Friday, November 15, 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 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.

A Day in Montana—but in Whittier!

Backstory. At the age of 69 I became an angler. In that same year I also became a singer. In this post I bring those two together—in Whittier.

At our 2008 50th Whittier High School reunion I joined up with an old friend and his wife. Ken and I had reconnected through correspondence some time back, but here I met Helena for the first time—love at first dinner! They invited me to visit them in Missoula, Montana, where both were on the University faculty. Ken joked about a fly fishing trip, hardly guessing that it had long been a distant fantasy of mine—pictures of all those anglers standing in waders on gravel bars amidst gorgeous scenery! So, we fished—the Blackfoot (A River Runs Through It), the Bitterroot, and the Clark Fork, which does, indeed, run right through Missoula—love at first cast!

Rainbow Trout in Montana

In the same year, I had just retired from 50 years of university teaching, planning to write and travel. One day the elderly gentleman at the YMCA who was handing me back my membership card mentioned to another exerciser something about singing—in a class at Rio Hondo College.

Four years later, I have amassed 30 units in music at Rio Hondo College, continue to study privately with two teachers, sing with Chorale Bel Canto, am Chair of its Board of Directors, and continue to fish in Montana. In the curious way of the world, the Chorale’s Music Director, Stephen Gothold, was also at Whittier High with Ken and me!

In thinking about yet another way to spend a day in Whittier, I realized I could come close to replicating a couple of days in Missoula compressed into one lovely day in Whittier: fly fishing, a spa visit, a beautiful music concert, and a delicious meal at a fine dining restaurant. In Missoula the venues would typically be the Clark Fork River, a Vichy scrub and hot stone massage at Sorella’s Spa or Cedar Creek Spa, the Friday Art Walk, and dinner at Pearl’s.

In Whittier, this itinerary comes very, very close!

Morning. Head to the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a 56-year old, 1,492-acre oasis located in the City of South El Monte. The park is located on both sides of the Pomona Freeway at Rosemead Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue: 750 S. Santa Anita Avenue, South El Monte, CA 91733, 626-575-5526. Park hours are from sunrise to sunset and vehicle parking is $6.00 per car on the weekends.

From Beverly Boulevard, head north on Rosemead Boulevard, turn right at San Gabriel, which becomes Durfee Road. Along Durfee you will find the parking entrance to Legg Lake. Access the two other lakes—North Lake and Center Lake—from Santa Anita Avenue, a left turn off of Durfee Road.

Legg Lake Whittier

Boats are not allowed, but bait casting, fly fishing, and spinning are possible. There is a fishing pier right by the parking area for Legg Lake, and many also report good fishing by the pedal boat rental area. The lake is stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass, small mouth bass, rainbow trout, crapple, panfish, and channel catfish. To find more detailed information about fishing times and tips from anglers, go online at If you choose to fish from the pier, it’s always a good idea to read up on pier fishing etiquette and safety.

You will, of course, need a fishing license, which you can purchase online for $14.61 for one day at, or at any one of several nearby bait shops or sporting goods stores—see For the kids, you might also want to check out the Daniel Hernandez Youth Foundation Junior Fishing Club at Whittier Narrows.

Should you want to go out on the lake, you can rent pedal boats. Call the park or contact, 823 Lexington Gallatin Road, South El Monte, CA 91727, 805-253-5894. They rent from August-June Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Rentals are also available for surreys, bikes, and group picnic spots. Legg Lake also allows the operation of radio-controlled model speedboats.

The park offers many other amenities: walking, biking, and equestrian trails, including a BMX Bicycle Moto Cross Track and an Equestrian Center; comfort stations, picnic areas, children’s play areas, a paved airstrip for radio-controlled hobby aircraft, a dog sports field, and an American military museum.

Sports enthusiasts will find a multi-purpose athletic complex, a disc golf course and frisbee golf, softball, baseball, and soccer fields, volleyball and tennis courts and a pro tennis shop, a small bore rifle range, trap and skeet shooting ranges, and an archery range.

Nature lovers may enjoy the community garden, bird watching, nature walks, and the Nature Center, which contains exhibits about the plants and animals of the San Gabriel River environment, including live displays. The center offers public programs, lectures, ranger tours, and education programs.

Lunch. The obvious choice here is a picnic in the Recreation Center. Before your arrival at Whittier Narrows you might have traveled from east to west along Whittier Boulevard and stopped at Sprouts (at Santa Gertrudes), Trader Joe’s (at Colima), or Fresh and Easy (at Painter) to gather your picnic supplies.

Following a morning of outdoor activities, to continue the parallel with a day in Montana, you might enjoy a spa experience. There are several spas in Whittier, but the Zen Den Spa at 7750 Painter Avenue, 562-945-2490, is highly rated. They have full shower facilities, so after a relaxing massage or other treatment, you can get all spiffed up for the afternoon concert!

Or, if you are a member of the YMCA, the Uptown Whittier branch has a lap pool, a warm-water therapy pool, and an even hotter Jacuzzi, with, of course, full-service dressing rooms with showers.

4:00 p.m.—The Concert
East Whittier United Methodist Church, 10005 S. Cole Road. This year CantChristmas 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.

The demand for tickets for this concert has been significant, so we have added a second performance—you may celebrate with us at either 4:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Today’s schedule recommends that you opt for the afternoon performance, but at whatever time, we look forward to seeing you!

Dinner. There are many fine restaurants in Whittier and the surrounding area, but the two that for me would come the closest to replicating the experience of Pearl’s in Missoula are either the Cat and the Custard Cup at 800 E. Whittier Boulevard in La Habra, or Setá, on the corner of Philadelphia Street and Bright Avenue in Uptown Whittier.

There you are—a day in Whittier á la Montana!

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