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1987 ARTS IN REVIEW : MUSIC AND DANCE : County Had a Year of Fine Culture, With Some Sour Notes

December 30, 1987|CHRIS PASLES

It was a year of survival and growth for Orange County music organizations. But local dance groups didn't fare so well.

Lots of big cultural guns came in: marvelous in the case of the Chicago Symphony; crushingly disappointing with the New York City Opera productions.

We also had significant international representation, including the Peking Acrobats, the Japanese demon drum group Ondeko-Za, the National Dance Company of Senegal and the (sadly unheralded) Waiwhetu Maori Cultural Troupe.

Contemporary music got a local boost as Chapman College in Orange brought in new music luminaries such as pianist Alan Feinberg and the chamber ensemble Speculum Musicae and brought about the formation of the Orange County Composers Circle.

Important lectures and seminars ranged from the Composers' World series at the Newport Harbor Art Museum to the prestigious Society of Dance History Scholars' conference on Isadora Duncan at UC Irvine.

A county music pioneer was honored by the county Board of Supervisors, which proclaimed Feb. 19 as "Frieda Belinfante Day."

Continuing to offer young and even some well-established talent free or at bargain prices are modest, often unsung county music societies such as the Fullerton Friends of Music or the North County Community Concert Assn.

But with all this success, there's no reason for local residents to feel complacent.

What did we do for the locals?

Gloria Newman, one of the few major modern dance choreographers in the county, celebrated her troupe's 25th anniversary--how's that for local longevity?-- outside the county, at California State University, Los Angeles. Shame on us.

The fledgling South Coast Ballet lost its artistic director Jim Jones, and the group was swallowed in a merger with Ballet Repertory (formerly Capistrano Ballet) and Emerson Dance Theatre. The new group, co-directed by Lawrence Rosenberg and Melissa Allen, is called--guess what?--South Coast Ballet. No productions have been given. Let's hope the future is kind.

There were also some serious shake-ups whose implications are still to be resolved:

--Pacific Symphony assistant conductor Edmundo Diaz del Campo resigned bitterly amid accusations of broken promises and morale problems.

--Pacific Symphony music director Keith Clark had a murky fight with some board members over what his first-time contract really was supposed to mean. Was it a ploy to get rid of him? Stay tuned.

--Maurice Allard abruptly resigned after nearly 10 years as music director of the Master Chorale of Orange County, reportedly because of a dispute with the board regarding the pop group Californians. William Hall conducted the Christmas concert impressively and is scheduled to lead the remaining subscription concerts next year. But whither the Chorale? And how soon will we know?

--Pacific Symphony also retreated from its earlier posture of offering somewhat adventuresome programming and shifted to bread-and-butter repertory after moving to the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A loss.

And while we have civic umbrella events devoted to the arts, we get nothing on as serious a scale as the wildly uneven, unwieldy, free-wheeling Los Angeles New Music Festival, much less the much-vaunted and also artistically uneven Los Angeles Festival.

Have we grown up culturally? Not yet.

Lastly, local merchants began taking a decidedly miserly view toward the Center's evening arts patrons, putting up threatening notices and hiring guards to warn them about leaving their cars in parking lots that are largely unused after business hours. Not a good sign. The Scrooge award to them.

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