The Valley Line: The season of sweater weather and awards

Brrrr, has it been cold enough for you? It has been teeth-chattering weather lately. Actually, I’d rather it be like this than have to deal with triple-digit heat. There is almost no limit to how many sweaters one can put on to warm up, but one can only get so naked in order to cool off.

The weather people sort of promised that we’d be having a bit of a “heat wave” by the end of this week, if daytime temps make it up to 65 degrees.


Well, the Golden Globes, the first really big award ceremony, is a wrap. I was especially thrilled that the film “Argo” took top honors for best picture and Affleck as best director.

If you are keeping track of award ceremonies, the SAG awards are on Jan. 27 and the Academy Awards are on Feb. 24. FYI, the USC Libraries will present the annual Scripter Awards on Feb. 9. The Scripter honors the literary artistry and collaborative process of turning a book into a screenplay and ultimately into a film.


I’m still trying to catch up on holiday events that our townspeople have been doing. Keep tuned, because there was a lot going on and it has been practically non-stop party time.

One of the most loved parties of the season is the USC Thornton School of Music annual Charles Dickens Dinner held at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This year marked the school’s 26th annual offering of the party

Greeting the loyal devotees of this music-filled and sumptuous event was Robert (“Rob”) Cutietta, dean of the world-famous music school, and his wife Mary Beth.

The formally dressed guests first gathered in the hotel’s Tiffany Room for hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Trumpeters heralded the call to dinner in the opulent Crystal Ballroom.

Handsome opera baritone Rod Gilfry, a two-time Grammy Award nominee who is also an assistant professor at the USC Thornton School of Music when he isn’t on an opera stage, acted as master of ceremonies. He charmed the audience by reading passages from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Milena Kitic, a world-renowned operatic mezzo-soprano, who also teaches master classes at the university, served as dinner chair.

The dinner honored composer James Newton Howard, who received the USC Thornton Legacy Award. Howard majored in piano performance at USC and has created musical scores for such successful films including, most recently, “The Hunger Games” and “The Bourne Legacy,”

Wells Fargo received the John C. Argue Dickens Medal of Honor. Wells Fargo is known for its many contributions to the musical landscape of Los Angeles. Representing the Argue family was La Cañada Flintridge resident Liz Argue. She was a lovely and gracious hostess at the table where I sat.

The evening’s feast was savory and began with a baby lettuce, fig and cherry compote with black ash goat cheese with pistachio vinaigrette. The entrée was a chicken Normandy boneless chicken breast stuffed and rolled with apple, cranberry, almonds and celery with creamy risotto and fresh vegetables, roasted red pepper sauce. The festive dessert was pumpkin cheesecake or pecan pie with cinnamon whipped cream and egg nog crème Anglais.

Student violinist Michele Tseng was presented with the Wells Fargo Scholarship. She studies with renowned professor emerita Alice Schoenfeld, who is a longtime La Cañada resident.

Saad Haddad, a junior at USC majoring in music composition, received the James Newton Howard scholarship.

Throughout the evening students from the many USC programs, both vocal and instrumental, performed music of the season.

Once again it was a beautiful evening and plans are already in motion for next year’s event.


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

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