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Casey Christie / The Californian

The little soldiers huddle up on stage during rehearsal of the Nutcracker.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The soldiers and mice practice in this recent dress rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas time production of the popular Nutcracker.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Drosselmeyer, Kevin Trueblood, holds Clara, Katie Walsh up high as she holds the small Nutcracker during rehearsal.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The Nutcracker, left, Drosselmeyer, Kevin Trueblood, right, both hold up Clara, Katie Walsh, during play rehearsal.

The long-standing tradition of Bakersfield's production of the "Nutcracker" ballet is based on the long-standing relationship between Civic Dance Center director Cindy Trueblood and Bakersfield Symphony conductor John Farrer.

That relationship -- at least the working part of it -- will come to end with this year's performance.

Farrer will be leaving the BSO after the 2013-14 orchestra season.

"I'm not letting my brain wrap around that yet," Trueblood said. "I don't like change, especially with someone I care about and enjoy working with."

"It's been a pleasure to work with Cindy," Farrer said.

Though the orchestra will audition a number of finalists to replace Farrer as conductor next season, BSO executive director Bryan Burrow hopes Farrer, in his capacity as conductor emeritus, will wield the baton for the 2014 production of the "Nutcracker," though that decision is not set in stone.

"He's done this so many times and he does it so well, that this is a natural for him to do," Burrow said. "I would anticipate the new conductor conducting the ballet in 2015."

The collaboration between the BSO and Civic Dance Center, Trueblood's dance studio, began shortly after Farrer became the full-time conductor of the Bakersfield Symphony -- then the Kern Philharmonic -- in 1975.

"At that time the orchestra gave four or five subscription concerts a year and that was it," Farrer said. "And it didn't do anything in December and the holiday season."

There are two "staples" of the Christmas season -- Handel's "Messiah" and Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker." Farrer noted the Bakersfield Masterworks Chorale was already taking care of "Messiah."

"That left the 'Nutcracker,'" Farrer said.

Farrer said he began looking at productions of the ballet in other communities to see how they were done, and ultimately rejected the idea of importing a ballet company.

"I was unaware of Cindy until Beverly Lambourne, a cellist with the orchestra, told me 'There's a young woman who does the 'Nutcracker' in her garage.'"

"John contacted me and I brought an 8-mm film and we showed him some excerpts from what we had done and he thought it was great," Trueblood said. "We made plans to do it right then."

"It was his vision that he really wanted it to be from the community," Trueblood said. "He wanted to use local talent."

In December 1978, Civic Dance Center and the Bakersfield Symphony presented their first live performance, a tradition which not only has lasted 36 years, but has outlasted many other productions of the ballet that have gone to taped music to cut costs. The conductor has kept track of the number of performances: 122 full productions and 94 abridged productions for school audiences.

"Over the years, we've been able to do in our orchestra what our big sister orchestras have done, which is play this multiple times," Farrer said.

In 36 years, Farrer said he and the orchestra have shared many experiences: family events such as births and deaths; new members joining the orchestra and veterans retiring; comical situations such as the orchestra pit malfunctioning because of a Coke can stuck in the mechanism; the "fog" from the stage flowing out over the musicians forcing them to play by guesswork and prayer; and growing up and growing older together with the dance company.

"It's been very gratifying to see people come up through the ranks over time," Farrer said.