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Season of Sound

After a long summer's slumber, local music scene comes to life with a bang.

September 15, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As usual, the classical music scene in Ventura County is just awakening from a long summer's nap. Late in the season, at the end of spring, things end with the one-two punch of the Ventura Chamber Music Festival and the world-renowned Ojai Festival, but these tend to be last hurrahs for classical music in the area.

Come summer, Ventura's music lovers are bound to hit the road, south to Los Angeles or north to Santa Barbara, where the Music Academy of the West keeps ears satisfied.

That situation is changing abruptly starting this week, as the Camerata Pacifica's season kicks off a healthy flow of music from various local organizations. The Camerata Pacifica, founded by the indefatigable and charming flutist Adrian Spence, now has 10 years to its credit and offers two performances in Ventura County, as well as two in Santa Barbara, for each program it presents.

The group, which serves up the finest chamber music treats in the area, starts its second decade with a concert program of Mozart, Beethoven and Field, at Temple Beth Torah on Saturday and the Forum Theater of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Sunday. The coming season is a healthy one, including eight regular concerts and four special Baroque programs, heeding the ensemble's roots as the former Bach Camerata.

As expected, the nicely balanced repertoire ranges from standard-fare composers to the 20th century likes of Milhaud, Takemitsu and Stravinsky.

The following weekend, Sept. 22 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and Sept. 23 in the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, the county's main resident orchestra, the New West Symphony, kicks off its season with a proverbial fanfare-like bang.

Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" and his Cello Concerto and Gustav Holst's "The Planets" are on the musical menu. For added extra-planetary spectacle, Mercury 7 astronaut and Ventura County resident Gordon Cooper will be on hand as a presenter and narrator of a one-hour space documentary, with live orchestral accompaniment.

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The New West season continues with programs bearing mostly self-explanatory titles: "Russian Romances" on Oct. 13 and 14, "Beethoven's Best" on Feb. 23 and 24, "Music for New World" (featuring Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, naturally) on March 16 and 17, "Concerto for Orchestra" (the orchestra's first performance of Bartok's famed Concerto for Orchestra) on April 20 and 21, and the finale on May 18 and 19, "Resurrection"--a performance of Mahler's epic Second Symphony in collaboration with the Los Robles Master Chorale.

For further orchestral fare, the Los Angeles Philharmonic returns for its second annual appearance at the Civic Arts Plaza on Sept. 28. Dynamo maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen, though still officially on sabbatical through 2000, will lead his charges in a French program of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and "La Mer," as well as Ravel's "Ma mere l'oye" and his raucous little jewel, "La Valse." It's a must-hear.

The Ventura Master Chorale opens its season on Oct. 8 in the Serra Center of the San Buenaventura Mission, marking the 250th anniversary of Bach's death with a performance of his "Christmas Oratorio." It's a bit early, sure, but never out-of-season to bring Bach to life. Future Master Chorale concerts include an official Christmas program, on Dec. 15 and 17 at the mission, Handel's "Messiah" (with the Los Robles Master Chorale) at the Civic Arts Plaza on Dec. 8, a March 4 performance of Amy Beach's Mass in E flat, and Bach's Mass in B minor in May as part of the Ventura Chamber Music Festival. Closing the season will be a premiere of Chorale member Kenneth Helms' "Requiem" on June 10.

The "Performances to Grow On" series is a reliable source of good, family-suitable alternative music, dance and storytelling options in Ventura. This year's series includes such semi-classical fare as "A Festival of Four," with four classical guitarists and a flutist surveying classical and Andean music, on Nov. 18 at the Church of Religious Science. The world music component of the series includes the traditional Vietnamese music of the Khac Chi Ensemble, on Oct. 20 at the same venue.

Locally generated opera is still a trickle instead of anything like a regular flow, but Ventura-based composer John Biggs continues to make the area safe for opera, at least of the comic sort. A couple of years back, Biggs wrote an operatic treatment of the Oscar Wilde play "The Importance of Being Earnest," dubbed "Ernest Worthing." It was, on almost every level, a successful event and a work deserving wider recognition. Now, he has written a comic opera based on the Harold Brighthouse play "Hobson's Choice," which will premiere at Ventura College, through the resources of the VC Opera Workshop, directed by Linda Otsen. Performances will run from Oct. 13 through Oct. 29.

DETAILS

Camerata Pacifica, tonight at Santa Barbara City College, 721 Cliff Drive. in Santa Barbara; Saturday at Temple Beth Torah, 7620 Foothill Road in Ventura; and Sunday at Civic Arts Plaza Forum Theater, 2000 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks. All performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25; (800) 557-BACH (http://www.cameratapacifica.org).

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