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Troubles Drive Away Southwest Chamber Society : Music: The ninth season excludes any dates at Chapman. But the artistic director says the group might come back to another venue.

June 22, 1995|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Southwest Chamber Music Society wrapped up its eighth season in Orange County last weekend and simultaneously announced its ninth season.

Orange County wasn't part of it.

Which isn't to say that the group won't play here again.

"At this point," says Jeff von der Schmidt, the group's artistic director, who lives in Pasadena, "we're not certain where we'll be next season," though he has announced two dozen concerts at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.

Conspicuously absent from the list was Chapman University in Orange, where the group had played since 1989.

Chapman "was not working out for us," Schmidt said Wednesday. "We've had logistic and technical problems working with the staff--we've shown up and the piano was locked for instance, and the room was a mess--and this year was really bad."

Kent Hannibal, the administrative director of Chapman's music school, confirmed that "we've not been contacted for any dates next year." He added that, as far as he knows, "generally everything has been fine. There may have been some complications at a concert, but I think we ironed everything out."

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In any case, Schmidt said, the group had found that Sunday afternoons, when it normally played Chapman, "were a very difficult sell" (though he noted that when the group plays Sunday afternoons in Santa Monica, it seems to do just fine).

Financial support has dwindled here, Schmidt said. "I think we've seen an impact from the bankruptcy. We've lost the small donors. People who used to give us $100 are giving us no money. And the larger donors . . . we recently raised $14,000 at a benefit, and less than $500 came from Orange County.

"The organization is stable," Schmidt said. "It's Orange County that's in flux."

Still, the group has been negotiating with other venues in the county, including the Laguna Beach High School Auditorium, which is under renovation. "We have definite plans to be there for a summer series in 1996," Schmidt said. "The auditorium renovation is extremely impressive, but we couldn't be absolutely sure that it would be ready in time.

"If somebody in Orange County wants to give us a call, we'd love to hear from them. Unless they do, we're basically taking a hiatus. We have some things to fall back on, and we hope to schedule something for fall of '95. But we won't be doing a full series in Orange County until summer of 1996."

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