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COVER STORY

Mansion music

May 08, 2003

Thirty years ago, a musicologist named MaryAnn Bonino started the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College and began presenting a Chamber Music in Historic Sites series, relying heavily on the Doheny Mansion's Pompeian room, which features a Tiffany glass dome overhead. In 1980, Bonino and company began looking more broadly at music and venues, and soon, in addition to the mansion shows, audiences were trekking from site to site.

The enterprise grew to include more than 50 performances yearly before Bonino cut it back sharply in the early 1990s. This year's schedule includes more than two dozen performances at 20 sites throughout the city. In years past, the series has included woodwind quintets in an Avalon aviary, baroque music in rococo salons and chants under Gothic domes.

On April 13, Da Camera presented 78-year-old jazzman James Moody's quartet in a Central Avenue building that once held the Dunbar, one of the city's first integrated hotels, and a regular stop for the biggest names in jazz through the first half of the 20th century. A few years ago, Bonino and company arranged audience seats in a seaside home so that listeners could stare at the sea while listening to tones meant to mimic whales.

Without the usual barriers between stage and seats, an unconventional site "makes the musicians part of the audience and the audience part of the musicians," says Bonino. "It's the relationship that the room creates -- a much more complex relationship than just putting it into a black box."

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Info and schedule: www.dacamera.org; (213) 477-2929.

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