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Area orchestra hits sour note

California Philharmonic loses the Arboretum as its summer concert venue.

May 04, 2011|By Sara Cardine

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden announced last week it will host the Pasadena Pops summer concert series in 2012, marking the end of a 14-year partnership with the California Philharmonic.

The CalPhil will be allowed to finish out its 2011 summer concert series at the Arboretum. Meanwhile, the Pops will complete its own summer series on the lawn adjacent to the Rose Bowl, where it has performed since leaving its longtime La Cañada home at Descanso Gardens in 2009.

Though the CalPhil will be without a summer venue next year, officials said there has been no discussion of Descanso Gardens as a possible future home. Descanso Chief Operating Officer Juliann Rooke said that while the garden is open to hearing any proposals, it is pleased with the summer programming schedule created to fill the void left when Pops departed over issues surrounding increasing rental fees and garden use.

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“When Pops left, we really grappled with what we were going to do,” Rooke said. “We decided we were going to start our own programming. It’s been very, very popular.”

Little more than one week after the announcement, the CalPhil is preparing for the upcoming summer season at the Arboretum and Walt Disney Concert Hall even as it explores possible legal options for responding to the recent decision.

Andre Vener, CEO and son of CalPhil founding Musical Director Victor Vener, said that the group loves the Arboretum as a venue and has been happy with its agreement to pay a summer rental fee in addition to a portion of ticket sales that pass an agreed-upon threshold.
Philharmonic officials suspected that their partnership with the Arboretum might be in danger in 2010, when they sought to renew a five-summer contract and were told that a new contract could only apply for one year, Vener said. Still, Vener maintains the Philharmonic never received formal notification it was being replaced by the Pops and was disappointed to learn it had lost out due to financial reasons but was given no room to negotiate.

“They said they made a decision based on financial reasons, but we weren’t allowed to talk finances,” Vener added.

Arboretum CEO Richard Schulhof said Wednesday that the Board of Trustees’ decision followed a comprehensive analysis of both groups, including financial and management practices.

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