The Valley Line: Summer music season ends on two high notes

Oh no! Summer is slipping away and we have to face reality — no more music in La Cañada's Descanso Gardens or Memorial Park until next year. The music just died this weekend. But it's fair to say that it went out on a high note.

On Monday I packed up my lawn chair, the picnic basket and the wagon that carries all the stuff and stored it all away until next summer, when the music begins once again. It has been quite a tune-filled ride these past few months — our hills have been alive with wonderful music.

Last Thursday I stopped by Descanso's “Music on the Main” summer fest of jazz, where Betty Bryant, song stylist and fabulous pianist, was ushering out this summer's music season. A lively octogenarian, Bryant knows her way around a keyboard and vocal riffs. Over the years she has played and sung with all the jazz greats. She was backed up by her amazing combo of sax, trumpet, drums and stand-up bass.

Bryant, at her previous Descanso appearance in 2012, gained an appreciative audience. There were more than a thousand people to see her once again this year.

The main lawn area, as well as other areas of the garden, was filled with people set up with their lawn chairs and picnic baskets. I saw one man who was reading his copy of the Valley Sun while he was listening to the music, a sight that always pleases me greatly.

Most fun was running into a former Valley Sun colleague, Emily Lanigan, who I haven't seen for several years. She is a mother now and a very happy one, at that. She brought her adorable toddler, Charlotte, who was getting a huge kick out of sitting on Emily's shoulder and messing up her mom's beautiful auburn hair. What a darling Charlotte is; she makes me wish we had a baby in our family again.

Bryant weaves American songbook classics with dabs of blues in a way that is pure musical wonderment. She mentioned that “hardly any singers today” really know how to “torch” a song. Of course she poignantly showed us how it was done when she sang, “I Thought About You.”

It was such a fun early evening and we were out of the park before the sun had set. I can hardly wait for next year's “Music on the Main.”


Last Sunday was the final 2013 concert of the city's “Music in the Park” series at Memorial Park. It featured Dean Colley and his Hot August Night Neil Diamond tribute band.

It was so packed there was barely a square inch of grass to step on without crunching somebody's toes.

Colley and Hot August Night have become a favorite for the series' regular attendees.

Last Sunday concertgoers got a bonus, as the band stayed until 8:30 instead of the usual 8 p.m. closing. And, better yet, after the crowd kept shouting “one more song,” Colley and the band obliged with “Holly Holy.”

The dance floor in front of the bandstand was so crowded it spilled out into the grass — I've never seen such a fun night at the park.

There was a shout-out for Becky and Chuck Gelhaar from the bandstand in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. Congrats, Becky and Chuck!

Thankfully it wasn't an extreme hot August night, because just as the sun was slipping below the horizon, a gentle breeze came wafting by. I even had to put a light wrap over my shoulders.

All in all, it was a great musical farewell here in our foothills.


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

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