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.
On April 5 think the City of Whittier, where Chorale Bel Canto is singing with the 77th Annual Whittier Bach Festival (scroll to the right of your screen for a list of all Festival events.)
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 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 Asian Serenity.
The population of Whittier is only about 4% Asian, but as the concentric circles around Whittier widen to encompass Rowland Heights and Monterey Park, the Asian population increases to over 50%, as does the number of Asian services—spas, markets, temples, gardens, restaurants, and more. Enjoy a bit of the Far East in and around Whittier before the concert!
Morning. Begin your day in nearby Hacienda Heights at the Hsi Lai Temple, located at 3456 Glenmark Drive, 626-961-6697, firstname.lastname@example.org. Sited atop a hill just off Hacienda Boulevard on 15 acres of land with 102,000 square feet of interior space, this Buddhist monastery is faithful to the Ming (1368-1644 C.E.) and Quing (1644-1911 C.E.) dynastic styles of architecture. Hsi Lai translates as “coming west,” and this temple and monastery were founded by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order (in the Chinese Mahayana tradition) to spread the teachings of the Buddha to the Western Hemisphere.
You will enter through the Temple’s stunning gateway and enter first in Bodhisattva Hall, dedicated to several enlightened sages, or “Buddhas in training,” and displaying their golden statues. To your left is the Information Center, where bi-lingual volunteers will provide you with a 40-minute self-guided audio tour pack. On your tour you will visit the Arhat Garden; the Avalokitesvara Garden; the elaborate Courtyard with its four lions; the Main Shrine dedicated to Sakyamuni Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism; the Fo Guang Yuan Hsi Lai Art Gallery; the Translation Center; the Auditorium; the Meditation Hall; and the Memorial Pagoda that sits atop the temple grounds.
The Temple runs an after-school enrichment program for K-6 grade students, as well as provides weekend classes and special workshops for adults interested in Chinese culture and Buddhism, meditation, or Dharma instrument instruction. The Temple also boasts the Buddha’s Light Symphony Orchestra, the Buddha’s Light Chorus, and the Hsi Lai Chinese Drum Troupe, as well as hosting special events. Call the Information Office for specific times and dates. The temple is open 9:00-5:00 daily. There is handicapped parking, all levels are wheelchair accessible by elevator, and all areas are traversable by ramps.Depending upon how much time you’d like to spend in the Temple, you may want to structure your day to include a visit to the 99 Ranch Market, located very near the Temple at 1625 Azusa Avenue, Hacienda Heights, 626-839-2899. This is one of 30 Asian supermarkets founded by the Taiwanese-born American, Roger H. Chen, so-named because the number 99 is considered by the Chinese to be lucky.
Most of the market’s customers are Chinese American, but the chain sells a wide range of imported food products and merchandise from Hong Kong, Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, as well as some domestic products made by Chinese American companies. The language used in the stores is Mandarin Chinese, but some announcements are often made in English as well. You may feel as if you need your passport, but a visit to this market is an amazing experience not to be missed, and you will definitely find that special Asian ingredient you despaired of securing!
Lunch. Just below the Main Shrine in the Hsi Lai Temple is the Dining Hall, where you may enjoy a vegetarian buffet for $7 weekdays from 11:30-1:30 and weekends from 11:30-2:30. Next to the Dining Hall is the Tea Room, serving lighter fare, and the Book Store.
Or, you may wish to journey to Whittier and enjoy a meal with meat. The well-recommended Silver Palace Restaurant, serving Schezuan food, is located at 15326 Whittier Blvd., 562-947-4043. Many like the inexpensive Grand Buffet, an elaborate Chinese buffet at 11885 Whittier Blvd., 562-692-8997. Some swear by the New Canton Restaurant, at 13015 Philadelphia St., 562-698-7315. The latter two are very near the afternoon’s concert venue.
Early Afternoon. If you’ve spent the day at the Hsi Lai Temple, you may wish to head straight to the concert. To deepen your state of serenity before an afternoon of stirring music, though, you may wish to enjoy an Asian spa experience. The Greenleaf Massage Spa, located at 7049 Greenleaf Ave., 562-360-9585 offers a range of massage experiences at extremely reasonable prices in a relaxing setting. It’s a quiet retreat on the busy main street of Uptown Whittier!
4:00 p.m. – The Concert
At the corner of Painter Avenue and Philadelphia Street in Whittier 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 will sing two cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata 80, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (based upon Martin Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and Cantata 11, The Ascension Oratorio. Join the singers in a patio reception following the concert.
Evening. Conclude your Asian day in Whittier by dining at one of its Japanese restaurants: Amachi at 6729 Greenleaf Ave., 562-698-1510, or Azabu Sushi at 13119 E. Philadelphia St., 562-789-0881. The Pasadena Star News recently gave Amachi two stars and Azabu three stars. A close friend of mine will only eat salmon at Amachi!