The magnificent old carrousel at Griffith Park has brought its share of pleasure to generations of little kiddies through its 59-year history. Do you still have the urge to ride, but feel the time for such silliness is long past? Fear not.

The CalArts-based E.A.R. Unit will present a concert at the venerable landmark as the formal season-closer to the Chamber Music in Historic Sites Series on Friday night. But at this black-tie, red-carpet event, it’s all purely for fun, says E.A.R. marimbist Gaylord Mowrey.

“MaryAnn (Bonino, organizer of the series) wanted to make it a festive party,” Mowrey explains. “Kind of a playtime for grown-ups. The carrousel will be decorated and all lit up. Not everyone will want to hop on a horse, but the optimum enjoyment will come from riding.”

The music, Mowrey says, will emerge from more than a dozen speakers placed in the immediate area. So anyone too timid to saddle up a pony can still wander about and enjoy the mixture of new and old music, both live and recorded.


But those who climb aboard the old four-abreast, all-jumper Spillman (the only full-size one still in operation) will experience a unique listening experience.

“I think the (Frederic) Rzewski piece, ‘Les moutons de Panurge,’ makes the best use of the carrousel setting,” Mowrey suggests. “It’s a unison piece, with a different instrument assigned to each of the six channels (fed to six speakers placed on the circumference of the carrousel). So, as the listener moves around, the timbres will subtly change.”

Also of interest on the program are a pair of recorded pieces from Holland. “Each year, the government there holds a competition for composers to write pieces for those big portable band organs,” Mowrey says. “The winning piece is made into a roll and preserved. We’ve managed to get recordings of two of those rolls.” These pieces will be played along with the standard merry-go-round fare such as the “William Tell” Overture and what the program describes as “traditional circus stuff.”

Other works on the agenda include a rag by Scott Joplin, “Radio Music” (for eight radios and eight players) by John Cage and Steve Reich’s Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (the only work played with the carrousel stopped).


While expressing excitement about this new forum for contemporary music, Mowrey sadly reports that a planned music-theater work for the Friday concert by group member Arthur Jarvinen will not be performed. “We were going to make our entrance in nine separate golf carts,” he notes. “Each musician would encircle the carrousel and play a canon that worked in space.

“But the terrain around the playing area was just too hilly for us.” Mowrey can barely conceal a sigh. “We were going to call it ‘Fore-Play.’ ”

IN DANCE: Vladimir Vasiliev, a premier danseur with the Bolshoi Ballet, has retired from the stage and has been appointed artistic director for La Scala Ballet in Milan, effective January, 1986. Vassiliev, who succeeds Rosella Hightower, will apparently retain his Soviet citizenship.

The announced repertory for the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s premiere season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City later this month does not include “Fancy Free,” the Jerome Robbins ballet danced successfully here by the company for the first time anywhere just last month. Why was it so quickly dropped? A company spokesman, who refused to be identified, gave a simple, logical answer: “Mr. Robbins wanted a clause in the agreement (to perform the ballet) that the company is not to dance ‘Fancy Free’ in New York while City Ballet (which Robbins co-directs) is performing.”


OPERA IN THE BLACK: As its much-anticipated “Ring” cycle begins, the San Francisco Opera made the revelation that it has “wiped out” the $2.6-million accumulated deficit that has plagued the regime of General Director Terence McEwen since he took over three years ago. The company reports that it is now $54,000 in the black. Opera Assn. President Walter M. Baird said the turnaround was achieved through a $500,000 matching grant and an austerity program instituted by McEwen last year. The announcement was made at a recent press conference introducing newly appointed Music Director John Pritchard.

PEOPLE: Although his Long Beach Symphony has apparently succumbed, Murry Sidlin remains music director of the New Haven Symphony. A highlight of the 1985-86 season--the conductor’s eighth with the Connecticut ensemble--will be the premiere of David Diamond’s Flute Concerto, commissioned by the orchestra for flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal in honor of the composer’s 70th birthday.

Pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski was recently made a member of the Milan-based Societa del Quartetto, joining Artur Rubinstein and Rudolf Serkin as a recipient of that honor. The pianist will visit four cities on his U.S. tour next season. Not bad for a fellow of 93.