Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5, 2013

“Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto”

            By Linda de Vries

Calling all space cadets and science lovers!

Calling all lovers of Charles Schulz, his “Peanuts” cartoon, and jazz!

On June 1, 2013 Chorale Bel Canto is singing an All Beethoven concert at First United Methodist Church Pasadena.

This post’s suggested day trip with the CBC concert at the center of your experience is to The California Institute of Technology.

How does Cal Tech relate to Beethoven? How does Charles Schulz relate to Cal Tech, to Beethoven, to Pasadena, to jazz? The fun we have in researching these unusual connections will, we hope, make your day trip more fun as well.

If you’re a “Peanuts” fan, you know Schroeder, the Beethoven-obsessed kid at the piano. Did you know, though, that numerous scholars find serious meanings in the Beethoven strips? Such a one is William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at California State University, San Jose, who, in 2009, helped curate an exhibition at The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, “Schulz’s Beethoven: Schroeder’s Muse.” Meredith said, “The music is a character in the strip as much as the people are, because the music sets the tone and introduces the characters’ state of emotion.”

Why was Beethoven so important to the cartoonist? Part of the answer may be found in Schulz’s religious background. Although near the end of his life he described himself as a secular humanist, he began as a Lutheran, then became active in the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, then taught Sunday school at a United Methodist Church. One of his earliest strips was “Young Pillars” published in the Church of God magazine, Youth. Schulz often referred to religious themes in his work, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), frequently saying that the character of Linus represented his spiritual side. For more on this particular theme, read Charles L. Short’s The Gospel According to Peanuts.

On June 1st you can hear Chorale Bel Canto sing Beethoven’s Mass in C.

But what’s the connection between Schulz, Pasadena, and Jazz? In 1965 the jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi received the commission to compose the music for the TV production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It became an annual viewing tradition.

Then in 2008, the Pasadena Jazz Institute offered a holiday concert of Guaraldi’s score: It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas: The Music of Vince Guaraldi. This concert quickly became a holiday tradition among jazz groups across the country.

As you spend your day in Pasadena, you may drive past the former home of the Pasadena Jazz Institute, at Paseo Colorado, 280 E. Colorado Boulevard, or find the Institute at its current home at 286 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena, CA 91001, 626-398-3344.

The connection between Schulz and Pasadena is reinforced by the fact that on January 1, 1974, Charles M. Schulz served as the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena!

But we still have to circle back to the Cal Tech connection. This is a humorous, arcane stretch, but here goes! Cal Tech is the home of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). There is a tradition at JPL to eat “good luck peanuts” before critical missions. The story goes that after the Ranger Program experienced a series of failures during the 1960s, the first successful Ranger mission to the moon occured while a JPL staffer was eating peanuts. The staff deemed the peanuts a good luck charm, and the tradition persisted. Oh, and Cal Tech does have a yearly Jazz Festival of its own!

What will you do during you day at Cal Tech? One choice is to tour the campus, whose original buildings were designed by Sapnish Revival architect Bertram Goodhue. There is a regular schedule of tours, but on Saturday, June 1, 2013, you are probably best to take a self-guided walking tour. Visit their web site at, click on “Tours” and scroll down to the many pages describing the walking tour. 626-395-4652.

Or, you might want to tour the Palomar Observatory on the campus, either at 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. <> You might also want to arrange a tour of JPL, for which you will need advance reservations and a photo ID to get in. <> (818) 354-9314.

Or, if you’re a middle school or high school teacher (kids also welcome) you might want to attend a Juice From Juice workshop, which teaches you how to generate a current using fruit and solar energy! There is a workshop scheduled on June 1, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It’s FREE. Contact Carolyn at 626-590-8803.

A final bit of trivia. A Cal Tech Ph.D student named Virgil Griffth created a chart of the SAT scores of the fans of different types of music, composers, and music groups. Turns out that the highest average SAT scores (1346-1396) were those of Beethoven listeners!

So, Peanuts to peanuts, Beethoven to jazz, and Pasadena to. . .Chorale Bel Canto.

All Beethoven

Choral Fantasy for piano, soloists, chorus, and orchestra
Mass in C for soloists, chorus and orchestra


Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

First United Methodist Church Pasadena
500 E. Colorado Blvd. (at Oakland Ave.)
Pasadena, CA 91101 u 626-796-0157
Chorale Bel Canto 888-460-9222 u

Following the concert you might wish to participate in other FREE musical events in Make Music Pasadena, celebrating World Music Weekend.

Or, in keeping with Beethoven’s Germano-Austrian heritage, you might want to have dinner at either the Dog Haus Biergarten, 93 E. Green Street, Pasadena, 626-683-0808. In April the Dog Haus honored John Galardi, the founder of the Wienerschnizel chain, after his death from cancer. Galardi started his career working with Taco Bell founder Glen Bell in Pasadena before founding his first Wienerschnizel in Wilmington.

Another choice for dinner might be Congregation Ale House, 300 S Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626-578-0166. Also a gastropub in the German tradition, its religious theme and Happy Hour “Mass” provide a new twist on the musical experience of our Beethoven concert.

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