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VIFE Christmas Benefit Concert

The Virtuoso International Flute Ensemble (VIFE) is a group of multi-ethnic and competitive young musicians dedicated to serving the community with their musical gifts. Founder and Director July Lam was inspired to create the organization in 2008 when, as a private tutor for flute, a couple of high school students asked her to help them perform their community service hours through music. From this seed sprouted a musical ensemble of talented students and music professionals that conduct biannual concerts to support local charities. They have raised as much as $10,000 in one concert.

Each VIFE member is required to pursue artistic excellence, but Lams mission is not to focus on the competitive aspect of performing. ThereÕs so much pressure already for that, she says. VIFE provides a healthy atmosphere for young people to belong to a group with a shared purpose and goal. Students lay aside their smartphones to become part of a community and learn to give back to their greater community.

Christmas offers a special time to host a benefit concert, as it is the season for giving, and music expresses it in a universal language. VIFEs charity this December is Heart of Hope, Asian American Hospice Care (HOH), a non-profit organization that serves the elderly with hospice care. They service not only individuals, but also their family members. Lam feels the Asian community typically shies away from getting outside help, but HOH understands this void and meets the need in a caring way. They predominantly support the Asian community, but welcome anyone of any culture to use their services
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The Nutcracker reinvented

Its the holiday season and you know what that means? Yes, time to see yet another performance of The Nutcracker, the classic two-act ballet with music by Tchaikovsky. It is estimated that American ballet companies generate about 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker. But perhaps youve grown a bit weary of this traditional entertainment and are looking for something a little moreÉ fresh.

Introducing The Nutcracker as imagined by Fusion Dance Project, an innovative dance studio based in Hayward. Their version includes a variety of dance styles, from hip hop to jazz to tap to ballet. Tito Reyes, who co-founded the company with his wife Meghan, remembers seeing The Nutcracker as a young kid and wondering Why is the party scene always really boring? Its supposed to be a party! He vowed that if he ever produced a Nutcracker show himself, he would include contemporary music and dance.

I get music, like pop or hip hop, thats going on right now, and I try to put it into the show, so then everybody can relate. I do put a classical touch to it as well. I still use Tchaikovsky, Reyes explains. And while many dance studios edit some parts out of the performance, Fusion Dance Project still likes to remain true to the original format. We do a whole first act, which is the party, and then the transformation into battle of the Rat King and the Nutcracker. It has all the suites.

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Silver bells and red kettles

Tis the season for giving! The holidays are here, as evidenced by the familiar jingling of bells heard heading in and out of stores around town. Red kettles of the Salvation Army stand by awaiting donations to benefit those in need. Whether passersby are generous or empty handed, bell ringers cheerfully wish everyone a happy holiday season.

Dating back to 1891, the first red kettle campaign was unofficial. It was Christmastime in San Francisco, and Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army Captain, was determined to find a way to provide a holiday dinner for the Citys poor. Inspiration came when he looked back on his life as an English sailor. During that time, one of the ports in England would place a huge iron kettle out for people to donate money for the poor. Captain McFee decided to do the same and set a kettle out near the San Francisco Ferry landing. A sign that said, Keep the Pot Boiling accompanied it. With this simple idea, he was able to raise enough money to feed the hungry of San Francisco that year. In less than ten years, the concept had spread nationwide. Today, these famous red kettles can be found around the world.

Although its bell ringers have been memorialized in song, the Salvation Army itself is less well known. This charitable organization began as a faith-based group whose intent was to spread the message of Jesus Christ to the poor. The group, founded in London in 1865 by former Methodist minister William Booth, was initially called the Hallelujah Army. Booths intent was to preach the gospel to the homeless and destitute, and then send them to local churches. Sadly, the new converts were viewed as undesirable by the churches and turned away. This led Booth to form his own church.
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Longest Night Service

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December 16 - December 20
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December 17
Never Too Late

Union City Branch Library

December 17
Coyote Cubs $R

Coyote Hills Regional Park

December 17
Wednesday Walk

Mission Peak Regional Preserve

December 17
Clipper Card Workshop

Fremont Senior Center

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