A mother cradles her infant; a horse gallops with abandon; an aged violinist loses himself in his passionate music; a child swings exuberantly on a trapeze--the subtlety and life in these enchanting scenes come courtesy of the acclaimed Cashore Marionettes, a troupe of exquisitely crafted puppets created by award-winning Pennsylvania-based puppeteer-designer Joseph Cashore.
Cashore's unusually expressive creations, presented by Performances to Grow On, are making a tour stop at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Saturday.
"Each piece represents different aspects of our lives," Cashore said. "Some are funny; some aren't. With the mother and baby, I'm trying to show the tenderness in that moment. For the piece with the violinist, I heard the music [by Vaughan Williams] first and visualized the character that might play that. I just keep a little sketchbook of things that I see in daily life that might make a good puppet idea."
Once the idea takes shape, achieving the remarkable fluidity and delicacy of movement that distinguish Cashore's creations is what takes time.
"It usually takes me about six months or longer to create a marionette that will do what I want it to do," he said.
"A lot of that is not spent building the body, but adjusting the weights that make the marionettes look as if they're moving naturally, not being moved."
The show is definitely not for young children, Cashore warned. "The marionettes create a mood in the audience that's very powerful but also very fragile."
Indeed, the nine poignant, funny and thoughtful vignettes are very much for adults and for children who are at least age 8, old enough to appreciate both the magical content, and the unusual artistry that brings the marionettes to life.
* "The Cashore Marionettes," Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Saturday, 7 p.m. $10 to $14. (805) 646-8907.
Songs to Sing: Parents, kids and song lovers of all ages are welcome to join Marcia Berman, Jackie Breger, Dave Kinnoin and other favorite children's singers at Southern California Children's Music Network's "Song Swap and Family Sing Along" on Dec. 7 at Westwood Charter School.
The festive event will feature songs of the season and of friendship and goodwill. Everyone is invited to participate; you can even bring along your own guitar or banjo.
Time permitting, "anybody can share a song," Breger said. "They can sing it, or they can request it." Age is no barrier. At last year's event, Breger said, "a 3-year-old led us in 'Skip to My Lou.' "
* "Song Swap and Family Sing Along," Westwood Charter School Auditorium, 2050 Selby Ave., West Los Angeles, Dec. 7, 1 to 3 p.m. Requested donation for the CMN Gathering Fund, $5. (213) 661-9112.
Choral Classics: The nationally known Los Angeles Children's Chorus will ring in the holidays with two "Rejoice and Be Merry" concerts at Pasadena Presbyterian Church on Dec. 5 and 6.
The concert is an annual event for the chorus, whose members, ages 8 to 16, have performed with the L.A. Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and other professional chorales.
The Concert Choir and Madrigal Ensemble, the most advanced singers, will perform on both programs; the Intermediate Choir will appear on Dec. 5 and the Apprentice Choir on Dec. 6. Both programs will feature traditional holiday carols and classical choral music by Bach, Shubert and Purcell as well as folk and poetic art songs.
* "Rejoice and Be Merry," Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Madison Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, Dec. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 6, 3 p.m. $10.