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 December 7 think the City of Whittier, where Chorale Bel Canto is singing Christmas with Chorale Bel Canto.
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.
Morning. Begin your day in Whittier by viewing the 60th annual Uptown Whittier Christmas Parade, complete with marching bands, floats, local drill teams, equestrian groups, Miss Uptown, and Santa Claus. The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. at the corner of Hadley and Greenleaf and ends at 12:00 noon at Mar Vista.
Lunch. Following the parade, you may lunch at any one of a number of Whittier restaurants. Begin at the corner of Greenleaf and Philadelphia and walk north or south on Greenleaf and you will find many choices. More choices abound if you walk east or west on Philadelphia. One block north of Greenleaf, turn right on Bright Street and discover more eateries.
After lunch you may wish to shop for that special Christmas gift in some of the unusual Uptown stores, or visit The Whittier Museum at 7555 Newlin Avenue, 562-945-3871, open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Lunch Alternative. You may wish instead to head along Whittier Boulevard to East Whittier, where the Chorale will sing, and lunch at one of the many restaurants in Whittwood Town Center: Black Angus Steakhouse, Carl’s Jr./Green Burrito, Chipotle, IHOP, Johnny Carino’s, Mimi’s Cafe, Panera Bread, Red Robin, Ruby’s Diner, the Thai Table, and more.
This gives you a further chance to shop and explore an area whose history embodies the southern California postwar experience. Much of the history of Whittier was, and still is, intertwined contentiously with the oil industry, and the landowners whose holdings became East Whittier were the initial drillers.
Before WW II, the land to the east of Whittier was open farm and ranch land. During the postwar population explosion the areas of Murphy Ranch, Friendly Hills, and Leffingwell Ranch were sub-divided into housing developments. These became known as East Whittier. In 1961 the City of Whittier annexed these areas, adding over 28,000 people to its population. East Whittier, however, contines to maintain a significant individual identity. The Murphy and Leffingwell families each donated a special thread to the fabric of the Whittier locale.
Murphy Ranch. Simon Jones Murphy, born in Maine, became a wealthy businessman in the Michigan lumber industry. While vacationing in California he participated in the real estate boom of 1887. He and an associate purchased the Ramirez Rancho and began to subdivide the rancho. Unfortunately, the land boom went bust soon after, and the city of Whittier barely survived.
Murphy was wealthy enough to hold on, however, and he invited Arthur L. Reed, a Michigan engineer, to join him in the Whittier colony to build flumes, conduits, a pumping station, and a reservoir to bring water to the City and to his farmland. He formed the East Whittier Land & Water Co. and the Murphy Oil Company, the latter drilling 50 successful wells. By the time Murphy died in 1905, Whittier was well on the road to survival. His son, Simon J. Murphy, Jr. led the family business ventures until his death in 1926.
Murphy gave his name to the long-gone Murphy Hospital (the land now a chic condominium housing development), a packinghouse on Whittier Boulevard (now the home of King Richard’s Antiques), an elementary school, and a Little League organization.
Not only at the center of the oil industry, Murphy also had a connection to another southern California controversial phenomenon through his Michigan origins—the automobile. One of his five sons, William H. Murphy, was a financier of Henry Ford’s Detroit automobile projects, while William’s nephew, Walter M. Murphy, built Duesenberg bodies in his company in Pasadena. The Murphy family is also known for building several buildings in the Detroit Financial District.
In 1954 Murphy Ranch sold its holdings for a subdivision to be called Friendly Hills, in homage to the Society of Friends, the Quaker founders of Whittier.
Leffingwell Ranch. Dr. Charles Wesley Leffingwell (descended from an Englishman who settled in Connecticut in 1636) was an Episcopal clergyman from Knoxville, Illinois, who came west in 1833 to officiate at St. John’s on Adams Street in Los Angeles.
The farmland he owned began to produce only when his son, Charles W. Leffingwell, Jr. began to manage the lemon orchards and walnut groves. Leffingwell prospered in the Whittier real estate recovery of the first decade of the 20th century and bought additional land, 261 acres of which he sold to an oil exploration company.
Leffingwell employed Japanese and Mexican farm hands, building—in what is now the City of La Habra—segregated bunkhouses designed by the noted Pasadena architectural firm of Greene and Greene. He later took advantage of the Bracero Program, as did Simon Murphy at his ranch, to hire more Mexican hands.
Leffingwell began subdividing his ranch in 1919, but it was not until the postwar housing boom that the ranch was given over to housing. In 1951 the Lusk Company began building tracts of 3-bedroom, 2-bath ranch-style homes throughout the area. The company’s first commercial development on former ranch land was the Whittwood Shopping Mall (now Whittwood Town Center), which opened in 1961. That same year he sold the first homes in a tract between Cole Road and Scott Avenue, “set back from the Boulevard for suburban seclusion.”
During this boom period, the Santa Ana District of the Methodist Church purchased 22 acres along Cole road. John D. Lusk donated his Whittier Boulevard home as the first building to house The East Whittier United
The first services were held in the living room of this home, now Lusk Hall, in 1951, led by Pastor Raymond L. Wirth. Twenty-three members were present. Sixty-two years, several additional buildings, and eleven pastors later, Chorale Bel Canto will sing its Christmas concert at this historic church, located at 10005 S. Cole Road.
4:00 p.m.—The Concert
This year Christmas With Chorale Bel Canto features Vivaldi’s Gloria as well as new arrangements of Christmas music by Edward Zeliff, a southern California composer and arranger. Mr. Zeliff and members of his choir will also be in attendance in the audience. The concert will also include the popular feature of sing-along carols.