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Arts and Entertainment

Concert Review: the California Phil

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LAist was able to check out a couple of concerts last weekend, in two completely different venues. The program included some very patriotic affair, with the California Phil providing all of the fireworks. These concerts were mentioned as last week's classical pick, and did not disappoint. Although the program was exactly the same, the orchestra was able to adjust accordingly to the acoustics at each venue and offered a different interpretation but the same unbridled enthusiasm at each performance. The founder-conductor Victor Vener (who sounds like Jeff Bridges) engaged the orchestra and enthralled the audience throughout the concerts, with interesting anecdotes to make the pieces more personal to the audience, including a touching story involving his brother.

The Sousa was engaging and energizing, as the crowd clapped along throughout the entire piece. This led into an orchestral rendition of some tunes from the musical Chicago, to the delight of many Chicago expats in the audience. Appalachian Spring had suffered at the hands of many uninterested and uninspired orchestras, but not with this orchestra. This was the highlight of the concert at the Arboretum, where even the birds seemed to respond to the woodwinds with melodies of their own, and ended to a thunderous ovation. This segued into the Rhapsody in Blue, performed by Norman Krieger. The rising diatonic scale from the clarinet dictated how the piece began, with the orchestra setting the tone for how the piece should go. When the piano came in, he took over from there, making the piece his own with dazzling virtuosity, subtle tempo changes and a spectrum of colors used throughout the piece.

after the intermission...

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Things picked up once again, with Ferde Grofé's most famous work (if you don't count his arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue), the Grand Canyon Suite, and Mel Tormé's California Suite, sung by his son James. The second half was much more relaxed and carefree, with James helping to set the tone. This piece includes a jazz trio and vocalists, who were able to really showcase their talents in the encore pieces at the end.


The California Phil has concerts every other week, with different themes including movie music, musicals, and waltzes. Up next is a performance including excerpts of Phantom of the Opera, Tosca, Evita, and a few Bach pieces on the organ at the Disney Hall, something you don't want to miss. For more information you can call 626.300.8200 or visit Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or at the events respective box offices. For those that are having trouble deciding which concert to go to, there are several things to consider.

The concerts held at the Arboretum are on Saturday nights and the Disney Hall concerts are on Sunday afternoons. The Arboretum is located in Arcadia and the Walt Disney Concert Hall is in downtown. For those who want to make a day of it, spending a day at the Arboretum and then relaxing at the concert at night could definitely work, if you plan ahead of time. The parking is similarly priced, seven dollars at the Arboretum and eight at the Disney Hall. The Disney Hall does have the advantage that there are elevators and street parking available, whereas the Arboretum takes you on a long walk uphill. However, if you have your tickets already you can walk through the trail which is more scenic and enjoyable. Most people don't go to the Arboretum for the acoustics, but the scene. Like most outdoor venues, the sound often gets stretched out further along, and seems to lag behind the orchestra if you sit further back. Some beautiful melodies will be punctured by the sounds of peacocks in the Arboretum, but if you're in the front, none of this is too noticeable. The front also has tables where most people brought along their own food and wine catered from Joan's, Bristol Farms, or Whole Foods. However, if you don't have time to bring your own food, you're better off eating before or after the concert. There is food brought by Robin's Wood Fire BBQ & Grill, at an obscene 15-25 dollars for mediocre BBQ. Red White + Bluezz is a little better, but at a higher price point and with smaller portions. If you're not into the picnic experience, the Disney Hall is the place for you, with a small cafe and Michelin-starred Patina in the same building.

If you are going solely to listen to the music, you want to go to the Disney Hall or sit at the front of the Arboretum. The seats at the Disney Hall might get a little uncomfortable, but at the Arboretum you can dictate how comfortable you want to be, since most people bring lawn chairs and blankets (unless you sit at the tables in the front). The concerts run for around three hours, so if you don't want dew sticking on your programs/belongings at the Arboretum bring something to store them in. For the sheer experience of going out for a romantic evening or a family/friends gathering, the Arboretum is the place for you. Grab some wine, a picnic basket, get there early to listen to some free jazz, and enjoy the surroundings. The Cal Phil doesn't just provide good music, it provides a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that should become a tradition for those looking to get out of the house every summer, without all of the hustle and bustle at the Hollywood Bowl.

Photos by Armando Arorizo and Marcus Van Doren used with permission.