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Institute Gets Ready for a Little Night Music : On Sunday, Brandeis-Bardin launches 'Under the Stars,' its summer concert series of Jewish music.


One of the best-kept musical secrets during the normally dry summer months in Ventura County is tucked away, like a rural enclave, in the hills behind Simi Valley. Up in this arid, rolling terrain sits Brandeis-Bardin Institute, the dramatic site for the outdoor concert series truthfully titled "Under the Stars."

This summer's season--the sixth in the series--includes Jewish music from all over the cultural map, from Catskills' song craft to music of Arnold Schoenberg to the virtuosic clarinet of klezmer specialist Giora Feidman, with Broadway/Hollywood froth tossed in for good measure. While other local musical organizations rest their machinery for the season, Brandeis-Bardin cranks theirs up.

Series founder and artistic director David Low explained: "Part of the mission with the series is to open up the institute, both locally and in L.A., so people can come up and get a feel for the whole place. These concerts have everything going for them, being outdoors on a mountaintop, with great sound and lighting, and nobody sits more than 100 feet from a stage. It's like a miniature Hollywood Bowl."

Headlining the opening concert Sunday night will be a slice of the Borscht Belt in our back yard. Comedian Herschel Fox and his singer wife, Judy, are the main attractions of a program called "A Frailach Festival"-- frailach being Yiddish for "a light, upbeat song."

Also on Sunday's program is a homegrown outfit, the Brandeis-Bardin-based International Klezmer Ensemble, which plans to release an album this summer. True to the band name, the ensemble veers to the right and left of klezmer convention.

According to Low, the group's sound is "the equivalent of world music. These guys are in their 20s and mostly conservatory-trained, but they mix Eastern European folk and klezmer with other idioms, reggae and Sephardic and Latino and American, and combine it into one style."

Low, a Juilliard-trained cellist who works on the L.A. studio circuit in addition to teaching at Brandeis-Bardin, will be involved in the one serious concert of the series. It is also the one indoor concert in the campus series. The chamber music program July 9 will include Schoenberg's post-romantic, pre-12-tone opus "Verklarte Nacht," a world premiere composition by Robert Strassburg, and string quartet arrangements of Jewish folk songs by Matt Springer.

On July 23, renowned clarinetist Feidman and a trio will give Ventura County a strong blast of klezmer. Born in Argentina, Feidman played for years with the Israel Philharmonic before his failing eyesight forced him to steer away from paper music to the rich folkloric tradition of klezmer. Low said, "He's an entertainer, but from a very high-end perspective."

On Aug. 12-13, Lucas Richman and his group will close the series with a revue of Broadway and Hollywood music under the self-explanatory title "From Stage to Screen."

Despite the obvious Jewish focus of the programming, the goal is to create a concert series accessible to all. "In the past," Low explained, "we've done programs that wouldn't have been as interesting to someone who wasn't Jewish. But I think each of these programs is totally open to the community.

"We've come to a medium where we're able to appeal to anybody. I don't think anyone would walk away saying 'I didn't get it,' or 'I didn't feel comfortable.' We're a Jewish facility, so we try to help facilitate that type of music, but we're not a synagogue. Our focus is not religious, it's cultural."

Meanwhile, back in the ex-urbs: On the jazz front, the potent and poetic saxophonist Jon Crosse, who calls Oak View home, will head down to 66 California to play Sunday in a rare appearance as leader of his own group. Crosse, who brings to his horns a smooth tone and a diagonal sense of phrasing in the Wayne Shorter vein, will lead a strong quartet consisting of Stu Goldberg on piano, Cliff Hugo on bass and Dick Weller on drums.


* WHAT: "Under the Stars" with Herschel and Judy Fox, above, and the International Klezmer Ensemble.

* WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: Brandeis-Bardin Institute, 1101 Peppertree Lane, off Tapo Canyon Road, south of Simi Valley.

* HOW MUCH: $18 for single tickets, $60 for the series.

* CALL: 582-4450.

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