The Valley Line: Saying a sad farewell to Pops music director

For all of us who enjoy the summer concerts of the Pasadena Pops, the news Tuesday of the death of Marvin Hamlisch, its music director and conductor, was stunning. Even though it was apparent at his first two concerts this season that Hamlisch was not in robust health, the suddenness of his passing was a shock.

Just two weeks ago Hamlisch conducted the Pops orchestra in a program that featured Michael Feinstein and the music of Cole Porter. At the beginning of the concert Hamlisch made a second entrance, bowing to the crowd of nearly 4,000 people.

Little did any of us know as we clapped and cheered for him that it was, in retrospect, our heart-felt farewell to him.

During his lifetime this brilliant man of music contributed much to America's songbook. He was a champion of making sure that the music of American composers such as George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and a host of others would live on. He was the winner of numerous awards including Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, Tonys and a Pulitzer, and we will be enjoying his work for many years to come.

We were so fortunate to have Hamlisch as the conductor of the Pops. We were touched by his greatness.

As he said in the Oscar-nominated song he wrote for the James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” nobody does it better. Yes, Marvin Hamlisch, you were the best.


I have been glued to the TV coverage of the Olympic Games in London.

Olympic watching, even before it came to television screens, has been my family sport since I was a kid. And it seemed like all of La Cañada Flintridge was involved in L.A.'s 1984 Olympic Games in one way or another. I didn't attend the opening of those games, but I did attend the closing ceremony in the Coliseum. It was awe-inspiring.

Another highlight during those games was when I was invited to attend an afternoon tea that was sponsored by the Los Angeles English-Speaking Union with the late Peter Brown, then a resident of La Cañada who was serving that year as the organization's president.

It was there that I was presented to Prince Philip of England. We had a lovely conversation about the upcoming equestrian events and he even mentioned that he knew about the Flintridge Riding Club. As you can imagine, I was positively giddy to be sipping tea with a royal.

The London games have been very exciting. By the time you read this, the flame will have dimmed. So, more about this next time.


More than 50 guests gathered recently in the beautiful Pasadena gardens of Phaedra and Mark Ledbetter for a dinner held by the H100 volunteer group of Hillsides, a provider dedicated to improving the well-being and functioning of vulnerable children and families in Southern California.

The event is called the Farm to Table Dinner and is designed to introduce guests to the philosophy of providing a gourmet meal of fresh, locally grown seasonal food items.

Alexandra Poer Sherida, of Alexandra's Table, created a feast incorporating many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown right on the Ledbetter estate, which overlooks the Arroyo Seco. Not only were edibles from the estate's gardens served, but Sherida also went to local ranches for fresh, grass-fed meats.

The evening began with cool beverages served as guests walked among the citrus and Zen gardens and quiet pools on the estate. They marveled at the rose garden that was in full bloom and a delightful shady area of the garden that belongs to a family of adorable ceramic gnomes.

Most dramatic of all is the infinity swimming pool overlooking the famed Colorado Street Bridge and the arroyo far below.

It was a lavish gourmet feast that was served with carefully chosen wines perfectly matched to each course.

In keeping with the Farm to Table theme of supporting and sustaining the local community, a lemon “giving tree” was set up to feature the needs and wishes of the students at Hillsides Education. These necessities varied from school supplies to underwriting a summer outing.

“This event was a delightful way to welcome the summer and learn more about Hillsides,” said Joseph Costa, Hillsides chief executive officer. “H100 is a group dedicated to becoming the next leaders for Hillsides as we turn the corner and celebrate 100 years.”

Local residents enjoying this beautiful summer evening at this historic Greene and Greene Craftsman home were Karen Tanji, Steve Nishibayashi, Mary Dee Hacker, Peter and Holly Breckheimer, and Michelle and Matt Van Bruen.

Board members of H100 are Scott Stauber, Ava Herrera, April Danz, Lauralyn Deringer, Stephen McDonald and Jeff Welch.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with details of your special event.

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