From Daisy Dell to the Hollywood Bowl, a Little Musical History for Summer | KCET
From Daisy Dell to the Hollywood Bowl, a Little Musical History for Summer
More Lost L.A. Stories
Every summer, Southern Californians flock to the Hollywood Bowl for evenings of music and picnicking under the stars. As the Los Angeles Philharmonic begins its 90th season at the venue, we look back at the Bowl's history through archived images from the Hollywood Bowl Museum and other L.A. as Subject members.
The Bowl's origins as a musical venue date back to 1919, when the newly-formed Theatre Arts Alliance dispatched two of its members, William Reed and his son H. Ellis, to the Hollywood Hills to find a suitable location for outdoor productions. After a long search, the Reeds finally found their desired site: a shaded canyon and popular picnic spot known as Daisy Dell. Nestled in the hills near the entrance to the Cahuenga Pass, the site was a natural amphitheater, as H. Ellis Reed discovered:
"I scaled a barbed wire fence, went up to the brow of a hill," Reed said. "Dad stood near a live oak in the center of the bowl-shaped area and we carried on a conversation. We rushed back to the Alliance with a glowing report."
Daisy Dell—soon to become known as the Hollywood Bowl—hosted concerts, graduation ceremonies, and other community events in 1920, but it was in 1921 that the Bowl's best-known association began. On March 27, 1921, the outdoor venue hosted its first Los Angeles Philharmonic performance, an Easter sunrise service attended by more than 800 concertgoers. The following year, the Philharmonic played its first official summer season in the Hollywood Bowl.
The first concertgoers stretched out blankets over the Bowl's wild grass or sat on temporary benches as bands and orchestras performed on a simple wooden stage. As the venue grew in popularity, the Bowl installed permanent seating and, in 1926, 1927, and 1928, installed a series of band shells meant to provide a visual backdrop and to enhance the amphitheater's natural acoustics. The 1928 shell, designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright), introduced the now-familiar concept of concentric arches but lasted only one season.
Finally, in 1929, the Bowl received a permanent shell, inspired by Wright's design but featuring circular rather than elliptical arches. It became instantly recognizable worldwide and, with only a few modifications by architect Frank Gehry in the 1970s and 1980s, remained in use through 2003. In 2004, a more commodious version of the old band shell debuted, based on the original design but large enough to accommodate a full orchestra.
Although the Bowl is best known as a symphonic music venue, it has hosted a variety of events, from Hollywood High School's annual graduation ceremony to speeches by political leaders and dignitaries.
In April 1943, Soong May-ling, the wife of Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, concluded a wartime speaking tour of the United States--organized by film producer David O. Selnick--with a rousing speech at the Bowl. Hollywood luminaries, Caltech scientists, and more than 30,000 others filled the Bowl the hear Soong describe China's war with Japan. Soong concluded her speech with a call for the U.S. Congress to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, an 1882 law that banned Chinese immigration into the United States. With China as an ally in the war against Japan, Congress complied that December.
In 1946, Frank Sinatra became the first popular artist to play at the Bowl. It was a controversial appearance, as some objected to Sinatra's sharing the stage with the Philharmonic, but the Bowl began to incorporate popular acts into its schedule. During one especially memorable week in 1965, the Bowl hosted separate performances by the Beatles, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, and Bob Dylan. This summer, that tradition of diverse offerings continues with Bowl performances by rock band Maroon 5, country singer Dolly Parton, comedian Eddie Izzard, and, of course, concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Another Hollywood Bowl tradition—picnicking—dates back to the early 1950s. Although Daisy Dell hosted many picnickers before the first note was ever played in the Bowl, in-seat snacking was forbidden at performances until 1952. That year, Dorothy Chandler—a noted patron of the arts who helped save the facility from financial ruin in 1951—changed the rules and created a new custom when she ordered a catered picnic for her guests. In-seat picnicking is still encouraged at the Bowl today.
The Hollywood Bowl recently featured these moments, as well as many others, in a series of 90 retrospective tweets that celebrated the start of the Philharmonic's 90th season at the venue. Those highlights--many of which include images from the collections of the Hollywood Bowl Museum, a member of the L.A. as Subject research collective--are now compiled on the Bowl's website. To learn more about the Hollywood Bowl's history, visit the museum at 2301 N. Highland Avenue, next to the venue. Admission is free.
Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.
For the last 30 years, El Nopal Press has intentionally been a studio where artists can experiment with printmaking. Some of the most provocative artistic pieces and innovations have come from the studio’s collaborations with women.
What truly matters? Ali Behdad, professor of literature; Kristy Edmunds, artist and curator; and Michael Eselun, chaplain for the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology discuss the important things in life.
‘Bombshell’ Exposes Media Mogul’s Toxic Sexual Harassment Culture at Fox News on Screen at the KCET Cinema Series
After the screening, KCET Cinema Series host Pete Hammond sat down with director Jay Roach.
The U.S. currently incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world. Police forces and school systems are beginning to use diversion tactics to redirect young people away from criminal records.
- 1 of 225
- next ›
Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Its founder, Griffith J. Griffith, donated the land to the city as a public recreation ground for all the people — an ideal that has been challenged over the years.
During World War II, three renowned photographers captured scenes from the Japanese incarceration: outsiders Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarceree Tōyō Miyatake who boldly smuggled in a camera lens to document life from within the camp.
Prohibition may have outlawed liquor, but that didn’t mean the booze stopped flowing. Explore the myths of subterranean Los Angeles, crawl through prohibition-era tunnels, and visit some of the city’s oldest speakeasies.
Although best known for designing the homes of celebrities like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, the pioneering African-American architect Paul Revere Williams also contributed to some of the city’ s most recognizable civic structures.
As recently as a century ago, scientists doubted whether the universe extended beyond our own Milky Way — until astronomer Edwin Hubble, working with the world’s most powerful telescope discovered just how vast the universe is.
- 1 of 5
- next ›