ON THE ROAD: On becoming a one-car family — Chapter 1

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

“On the Road” is an occasional series on transportation — mostly public transit.

My wife, Nikki, and I are one month into our “great” experiment of whether it’s possible for two very busy people to survive on one car in Southern California. Now I realize that there are people who don’t own even one car — a few by choice and others by necessity — but we have been a two-car family for 34 years. In a metropolitan area that is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined we have traditionally put a lot of miles on our automobiles so, for us, this was a big step.

As is often the case, we were sort of forced into this decision, despite the fact that I’m a big proponent of public transportation and have ridden it often throughout my lifetime, not only here but in cities across this nation and around the world.

However, last month the lease on my wife’s Hyundai Sonata ran out (BTW: I’ve been totally put off on leasing and Hyundai — that’s another story). We decided to take a close look at the math and realized that a new (or even new/old) car + insurance + car registration meant we would be spending $350 per month or more without turning the key. Moreover, for senior citizens (age 62 and over), public transit fares are substantially lower than non-senior rates on virtually every transit system in our region. So, we did the math.

Consequently, we decided to experiment with what our life would be like with just one car. One month into the experiment, we have encountered few problems (and none that couldn’t be surmounted) and saved a lot of money. In addition to the Metro fares (which I estimate to have totaled $10), I took one Uber ride at $7.71 and rented a car for one day at $37 (plus gasoline). A plus: since I rented a compact the gas cost ($11) was less than if I had driven our Toyota Rav4, and if you use AAA’s figure of 56 cents per mile, the overall cost was less than using my own SUV.

What we have discovered:

Planning ahead is essential
Who needs the car on a regular basis and when has become a matter of calendaring, for us. At the moment, Nikki uses the car to go to her painting groups all day and evening on Tuesday and on Friday mornings. Beginning this month, I’ll be using the car on Wednesdays for two youth groups I am mentoring. Thus, keeping up with our calendars to minimize car conflicts is essential.

Learning how to manipulate transit systems is essential
Metro has a somewhat clunky transit app that lets you plan a trip ahead of time. I’ve learned to punch the “Regional Trip Planner” line at the bottom, which seems to be a more user-friendly option than the simple version and has the added advantage of recognizing systems other than Metro.

My iPhone also has a Metro app that tells me when the next bus or train is due at my stop. Most of the time it works well — the operative word is “most.” On the other hand, GPS in my car isn’t always totally reliable, either. I remember driving in Ireland when the GPS told me to turn right — if I had done so, I would have crashed through the median on the divided highway I was on!

Use “Stored Value” instead of passes on your TAP card
With Metro’s policy of allowing free transfers within a two-hour window, it’s rare that a single trip uses more than one fare or two fares for a round-trip. A non-senior would have to use more than four rides to equal the cost of a day pass. For a senior (or disabled person), the math is even more in favor of “Stored Value.”

BTW: I have no idea why Metro’s TAP system doesn’t use the same technology as London’s Oyster Card, which allows riders to use its version of Stored Value and recognizes when it reaches the day pass limit and then doesn’t charge for additional rides.

Walking to and from the Gold Line station becomes enforced exercise
My wife heartily approves, although she does give me a ride to the station whenever possible.

The biggest problem is our church
Although La Cañada Presbyterian Church is located on a major thoroughfare (Foothill Blvd.), Metro doesn’t run service in this area. The Glendale Bee bus does have a line but it quite inconvenient in terms of getting anywhere except Glendale. A few Sundays ago Nikki had an all-day art class at the La Cañada Community Center and I had an afternoon concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. So, she dropped me at church and went on to her class, while I took an Uber ride to the Memorial Park Gold Line station (the aforementioned $7.71 charge). I then rode the Gold Line to the Chinatown station and took the Metro 76 local line to Disney Hall.

Uber proved easy to use. I just dialed it up on my iPhone and a car and driver showed up at the church in about seven minutes and 10 minutes later I was at the Memorial Park station.

We don’t expect this to be a normal situation, since we usually go to church together. I surprised at Metro’s decision not to have a bus on Foothill in that area. I guess it figures if you’re rich enough to live in La Cañada, you don’t ride a bus!

Further reports later …

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FIVE SPOT: June 8-13, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 3 p.m. Sunday
at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa

Music Director Carl St.Clair leads the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale and soloists in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, his massive tribute to eternal life. The concert also honors Pacific Chorale Artistic Director John Alexander, who is retiring after 45 years (but only from the Pacific Chorale, as Timothy Mangan notes — see below).

BONUS: Read Paul Hodgins’ article in the Orange County Register HERE. Timothy Mangan, the Pacific Symphony’s Writer-in-Residence, has an appreciation for Alexander HERE.

Information: www.pacificsymphony.org

7 p.m. at Wilshire Ebell Theatre; Los Angeles

Vladimir Spivakov conducts the orchestra he has led since 1979 in a varied program that includes music by Mozart, Shostakovich, Bruch, Poppers, Grieg and others. Israeli cellist Danielle Akta and soprano Hibla Gerzmava will be the soloists.

Information: www.mvco.ru

7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church; Pasadena

John Sutton leads his ensemble in a program of American music entitled “A Musical Bite of the Big Apple: from Broadway to Bernstein,” which includes Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and selections from West Side Story.

Information: www.angeleschorale.org

7:30 p.m. at Kirk Douglas Theatre; Culver City

Frank Fetta leads the Culver City Symphony in a program that includes Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, William Grant Still’s Danzas de Panama, Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A Major, and Haydn’s Cello Concerto, with Leah Hansen as soloist.

Information: www.culvercitysymphony.org

8 p.m. at Terrace Theatre; Long Beach

Former Long Beach Symphony Music Director JoAnn Falletta returns “home” for the first time to conduct the orchestra that she led from 1989-2000. The program begins with four movements from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly Suite, arranged for the 1955 Soviet film The Gadfly, based on the novel of the same name by Ethel Lilian Voynich. LBSO Concertmaster Roger Wilkie will be the soloist.

The evening continues with Falletta’s own compilation of Prokofiev’s Suites 1-3 from his ballet Cinderella. After intermission, 21-year-old pianist George Li will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

BONUS: The Terrace Theatre can be reached easily via Metro’s Blue Line. Exit at 1st Street, walk two blocks south and cross Ocean Blvd. to reach the theatre.

Read Richard Guzman’s article in the Long Beach Press Telegram HERE.

Information: www.longbeachsymphony.org

8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group joins with The Industry to conclude the Phil’s “Green Umbrella” series with a performance of this work by Lou Harrison, whose 100th birthday would have been May 14. Harrison was a composer whose works have been celebrated by a few hardy souls (mostly on the west coast where studied and later taught) if not always elsewhere.

This production — the first since the work was premiered in 1971 at Caltech — will be directed by Yuri Shuval, the Phil’s new Artist-Collaborator, in conjunction with his company, The Industry. Marc Lowenstein will conduct members of the Phil

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the 1st and Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laphil.com

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Two Americans reach final round of Van Cliburn Piano Competition

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Two Americans — Kenneth Broberg and Daniel Hsu — are among six pianists who have advanced to the final round of the 15th quadrennial Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Ft. Worth, Texas. Two of the finalists are from Russia, one is from Hong Kong and the sixth from South Korea.

A native of Minneapolis, the 23-year-old Broberg earned a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. He is now a graduate student working with 2001 Cliburn gold medalist Stanislav Loudenitch at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. Broberg has won first prizes at the Hastings and Dallas international piano competitions.

Hsu, 19, is a student with Gary Graffman and Eleanor Sokolof at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. A native of the San Francisco Bay area, Hsu has been at Curtis since age 10. He was a 2016 Gilmore Young Artist winner and won the bronze medal at the 9th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition. As first-prize winner of the 2015 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, Hsu made his Carnegie Hall debut in April 2017. Read Peter Dorbrin’s report in the Philadelphia Inquirer HERE.

The final round runs from June 7-10. Each contestant plays a piano quintet with the Brentano String Quartet and a concerto with the Ft. Worth Symphony, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Broberg will play Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81 and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Hsu will play Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Two of the other contestants — Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, of South Korea, and 29-year-old Russian Georgy Tchaidze — will also play the Dvorak Piano Quintet. Yury Favorin, 30, also from Russia, will play the Franck Piano Quintet, while Rachel Cheung, 25, from Hong Kong
, is the outlier — she will play the Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.

All six will play different concertos in the final round In addition to Broberg and Hsu (listed above) Cheung will play the Beethoven No. 4; Favorin, Prokofiev No. 2; Sunwoo, Rachmaninoff No. 3, and Tchaidze, Prokofiev No. 3.

Complete bio information on the contestants is HERE.

The entire final round will be live-streamed. LINK For the first time, the last two final-round concerts will be shown in cinemas nationwide. The broadcast starts 9:55 a.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, June 10. It begins with a delayed presentation of Friday night’s performances, leading into a live simulcast of Saturday afternoon’s performances. The presentation will feature all six finalists in their final concertos with orchestra, four via tape delay and the final two live. Information: www.fathomevents.com

Among the gold medal winner’s prizes will be an appearance with the Pacific Symphony on Sept. 9 at its new site, the Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa. The PS Web site lists Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 as the winner’s vehicle, presuming the winner either knows it or can learn it in three months. Information: www.pacificsymphony.org

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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