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Strawberry Creek Flows

July 19, 1987|MARC SHULGOLD

One will look in vain for Strawberry Creek on the grounds of Pepperdine University. Yet that is the name given a music festival--now expanded to two weeks--that will begin its second summer on the laid-back Malibu campus July 27.

There is , however, such a creek in the mountains near Idyllwild, site of the original gathering. Though the ambitious mix of master classes, casual chamber programs and formal concerts has now shifted closer to sea level, festival director Yehuda Gilad reports that the spirits of the participants and quality of musicianship remain as high as ever.

"The main purpose is to have fun on stage, to smile when you've brought out a beautiful nuance," said the 34-year-old conductor-clarinetist. "The qualities we stress in our players, be they professional or pre-professional (Gilad dislikes the word student ), are musicianship, personality and attitude. I look for warm eyes--with spark. Yes, it is an indoor festival, but it is outdoors in mind."

It is also quite a distance away from Los Angeles proper. "There were those who didn't want to drive all the way to Malibu," Gilad said of last year's audience. "But many felt that a summer festival needs to be in nature. And, of course, people know there is not much else going on this time of year on the Westside."

Also inviting is the relaxed atmosphere of the music making. An observer attending a concert in the intimate Smothers Theatre last year couldn't escape the warm onstage vibes long before Gilad made his walk to the podium. Once the music began, the warmth of the playing matched the friendliness of the ambiance. In short, it seems that Gilad is doing something right. The Israeli-born musician points to his upbringing on a kibbutz as the source of his approach.

"Right from childhood, we were all taught to think and act on our own. If you want to get food, then you dig in the ground. I tell my students that I expect half of what I expect from myself." Thus, he noted, handpicked young musicians are left to hold their own next to such seasoned pros as Kenneth Munday (who founded Strawberry Creek with Gilad three years ago), Kathleen Lenski, Gary Gray, Tony Plog, etc. And faculty members were chosen on the basis of their desire to guide and inspire, rather than merely teach.

The 40 students each pay a token tuition fee of $100--Gilad stressed that participants are given full fellowships. With a budget this year of $52,000 (double from last year's one-week fest), Gilad expressed optimism that costs will once again be met by private donations and public ticket sales. "The response last year was wonderful, and we broke even," he said.

Helpful, too, is the fact that the faculty asks, and is given, little in remuneration. "It's a question of priorities," Gilad pointed out. "If a professional player calls to discuss participating and inquires how much the pay is, I hang up."

AT THE BOWL: Andrew Litton concludes his four-night engagement at Cahuenga Pass this week, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a pair of diverse programs. On Tuesday, the young American conductor has programmed Weber's "Oberon" overture and "Invitation to the Dance" (in Berlioz's orchestration), Bruch's G-minor Concerto (with concertmaster Sidney Weiss) and Saint-Saens' mighty "Organ" Symphony (with organist Anita Priest).

The agenda Thursday night is dominated by Debussy, represented by his "Danse sacree et danse profane," "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune" and "La Mer." Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" overture and Schumann's Piano Concerto (with Malcolm Frager) complete the program.

Wednesday, as part of the virtuoso series, Christopher Parkening and members of the Philharmonic, led by Heiichiro Ohyama, provide an evening of chamber music for guitar and strings. Parkening's concerto vehicles are by Vivaldi (D-major) and Rodrigo ("Concierto de Aranjuez"). The guitarist will play solo music by Sanz, Albeniz and Sor.

Jazz will hold center stage at the weekend pops programs, led by Erich Kunzel. Guest soloists include singer Mel Torme, pianist George Shearing and bassist Ray Brown.

Next Sunday, the Philharmonic Institute Orchestra continues its season with a dramatic agenda: "Chaos" from Haydn's "Creation," Schoenberg's "Survivor from Warsaw" and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Vocal soloists are Kaaren Erickson, Jacalyn Bower, Timothy Jenkins and Michael Devlin, with the Pacific Chorale.

CLUB DATE FOR LENTZ: Daniel Lentz and Group first offered "the crack in the bell" at a Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group concert at the Japan America Theatre late last year. Lentz's dreamy, electronically enhanced setting of e.e. cummings' poem "next to of course god" made sense in that formal context since it was a Philharmonic commission. Yet that piece, as well as much of the Los Angeles composer's music, is also close to that shadowy cross-over area occupied by the work of such pop cult favorites as Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

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