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MUSIC : Seal Beach Chamber Festival: Low Budget but Highbrow


If Oregon--"right on the edge of the backwoods"--could host a music festival, why couldn't Seal Beach, Calif.?

That's what cellist Alan Parker asked himself 16 years ago, free-lancing in the Peter Britt Festival concerts in Jacksonville, Ore., and toying with the idea of starting his own festival in the Southland.

"I was quite impressed with what (the Peter Britt people) were able to do with rather simple facilities and a low budget," Parker recalls. "I thought: Why isn't there something like this in greater Los Angeles? Why do you have to go up into the middle of Oregon?" So, he and some friends in Seal Beach decided to give it a shot.

"We immediately developed a hard-core following," says Parker. And the audience has grown so steadily over the years that the festival has had to keeping moving into larger and larger venues. Now, Parker and his friends have settled into the McGaugh School auditorium, which seats 600, and where the 16th annual festival continues tonight at 8, and every Thursday through Aug. 9.

Part of the appeal undoubtedly has been the free admission. "We experimented with donations at the door," says Parker, "but it turned out to be way more trouble than it was worth. It didn't seem to enhance the revenues. If anything, it cut them down. The way we operate now, there is no admission charge, but people are invited to join the patrons association that sponsors the thing." The association raises the $10,000 it takes to cover six of the seven concerts on the festival roster. The Young Artists program July 19 will be sponsored by the Long Beach branch of the Music Teachers Assn. of California.

Tonight, Parker's own, Los Angeles-based Ysaye String Quartet will play works by Haydn and Schubert. Future programs will feature a string ensemble from the Haydn Orchestra, July 12; pianist Anders Martenson and violinist Sachiko Tanaka (the Young Artists bill, July 19); pianist Max Levinson, July 26 and, tentatively, the Ysaye String Quartet and the Haydn Orchestra, Aug. 2 and 9, respectively.

What: The 16th annual Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival presents the Ysaye Quartet.

When: Thursday at 8 p.m. The festival continues Thursdays through Aug. 9.

Where: The McGaugh School auditorium, 1698 Bolsa Ave., Seal Beach.

Whereabouts: 405 Freeway to Seal Beach Boulevard exit, south to Bolsa Avenue. School is at Bolsa and Seal Beach Boulevard.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to Call: (213) 596-4749.

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