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The Valley Line: Taking in the Big Picture in Laguna Beach

6:28 PM EDT, August 14, 2013

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What fabulous, cool weather we have had during the first part of this month. Whoever thought that those two words would ever describe August weather in our area, for crying out loud? I hope my words don't jinx the situation.

I have to keep pushing the thought away that we are soon going to get slammed by the unbearable heat that usually shows up in this month. Shhh, we'll be very quiet about it so we don't disturb the furies.

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This past week I made my annual pilgrimage down to the Laguna Art Festival and Pageant of the Masters. I absolutely couldn't miss my favorite event of the entire summer season. I've been making this trek for more than four decades.

This year's pageant theme is "The Big Picture." Indeed, it is so thrilling as the pageant wizards waved their magic wands and showed us how Hollywood's moving pictures not only became their own art form but also embraced traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture from the masters whose works of art are placed in gardens, museums, churches and private homes around the globe.

"The Big Picture" showcases how the genius of Michelangelo found expression in the film, "The Agony and the Ecstasy," how Thomas Gainsborough's portraits influenced Stanley Kubrick, and how the works of Jean-Leon Gerome can be seen in films by directors like David Lean and Ridley Scott.

"I thought it would be a new twist for the pageant to take a look back at the work of the masters that inspired great works of cinema" explained Pageant Director Diane Challis Day.

Walt Disney received an artistic nod in a pageant replica of a bronze statue called "The Storytellers," which depicts him and Mickey Mouse and is installed at Disney California Adventure Theme Park in Anaheim. There was also much ado about Disney's first major full-length film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in the pageant commentary. An art piece created by Gustaf Tenggen that was shown on stage at the pageant was a movie poster of that film.

By the way, two of Disney's original animators who worked on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" — the late Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston — were longtime residents of La Cañada Flintridge and had neighboring properties.

The Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, which is spectacular in every way, runs through Aug. 31. Tickets are still available online and through ticket agencies.

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More than 70 guests arrived at the beautiful La Cañada Flintridge home of Kim Clayton Hershman to celebrate the return of students and new freshmen to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn.

Hershman, president of the Los Angeles Yale Black Alumni Association, welcomed alumni and the Los Angeles area freshman students who will be attending this revered private Ivy League university.

There was plenty of time to chat about the exciting years that new students have ahead of them.

Hershman and her sons, Justin and Jordan, who will both be attending Polytechnic School in Pasadena very soon, greeted parents, alums and new students to an afternoon of swimming and a barbecue of delicious foods.

Among the guests were La Cañada residents Chad Cosse (Yale class of 2017) and his mother, Pam. Good luck, Chad, have a great freshman year. "Go Bulldogs!"

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Maestra Rachael Worby and her accomplished Muse/ique musicians also recently received inspiration from Hollywood in their concert titled, "Moving Pictures," which featured motion picture scores by Elmer Bernstein, Harry Goldsmith, Vangelis, Ennio Morricone, John Williams, Claud-Michel Schonbert and Erich Korngold.

The concert, held in Caltech's Beckman Mall, played to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 music enthusiasts who came early to picnic and exchange news of summer adventures.

As I was making my way to my table, noticing the wonderful offerings of creative cuisine at many of those tables, I spotted La Cañada resident Nancy Harahan, who was having an animated chat with Andrea Van de Kamp.

I have known both of these wonderful women for many years so I was delighted to stop to say hello and share community news with them.

Harahan mentioned that Van de Kamp was celebrating her birthday. We both agreed that she should keep the parties going for at least a month — it's more fun that way!

The evening's program featured noted cellist Matt Haimovitz and award-winning actress Wendie Malick ("Hot in Cleveland"). Also adding to the program was Allison Iraheta, who sang the emotional song, "Bring Him Home" from the stage play and movie, "Les Miserables" and MacArthur Genius Fellow John Dabiri, director of Caltech's Biological Propulsion Laboratory. The evening also included the world premiere of "Sleepwalking," a concerto for cello and chamber orchestra with images by Peter Golub, prolific composer and director of Sundance's Film Music Program. It was a memorable evening.

The next concert is scheduled for this Saturday evening, Aug. 17. Its theme is "Lose Your Senses with Ellis Hall" and it will feature Hall, Tower of Power's lead singer and keyboardist, who electrifies with his five-octave range. Worby says he will tear it up with the Selah Gospel Choir to unchain the soul sounds of great musicians like Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and even Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. They join Caltech physicist Sean Carroll. The evening also celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" with a world premiere of a dance set to the score of Spike Jonze' critically acclaimed film adaptation of the beloved children's book.

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JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@yahoo.com with news of your special event.