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Life and Arts

The Valley Line: La Cañada resident Don Hahn honored by L.A. Children’s Chorus during Gala Bel Canto

Los Angeles Children’s Chorus honored La Cañada resident Don Hahn, Academy Award-nominated producer of such blockbuster Disney films as “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Maleficent,” and philanthropists Jennifer and Joe Sliskovich during its recent Gala Bel Canto, at the Iconic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The April 24 celebration featured musical tributes by some 200 young singers, many of them from La Cañada Flintridge. The singers are members of LACC ensembles led by Artistic Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz. Guests enjoyed a three-course dinner and a live auction. Proceeds from the annual fundraiser benefiting Los Angeles Children’s Chorus’ artistic, educational and scholarship programs.

Hahn, a bear of a man in stature who has a gentle nature, was greeting gala guests along with his wife, Denise, and daughter, Emilie.

Over the years Hahn produced some of the most successful and globally beloved animated films of our time. He was presented LACC’s Bel Canto Award by noted film critic and film historian Leonard Maltin, who praised him for his passion and commitment in support of music experiences for children that have impacted young people the world over.

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I met Hahn several years ago at another LACC gala and we chatted about our love for art. For several months we had a fun email art exchange where he shared some of his beautiful California plein air paintings with me. Well, my offerings in this art exchange were certainly not up to his degree of excellence, but I treasured this opportunity of meaningful art sharing with this great man.

Hahn’s films have earned 18 Academy Award nominations. “Beauty and the Beast” was the first full-length animated feature to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He also received an Oscar-nomination for the animated short The Little Matchgirl. During his career, Hahn has directed such legends as Itzhak Perlman, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, and his documentaries “Earth,” “Oceans” and “African Cats” for Disneynature films, of which he serves as executive producer, are among the top five nature movies of all time. In addition, Hahn, called a “Renaissance man” by Animation Magazine, has published numerous books on animation and other topics.

Receiving the Rebecca Thompson Founder’s Award at the Gala Bel Canto were Joe and Jennifer Sliskovich. The Sliskoviches, both attorneys and entrepreneurs have championed the Children’s Chorus for nearly two decades. Their award was presented by Anne Tomlinson, artistic director emerita. Their son, Gregory and daughter, Natalie are alumni of LACC.

The gala festivities opened with a rousing rendition of Alan Menken’s lively “Be Our Guest” performed by the Young Men’s Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Steven Kronauer and accompanied by pianist Manuel Arellano. The group also launched a musical tribute to the Sliskoviches with Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” featuring their son, Gregory. Their musical tribute continued with Irving Berlin’s “BlueSkies,” sung by the Intermediate Choir, led by Mandy Brigham with principal pianist Twyla Meyer, followed by Rosephanye Powell’s “Still I Rise,” featuring the Sliskoviches’ daughter, Natalie with the Chamber Singers, conducted by Artistic Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz.

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Don Hahn was feted with Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” sung by the Apprentice and Intermediate Choirs conducted by Diana Landis, as well as Ēriks Ešenvalds’ “Only in Sleep” and Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow,” both performed by the Mixed Voices Choir, led by Malvar-Ruiz, who also conducted the Concert Choir on Henry Mollicone’s “Spanish Ave Maria.”

The evening’s entertainment concluded with Malvar-Ruiz leading the combined choirs on John Leavitt’s arrangement of Lebo M.’s “One by One,” for which Hahn himself accompanied the singers on percussion and special guest Los Angeles Master Chorale baritone Adrien Redford was featured, followed by Elton John’s joyous “Hakuna Matata.”

Andrea Greene Willard chaired Gala Bel Canto. One of her committee members was La Cañada resident Elizabeth Grossman Besch.

Jane Napier Neely covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@aol.com with news of your special event.

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