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The Crowd: Concerts for mission's preservation

July 28, 2010|By B.W. Cook
  • Christina Haakenson of JUVE Creative and Mechelle Lawrence-Adams, Executive Director of Mission San Juan Capistrano at recent Saturday night summer concert under the stars at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Christina Haakenson of JUVE Creative and Mechelle Lawrence-Adams,… (Hand in, Daily Pilot )

It is known as "The Jewel of the Missions." And it is surely one of Orange County's most significant cultural and religious landmarks. Mission San Juan Capistrano, the seventh in a chain of 21 California missions under the leadership of Padre Junípero Serra, welcomes some 50,000 area students every year and countless more tourists exploring the mission's history.

It dates back to Nov. 1, 1776, which happens to be All Saints Day in the Catholic Church. It's remarkable that, at the same time, 13 former British colonies some 3,000 miles to the east were only months into having declared their independence from Great Britain. On the Pacific coast, which was under Spain's control, a Catholic priest and his staff, which included countless Native Americans, were spreading the faith in uncharted territory.

This summer the Mission Preservation Foundation is again throwing a series of summer concerts under the stars, welcoming Orange County patrons to a unique summer experience. The foundation, the mission's fundraising arm, recently announced that the mission's membership, known as the Preservation Society, has reached an all-time high mark of 10,000 active members supporting the goals to protect the Orange County landmark's religious and historic significance. The support comes from all sectors of society in Orange County, including Newport-Mesa. This past Saturday evening the third in the series of six concerts and picnic dinners unfolded in the mission's rose garden courtyard.

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Each of the six Saturday night concerts themed around a particular genre of music. The first summer concert was dedicated to the music of Billy Joel and Elton John. The second took a turn into rock 'n' roll and featured the music of U2. And, this past Saturday night, it was all about the Motown sound. The evening attracts an astounding gathering of some 1,500 people, some sitting at reserved designated tables and others picnicking on the grass. The crowd is requested to bring their own dinner and people end up sharing their food in true community spirit. Organizers set up four different dance floors throughout the courtyard.

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