops Conductor Richard Kaufman will lead the Pacific Symphony backing up Morrison, whose repertoire will include romantic ballads such as "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," "All the Things You Are" and Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me."

Tickets are $35 to $185. Find out more by calling (714) 755-5799 or go to


International mingling

The World Affairs Council of Orange County invited members of the local Orange County Business Council for a recent holiday meet-and-greet with Canadian Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer. Newport Beach's Fairmont Hotel was the setting for the Dec. 19 holiday dinner, which began with a sunset champagne reception in the Bamboo Pavilion followed by dinner.

Doer addressed the crowd on "Canada-United States Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomatic Relations, Defense, and the Environment."


Changing of the guard

The major upgrades, renovations and personnel movement march on at the renamed Balboa Bay Resort Newport Beach.

Ownership announced that hotel management will now be in the hands of Sam El-Rabaa, formerly manager of Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California, another of the properties under the Pacific Hospitality Group of resorts.

El-Rabaa takes the helm this week as the hotel debuts it's new Blend in the lobby of the iconic Newport resort property.

Blend, a trendy coffee bar, will connect guests in the main lobby and the resort pool, offering a full array of specialty drinks, gourmet sandwiches, salads, pastries and fresh and healthy treats. The new boutique will also offer a variety of wines, beers and spirits.

Blend's debut this week is the first in a series of major changes to come in 2014 at the resort. Up next is a makeover of the main dining room known previously as First Cabin. A fresh and modern renovation will be revealed in coming months.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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