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Trumpets and Teddys

Stuffed bears will help ease youngsters into the world of chamber music.


How do you introduce chamber music to children as young as 3? You wrap it in familiar tunes like "Jingle Bells," add some storybook characters like Winnie the Pooh and serve it up as with a kid-style version of high tea.

At least that's what the Ventura Chamber Music Festival is banking on as it prepares for its first family fund-raising event, Teddy Bear Tea & Trumpets on Dec. 5 at Ventura's Olivas Adobe.

Seated at umbrella-shaded tables in the adobe's courtyard, families will hear a concert by a brass quintet while they dine on finger sandwiches--salmon or roast beef for parents, peanut butter and jelly for the kids--and sip tea or cocoa.

This classy affair doesn't come cheap. Tickets for children are $25, and for adults, $45.

"It's something we hope will become a tradition," said Karyl Lynn Burns, executive director of the music festival. "I grew up in Kansas City and I would go with my grandmother to a teddy-bear tea, where we brought our teddy bears. It was a special time to dress up and go out."


Kids are invited to bring along their bears here too. They'll also receive one to add to their collections.

Geared for kids 3 to 12, this bash has some other fun elements. A Mad Hatter-dressed character will show kids how to make hats.

They can also experiment with some real instruments, which Burns said would be swabbed with alcohol between tryouts. Volunteers will be on hand to provide some tips too. Meanwhile, storybook characters will do some storytelling.

But the centerpiece of this event is the music, and it should be first-rate. Members of the quintet are professional musicians who have played with orchestras worldwide, recorded music and worked on movie soundtracks.

"They are incredible performers," Burns said. "They've performed with the Ventura Chamber Orchestra, and audiences will have seen them during festival events."

They'll perform two 20-minute sets featuring traditional holiday music, some fun pop tunes like the theme from the movie "The Pink Panther" and, of course, they'll do "Teddy Bears on Parade." Led by the storybook characters, kids will march around the courtyard while the quintet plays Robert Nagel's "This Old Man March."

Between sets, tea will be served. And if the music doesn't hold kids' attention, the food likely will. It comes courtesy of the Doubletree Hotel, complete with bear-shaped cookies. They'll drink their cocoa from real teacups.

"Everyone will have a different teacup," Burns said. "We call it shabby chic."

For adults, the tea will be the real thing, brewed precisely by tea aficionados Jim and Kathleen Hatmaker. Along with sandwiches, they'll be served eclairs and scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd.

This event, which also includes an auction, is a fund-raiser for the Ventura Chamber Music Festival and its outreach activities, such as bringing music into local classrooms. A limited number of tickets are available for those who can't afford them, thanks to some ticket donations, and Burns is encouraging more donations for that purpose.

* Teddy Bear Tea & Trumpets is Dec. 5, 2 p.m., at Olivas Adobe, 4500 Olivas Park Drive, Ventura. For reservations and ticket information, call 648-3146 or 667-2900.


Island Packers is offering a new outing--one geared more for families--to the west side of Santa Cruz Island. This one goes to Prisoners Harbor, where a naturalist leads short hikes that children can manage.

Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands, its mountain ranges stretching 24 miles. The western 90% of the island is owned by the Nature Conservancy, which doesn't allow visitors to hike on their own. "It's so beautiful--it's got more vegetation" than the island's more barren east end, said Island Packers' Cherryl Connally. "This is the first time we've been able to take kids there."

Families spend 3 1/2 hours on the island hiking or exploring Prisoners Harbor, named for the Mexican convicts released on the island in 1830 after their ship's captain was denied permission to unload them on the mainland.

The hikes, geared for children 6 and older and their parents, give a view of the island's pastoral central valley, where a cattle ranch once thrived.

Day trips, leaving at 9 a.m. from Ventura Harbor, are scheduled Friday, Saturday, and Dec. 26, 29, 31 and Jan. 2. Cost is $47 for adults and $35 for children 12 and under. For information, call 642-1393.

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