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Mission San Juan Capistrano will light up in a Sept. 15 musical tribute to raise funds for historic preservation

September 5, 2017

One evening per year, the hallowed ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano’s Great Stone Church are transformed into a concert setting unlike any other. Hundreds of people gather in tuxedos and gowns to be entertained and to support preservation amid ruins bathed in colored lights.

Last year’s Romance of the Mission gala raised a reported $236,000 to help the Mission Preservation Foundation sustain, maintain and enhance the landmark Spanish mission that Father Junipero Serra founded in 1776.

It is considered the birthplace of Orange County. Every year, tourists, scholars, educators and school children from around the United States and the world visit the mission to learn about California history, attend special events and explore the legacy of cliff swallows, a migratory bird for which the mission is renowned.

At 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, supporters will again gather at the mission for the Romance of the Mission fundraising fete featuring a four-course plated dinner served by the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and a concert by Tony and Grammy award winner Heather Headley, who portrayed Nala in the Broadway production “The Lion King,” the title role in Broadway’s “Aida” and Shug Avery in Broadway’s “The Color Purple.” The acclaimed recording artist will sing Broadway favorites, songs transcending popular genres and her interpretation of Mission San Juan Capistrano’s trademark song, “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.”

Tickets are $350. Call Barb Beier at the mission at 949-234-1323.

The event will honor Sheila and Jim Peterson, San Juan Capistrano residents credited by the mission with longstanding support for mission preservation projects.

Romance of the Mission’s concert setting, the Great Stone Church, took nine years to build, from 1797 to 1806. It was destroyed by an 1812 earthquake that claimed 40 lives, the mission’s official guide states.

This is the 15th annual Romance of the Mission. Performers in recent years have included “American Idol’s” season 14 runner-up Clark Beckham, Broadway entertainer David Burnham and “Beauty and the Beast” performer Susan Egan.

Visit to learn more about the mission, tours, exhibits, artifacts, events and the Mission Preservation Foundation.

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