Friday, March 7, 2014

Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto

            By Linda de Vries

Love classical choral music? Think Chorale Bel Canto.

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

Think the City of Whittier.

On April 5, 2014, Chorale Bel Canto is performing as part of the 77th Annual Whittier College Bach Festival (see sidebar and full description later in this post).

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

“Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto” posts several Fridays in advance of each of our concerts, offering 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 Presidential History

10:00 a.m.
Begin your day at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in nearby Yorba Linda, where Nixon was born. It is located at 18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard, Yorba Linda, (714) 993-3393). It opens at 10:00 a.m., and admission ranges from $4.75--$11.95, children under six free.

Whatever your politics, experiencing the history surrounding our 37th president will stun you. The new permanent gallery on Watergate, featuring 94 recently declassified tapes is now open.

12:00 noon
The Library has a small snack bar. For a more complete meal, Mimi’s Cafe and Polly’s Pies are nearby. Or, you can drive to Whittier and lunch at one of the restaurants owned and operated by more recent Whittier College alums:

Phlight Restaurant and Wine Bar at 6724 Bright Avenue, operated by Jay and Nikomi Arroyo, serving Spanish tapas and boutique wine and beer; open for lunch from 11:30-2:30 and dinner 5:00-11:00 on Saturdays (562-789-0578). Reservations recommended for Fridays, Saturdays, and for large parties.

Setá Restaurant and Bar at 13033 Philadelphia Street, with chef Hugo Molina’s fine dining, is open for lunch and dinner, (562-698-3355).

Or, picnic in one of Whittier’s lovely parks, possibly Penn Park at 13950 Penn Street, Palm Park at 5703 Palm Avenue, or Central Park at 6532 Friends Avenue.

1:00 p.m.
If you haven’t already done so, drive the scenic route from Yorba Linda to Whittier, where Nixon lived, attended high school and college, and joined his first law firm. As you drive along Whittier, you will pass the locations where his brother Don Nixon’s restaurants once stood, notably the Nixon Drive-In, Whittier’s teen hangout in the 1950s.

2:00 p.m.
Appropriately, a great deal of Nixon history can be found on Washington Avenue, named after Whittier’s first bank president, Washington Hadley. You may wish to stop and walk about any of the following sites, or call in advance to inquire about tours.

Turn right from Whittier Boulevard. At the corner of Penn and Washington is the building housing the law firm of Bewley, Lassleben and Miller, the descendent of Nixon’s first law firm, Wingert and Bewley. The original firm was located on the 6th floor of the Bank of America building on the nearby corner of Greenleaf and Philadelphia.

Further along Washington at 7630 you will pass the Whittier Center Theatre, home of the Whittier Community Theatre. Though not in this building, Richard and Thelma Catherine Ryan (Pat) Nixon first met in 1938 when both auditioned for the Whittier Community Players production of The Dark Tower.

At the corner of Washington and Philadelphia you will pass First Friends Church and School. Nixon’s mother, Hannah, was a devout Quaker who instilled the faith in her husband and children. Whittier is named after the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. On a future Sunday you might wish to attend services and hear the grand Harris Organ.

As you continue, you will pass Central Park on your right, with a Gazebo bandstand used for summer concerts. On the southeast corner sits a larger-than-life-size statue of the poet.

If you turn left on Philadelphia you will pass on your right Whittier High School, which Nixon attended for his junior and senior years. If, instead, you continue across Hadley and turn right on Camilla, you will encounter more of Whittier’s Quaker history—the Jonathan Bailey House at 13421 E. Camilla Street, (562-945-3871). It is open for tours Sundays 1-4 p.m.

This was originally the Thomas Ranch House, built in 1860. In 1887 Aquilla Pickering, a Chicago Quaker and financier, held the first meeting of the Pickering Land and Water Company in a barn behind this house and Jonathan Bailey was elected president. Bailey and his wife moved into the house on May 15, 1887.

Continue up Camilla and the street ends at the Lou Henry Hoover Elementary School at 6302 Alta Avenue. Here you encounter another US President, Herbert Hoover, our 31st president. The school, named after his wife, was designed by William Harrison in the Art Moderne style, built by the WPA, and completed in 1938. The facade of the building presents an elaborately sculpted frieze depicting early Quakers and the founding of Whittier, with a quotation from Alexander von Humboldt: “What you would want in the life of a nation you must first put into its schools.”

Mrs. Hoover holds many honorary degrees, including one from Whittier College, where she also served on the Board of Trustees and first met the young attorney, Richard Nixon.

Go back down Camilla to Painter Avenue and turn left. At the corner of Painter and Philadelphia you will arrive at Whittier College, Nixon’s alma mater. On this corner stands the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts. Although the future president performed in dramatic productions while a student, it was not on this site, but in the auditorium in Founders’ Hall, which burned to the ground in 1966.

4:00 p.m.
Just east of the Shannon Center in the Whittier College Memorial Chapel, Chorale Bel Canto sings Bach’s Cantata 80, Ein’ feste Burg (based on Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” and Cantata 11, the Ascension Oratorio.

We invite you to attend the other concerts in the Bach Festival as well. They are all in the Memorial Chapel:

Friday, April 4, noon Whittier College Music students will perform a variety of Bach works at the Poet Musicale.

Friday, April 4, 8:00 p.m., Horizon Chamber Choir and Bach Ensemble sings two secular cantatas, Cantata 211, the Coffee Cantata, and Cantata 212, the Peasant Cantata. The Chapel will be converted in an 18th century European coffee house for this event!

Sunday, April 6, 8:00 p.m., Raymond Erickson, internationally known Whittier College grad, will perform on the harpsichord.

6:00 p.m.
To complete your day in Whittier we suggest dinner at either Phlight or Setá, described for lunch, or either of these two: Vintage Cafe at 6741 Bright Avenue, serving French inspired contemporary cuisine with a full bar, open Saturdays 5:00-9:00 p.m., (562-696-5050); Franco Trattoria at 6717 Greenleaf Avenue, serving homemade Italian cuisine (562-696-1188), open Saturdays 5:00 -9:30 p.m.

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