Sunday, October 13, 2013

Destination  . . . Chorale Bel Canto
            By Linda de Vries, Singer and Chair of the Board

Love classical choral music? Think Chorale Bel Canto.

Seldom or never listen to classical choral music? Think again.

On October 26, think the City of Whittier, where Chorale Bel Canto is singing Love Songs Through the Ages.

Think Whittier is too far to drive for just a concert? Think again.

“Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto” posts several times in advance of each of our concerts, offering you ideas for a different day trip to the city in which we’re singing, with a Chorale Bel Canto concert at the center of your experience. These trips appeal to a wide variety of interests, and share fascinating, sometimes intricate, connections between the city and the music.

Today, think Mexican California.

10:00 a.m.
Begin your day at San Gabriel Arcángel Mission, 428 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel 91776. (626-282-5308). Founded September 8, 1771 by Spaniards of the Franciscan order as the fourth of what would become 21 missions in California, this mission is still a fully-functioning parish church. Father Antonio Cruzado designed the mission, its Moorish architecture reflecting his home in Córdoba, Spain,

The original site of the mission was on the banks of the Rio Hondo in the Whittier Narrows. It was destroyed by a flash flood and was relocated five miles closer to the mountains. The Misión Vieja (“Old Mission”) can be seen near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in Montebello. From this mission were sent the fathers that founded the pueblo that became the City of Los Angeles.
Tour the church, museum, and grounds. Museum exhibits include mission relics, books and religious artifacts. The grounds feature operations from the original mission complex, including indoor and outdoor kitchens, winery, water cisterns, soap and candle vats, tanning vats for preparing cattle hides, a cemetery, and a gift shop.
12:00 noon
There are many places to lunch around the mission, and you may wish to spend more of your day in San Gabriel. Or, you might want to head to Whittier for a great Mexican meal. Try El Buen Gusto Mexican Restaurant, a proud supporter of Chorale Bel Canto, at 10820 Beverly Blvd., 562-692-4448. Another good authentic choice is Bizarra Capital at 12706 Philadelphia St., 562-945-2426.

You might want to lunch later and visit the Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe Historical Site built in 1844 on Rancho La Merced in the city of Montebello at 945 North Adobe.The Sanchez Adobe is open Saturday afternoons. For exact hours, contact
Governor Micheltorena granted Rancho La Merced to Casilda Soto de Lobo, the widow of a soldier assigned to the San Gabriel Mission, in 1844. In 1850, William Workman purchased it and, in 1851, gave it to his son-in-law, Francisco P. Temple, and former ranch foreman, Juan Matias Sanchez.
The Sanchez Adobe was partially constructed in 1845 by Casilda Soto de Lobo and her three sons. With William Workman's gift in 1851, Juan Matías Sanchez moved into the  house. In 1876 the Temple and workman bank failed and the ranch ended up in the hands of Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, after whom Baldwin Park is named. The subsequent history of both Temple and Sanchez was filled with tragedy, and the property changed hands many times after their deaths. Josephine Scott Crocker gave the deed to the Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe to the Montebello Historical Society in 1972.
2:00 p.m.
Time for lunch, if you delayed. If you lunched at noon, you may wish to continue your Early California experience with a visit to the Pio Pico State Park at 6003 Pioneer Boulevard, open Saturday and Sunday 9:30-4:00. (562-695-1217) (

The Pio Pico Mansion, known as “El Ranchito,” the former residence of the last Mexican Governor of California, Pio de Jesus Pico, and one of southern California’s few remaining 19th century structures built of the large sun-dried mud bricks called adobe.

4:00 p.m.
Return along Beverly or Whittier Boulevards to Painter Avenue in Whittier. At the corner of Painter and Philadelphia Street you will find the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts. Just east of the Shannon Center in the Whittier College Memorial Chapel, Chorale Bel Canto sings Love Songs Through the Ages. The music captures true love, unrequited love, illicit love, courtly love, and humorous love, expressed by composers from five centuries, from madrigals by George Gershwin and the Beatles—Monteverdi to McCartney!

One intricate connection between this concert and Whittier is that this concert contains “April is in My Mistress Face,” by Thomas Morley. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, after whom the town is named, wrote the words for many hymns, one being “I Bow my Forehead to the Dust.” The hymn has been set to the music of several composers, one of them being Thomas Morley. Although not a love song, one might say Whittier’s poem expresses love of another sort.

On a more contemporary, perhaps playful note, there is a Beatles tribute band in the next-door city of La Habra called Hard Day’s Night. You may book them for your next event!

6:00 p.m.

If you lunched elsewhere, you may wish to return to El Buen Gusto or Bizzara Capital for dinner. Or, you might want to drive east on Whittier Boulevard to El Cholo Spanish Cafe, a landmark in La Habra for decades.

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