By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
California Philharmonic; Victor Vener, music director
Opening concerts: June 30 at 8 p.m. at Santa Anita Park; Arcadia
(see directions at bottom of story)
July 1 at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall (preconcert lecture at 1 p.m.)
Tickets: $25-$98 (Santa Anita); $25-$100 (Disney Hall)
Views from the seating area for Cal Phil concerts in the infield of Santa Anita Park will include the main racing track and the turf course, with the San Gabriel Mountains looming in the background.
For 78 years, Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia has achieved an iconic status in the world of horse racing. Although that hasn’t changed (Santa Anita will again host the Breeders Cup World Championships Nov. 2-3), the race track will open a new chapter in its storied legacy when the California Philharmonic Orchestra unveils its “Festival on the Green” outdoor music season on the race track infield Saturday at 8 p.m.
Music Director Victor Vener will lead the orchestra, vocalist Vanessa Carlton and 60 members of the USC Trojan Marching Band in the concert. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The concert repeats Sunday at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall. The programs will be the usual Cal Phil mixture of popular and classical fare and Vener’s between-works repartee; the concluding work will be Respighi’s Pines of Rome, with the USC Marching Band supplying the offstage brass fanfares in the concluding movement.
The new Santa Anita venue came about after the Los Angeles County Arboretum switched orchestras from the Cal to the Pasadena Pops beginning this year. Santa Anita Racetrack had been a Cal Phil sponsor for many years and jumped at the chance to add a major attraction for the track, which has no racing in the summertime.
The new seating area for California Philharmonic concerts at Santa Anita Racetrack is several feet below stage level.
Santa Anita management spent several hundred thousand dollars excavating a large rectangle inside the actual racing oval creating a performing space that matches the size of the Great Lawn at the Arboretum. Most of the 5,000 patrons will sit at round tables or on backed benches that are below the stage level, while a raised burm at the back will give those who bring blankets clear sightlines to the stage.
In addition, the park built a permanent concrete slab at the west end of the performance area for the Cal Phil’s shell, speakers and (new this year) video screens. There are also barbecue pits and a large children’s play area with pony rides and a musical instrument petting zoo. “We wanted to make this a truly unique family entertainment venue,” says Vener, “in addition to having a wonderful performance space.”
Among the notable amenities are 5,000 striped parking places, three full bars (including liquor), permanent restrooms, and a large number of food options, including those run by Santa Anita along with longtime Cal Phil supporters Robin’s Restaurant and the Dog Haus.
The venue also provides panoramic views of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains and the track itself (Gate 6 is near the entrance to the start of the track’s El Camino Real turf course, often used during race season). Moreover, unless they migrate over, the Cal Phil will no longer have to contend with the Arboretum’s peacocks.
The season continues with concerts on July 14 at Santa Anita and 15 at Disney Hall, July 28 and 29, August 11 and 12 and August 25 and 26.
DIRECTIONS TO CAL PHIL’S PERFORMING SPACE AT SANTA ANITA RACETRACK
The Cal Phil concerts will take place not in the grandstand but rather in the infield area of the racetrack. Parking is through gate 6, which is on the northeast side of the track. From the 210 Freeway going east, exit at Baldwin Ave. Turn right, then make a quick right turn and loop back to Colorado St. Turn right and continue east, bearing right at Colorado Place to the gate. From the 210 Freeway heading west, exit at Santa Anita Ave; head south and turn right on Colorado St. Turn left on Colorado Place and proceed to the gate. From the south, follow W. Huntington Drive to Colorado Place. Turn left and continue to Gate 6.
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.