PREVIEW: The flag is up for Cal Phil at Santa Anita

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



California Philharmonic;
Victor Vener, music director

Opening concerts: June 30 at 8 p.m. at Santa Anita Park;

(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 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


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.


60965-Cal Phil ShellWEB.jpg

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.





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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.

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