Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands

CalPhil and the Pasadena POPS face off again in their annual war for music lovers 

By Carl Kozlowski 06/25/2014

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This weekend marks the return of one of the great mysteries of any Pasadena summer: the annual battle of the symphonies, in which both the California Philharmonic (CalPhil) and the Pasadena Symphony and POPS both decide that they simply have to schedule their concerts directly against each other. 

Both orchestras are launching their summer seasons in their beautiful outdoor homes in Arcadia, with the CalPhil performing on the infield of the Santa Anita racetrack, surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains, while the POPS are playing amid the lush greenery at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.  

CalPhil kicks things off in spectacular fashion with the theme of “John Williams & Friends,” in which Maestro Victor Vener brings the silver screen to center stage with a program of pieces from some of film composer John Williams’ most memorable scores, including “Star Wars, “E.T.,” “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” As if that isn’t enough to thoroughly thrill attendees, concertgoers will also be treated to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” 

They’ll be joined by an array of special guests, including the father and son cellist duo of Dennis and Max Karmazyn playing the “Theme from Schindler’s List” and the finale of Brahms’ “Double Concerto” and African princess Sarah Culberson performing a reading of “Dry Your Tears – Afrika” from the Steven Spielberg epic “Amistad.” The night comes to a gripping finale with the CalPhil chorus performing Karl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” 

The CalPhil evening kicks off well before show time as well, with the gates to the Arboretum opening to concertgoers at 5:30 p.m. for both picnic and paid dining prior to the 7:30 start of the show. However, those who prefer an indoor venue to enjoy the music have the option of catching the show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where the performance begins at 2 p.m. Sunday after an intimate preconcert “Talk With The Maestro” at 1 p.m. in BP Hall. 

Meanwhile, the Pasadena POPS bring back their own huge annual hit, with an opening-show theme of “Broadway’s Leading Ladies.” The program lives up to that title by bringing together five top Broadway singers for an all-star evening of singing with Susan Egan (“Beauty and the Beast”), Valerie Perri (“Evita”), Christina Saffran (“A Chorus Line”), Lisa Vroman (“Phantom of the Opera”) and David Burnham (“Les Miserables”) all taking their turns on favorite hit songs from musicals including “Cabaret,” “Evita,” “Chicago” and “West Side Story.”

Add in the fact that attendees can also bring or buy their dinners to enjoy on the lawns of the Arboretum starting at 5:30 and leading into the 7:30 show, and a full night of fun is also to be had with the POPS. 

CalPhil performs “John Williams & Friends” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Santa Anita Park, 255 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia. Tickets are $20 to $88. Call (626) 304-0333 or visit The program is performed again at 2 p.m. Sunday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are $26.50 to $111. Call (800) 745-3000 or visit   

The Pasadena POPS present “Broadway’s Leading Ladies” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the LA County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. Tickets are $20 to $115. Call (626) 793-7172 or visit 


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