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Sunrise Service Back at Hollywood Bowl

After a two-year hiatus, the sunrise celebration of the Resurrection returns to the venue.

April 17, 2006|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

The two families come from far different backgrounds, yet for decades have come together in the early morning darkness to worship at the Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service.

After a two-year break for renovations, that tradition resumed Sunday for the Boychenkos and Chans and thousands of other worshipers who came to the outdoor amphitheater for the service that began at 5:30 a.m.

Trina Herrmann-Boychenko, whose father was a president of the nonprofit organization that produces the free nondenominational service, has been involved with the program since she was 5 years old. She met her husband, Erwin, at the bowl, and he proposed to her there in 1989.

The couple have two daughters, Natasha, 12, and Erika, 10, both members of the children's chorus for the service.

"It's marvelous being back here," Herrmann-Boychenko said. "To see this service every year, there are times where you just hold your breath and say, 'Whoa.' "

As Herrmann-Boychenko put the last touches on Natasha's hair an hour before the service, Ana Chan, 30, arrived with her brother, Freddy, 25, and sister, Gina, 29.

The Chans started attending the service nearly 20 years ago, after meeting one of the service's board members at a Boys & Girls Club function. About five years earlier, their parents had immigrated to the United States from Mexico.

"It was weird to be celebrating the service at another place," Ana Chan said. "We've had the privilege of meeting all kinds of great people and a lot of them have watched us grow up."

Other worshipers showed up for the service wearing beanies, blankets and jackets; some were still in pajamas. The day, on which Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, also marked the 85-year anniversary since the service was first held at the bowl.

A 150-member children's chorus pulled off their black robes in unison to reveal a "living cross" of white vestments before singing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today."

White doves, signifying hope and peace, were released a little later.

"It's wonderful to have this experience," said Monique Brown, 34, of Florida, wearing a new Minnie Mouse jacket after coming directly to the service from a Disneyland trip with her cousin. "This really just gets your blood flowing."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sheriff Lee Baca and honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant participated in a blessing of the bowl's new stage.

"The people of this city, many faces and denominations, sitting alongside families and strangers, have come to reaffirm the pillars of our faith on this early Easter Sunday morning," Villaraigosa said.

The Rev. Charles G. Robertson Jr., pastor of Wilshire Presbyterian Church, delivered the sermon for the service, whose theme was "Peace on Earth." Clergy from six denominations were represented.

"The energy of everyone shows the spirit and the love of this event," said Norma Foster, who heads the all-volunteer organization that produces the service. "It's why people return year after year."

The event began as a gathering for silent film stars near the site of the bowl in 1919. A huge success, it was moved to its present site in 1921, then just a rocky hillside covered with weeds, albeit an area with good natural acoustics.

The service was canceled at the bowl the last two years because of a $25-million renovation to replace the stage shell with a larger structure. It also was canceled for five years in the mid-1990s because of renovation work at the amphitheater. The service was held in other locations.

At this year's service, the Chan siblings worked the aisles, helping people find their seats.

"You just really can't describe how it feels to be here, to help out," Gina Chan said. "It feels overpowering; you feel a cleansing."

Herrmann-Boychenko was an all-around assistant, scrambling to make sure the stage was set and helping children with their choir robes.

"It always looks chaotic, but it always comes together too," Erwin Boychenko said.

Despite no sleep Saturday night, the Boychenkos hurried to another service after the one at the bowl ended.

"It's OK. We can sleep in the car," a smiling Erika Boychenko said.

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WHATEVUH ****************

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