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Culture and Commerce

Annual Ventura chamber festival happily pairs classical concerts with civic boosterism.


It began in 1995 as a grand idea from the brain trust of the fledgling Ventura Chamber Orchestra: Why not start a festival in Ventura, focusing on chamber music in various sites around town? Chamber music is broad enough--and mobile enough--to function in almost any venue.

Now, as the third annual Ventura Chamber Music Festival kicks off Saturday night with a Mozart spectacular, the eight-day event seems like a felicitous pact between culture, commerce and civic boosterism.

This year's program, designed by artistic director Burns Taft, is the strongest yet, with its civic impact symbolized by the May 10 concert inaugurating the remodeled Ventura Concert Theatre. Classical music never had a place in the theater's previous incarnation as a mostly rock showcase theater. Is this the beginning of a happy trend?

Over the course of the festival's run, from May 3-11, music will spill over into several area churches, in the downtown al fresco space of the Bella Maggiore, in coffeehouses, and even on the open sea, with the "Gala Opening Cruise" on Wednesday.

Last year's festival sported a strong presence of classical guitar, with recitals by Matthew Greif--premiering Miguel del Aguila's "Tennessee"--and the nimble guitar duo of Laura Oltman and Michael Newman. The guitar trend continues this year with the centerpiece concert featuring Christopher Parkening, one of America's reigning guitarists.

Parkening, from Montana, will appear May 9 at San Buenaventura Mission with the Colorado String Quartet (which also played last year). More guitar can be heard the next afternoon, when the Falla Trio--guitarists Dusan Bogdanovic, Kenton Youngstrom and Terry Graves--play at the Community Presbyterian Church.

Pianist Santiago Rodriguez gives a recital May 8 in the Church of Religious Science.

There will be free-to-the-public, yet musically rich, afternoon concerts next week. Tuesday at the Church of Religious Science, pianist Nancy Fierro will perform music by female composers, including Clara Schumann, Alicia Terzian and Adaline Shepherd. Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church, noted tenor Jonathan Mack and pianist Vickie Ray will perform Schubert's song cycle, "The Beautiful Maid of the Mill."

And on Thursday afternoon at the Methodist Church, cellist Dennis Karmazyn will perform the world premiere of Ventura-based composer John Biggs' "Songs for Baritone and Cello," with Biggs singing. Pianist Lisa Sylvester also joins Karmazyn on the program.

Classical music fans, from within the county and beyond, should have plenty of excuse to get out of the house in the next week and a half.


Festival Schedule

Ventura Chamber Music Festival runs from Saturday to May 11. Ticket prices vary; 648-4103.

* Saturday, 8 p.m.--Ventura County Master Chorale and Ventura County Chamber Orchestra perform Mozart's Horn Concerto, No. 4, K. 495, and Great Mass in C Minor, K. 427, at Our Lady of Assumption Church, 3175 Telegraph Road.

* Tuesday, 3:15 p.m.--Pianist Nancy Fierro performs works by Clara Schumann, Alicia Terzian and Adaline Shepherd, at the Church of Religious Science, 101 S. Laurel St.

* Wednesday, 3:15 p.m.--Tenor Jonathan Mack and pianist Vickie Ray will perform Schubert at First United Methodist Church, 1338 E. Santa Clara St.

* May 8, 3:15 p.m.--Cellist Dennis Karmazyn, baritone John Biggs and pianist Lisa Sylvester will perform Biggs' "Songs for Baritone and Cello" at First United Methodist Church, 1338 E. Santa Clara St.

* May 8, 8 p.m.--Pianist Santiago Rodriguez, performing Soler, Schumann, Chopin and Stravinsky, at Church of Religious Science, 101 S. Laurel St.

* May 9-10, 3 p.m.--Ventura Chamber Orchestra Festival Horns, performing Rimsky-Korsakov, Tippett and Wilder at Bella Maggiore Inn, 67 S. California St.

* May 9, 8 p.m.--Christopher Parkening and the Colorado String Quartet, performing Vivaldi, Schumann, Albeniz and Warlock at the San Buenaventura Mission, 211 E. Main St.

* May 10, 10 a.m.--Ventura Chamber Orchestra Festival Artists, with pianist Kirill Gliadkovsky, performing Mozart, Schubert, Britten and Schumann at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli St.

* May 10, 4 p.m.--Falla Trio, performing de Falla, Bach, Granados, Soler, Bogdanovic and Barger at Community Presbyterian Church, 1555 Poli St.

* May 10, 8 p.m.--Ventura Chamber Orchestra, with the Ventura County Master Chorale, performing Torke, Schumann and Beethoven at Ventura Concert Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut St.

* May 11, 11 a.m.--Soprano Jessica Siena with pianist Victoria Kirsch and pianist Kirill Gliadkovsky, performing at Ventura City Hall, 501 Poli St.

* May 11, 3 p.m.--The Colorado String Quartet and Anacapa String Quartet, performing Schumann, Mendelssohn and Barber at the mission, 211 E. Main St.

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