Chamber Music Series Expands Historic Sites Horizons


“When we started,” says MaryAnn Bonino, who founded the highly successful Chamber Music in Historic Sites series in 1980, “It seemed we were serving a small but elite group of chamber music lovers interested in architecture.

“But, especially in the last five years, I’ve noticed that our audiences are not that easy to figure out. They come for differing reasons, and sometimes come back for other reasons.

“Like the men who tell me, ‘My wife was interested in the visual part of these concerts, but we both found the music the thing we responded to.’ ”


The thrust of the audience’s interest has changed over time too, Bonino says.

“I see a real hunger--no doubt caused by the general state of our society and our world--for the unique benefits, the beauty, that music brings into people’s lives.”

Begun as a project of the 1980-81 Los Angeles bicentennial celebration, Chamber Music in Historic Sites has grown steadily and spectacularly since that inaugural, six-concert season, when Bonino produced concerts in locales as contrasting as the old San Fernando Mission, where that first season opened, and the huge, blue Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, where it ended.

Today, more than 50 concerts in four Southern California counties is the prospect for the 10th season of the Historic Sites series, still sponsored by the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College, and still presenting diverse international ensembles in varied locales.

The season proper begins Monday at Second City Theatre in Santa Monica (formerly the Mayfair Theatre) with an appearance by the period-instrument ensemble London Baroque--”an evening of Corelli, coffee and dessert,” Bonino calls this coffee-house concert.

And soon, Bonino predicts, the series, which combines architectural and musical perspectives with a healthy historical curiosity, may spread its influence into the national musical arena.

“We are talking to lawyers now about helping other cities to set up their own historic-sites series,” the professor-turned-impresario says. “We may need to set up a separate organization to act as an umbrella group for such series.”


Bonino says she has “been thinking about this for a long time. It has occurred to me, many times in these 10 years, that the potential locales for these concerts are practically unlimited. Then, when I apply that thinking to other cities. . . .”

At the start, she believed that the places she might use as concert locations were few. Then, she began looking around.

“Within the first couple of years, I realized that, when you get away from the places where people have always gone to concerts, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of other locations that are actually usable.”

For 1989-90, Bonino has concocted six series--the principal one named after a major benefactor, the Nakamichi Foundation--plus four mini-festivals, those being one- or two-day events at historical places.

Of the 34 sites, 29 will be new to these series. They include private homes designed by Greene and Greene, Wallace Neff and Gordon Kaufmann, plus landmark ballrooms, lobbies, museums and churches, including the work of architects Myron Hunt, Samuel Lunden, Parkinson and Parkinson, and Morgan, Walls and Clemens.

In short: the same kinds of neglected, undiscovered and surprising concert rooms that Bonino has been finding during this fascinating decade.


Seven ensembles make their local debut appearances in this 10th season: the Nash Ensemble, Tafelmusik, Hesperion XX, the Mozartean Players, the Orion String Quartet, the Montclaire String Quartet and Trio Fontenay. Among the contemporary music offerings will be the Los Angeles premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s String Quartet (1976).

According to Bonino, some of the highlights of the season are:

* “L’Armada Invencible,” a program of 17th-Century Spanish music performed by Hesperion XX “amid the Churrigueresque splendors of St. Vincent’s Church.”

* The Shanghai Quartet playing a contemporary Chinese string quartet, “Voyages to the Orient,” at the Pacific Asia Museum.

* 13th-Century travel music at the Moorish-Modern Union Station.

* Music for woodwinds by Latino composers performed by the Quintet of the Americas on the outdoor stage at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Park.

Hesperion XX is a Spanish ensemble founded and led by Jordi Savall. A group of eight to 12 players, it performs, with soprano Montserrat Figueras, pre-1800 music from Spain and other parts of Western Europe. The Shanghai String Quartet was founded in 1983 at the Shanghai Conservatory and is now in residence at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where it acts as assistant to the Juilliard Quartet. Quintet of the Americas is a group of North American woodwind players founded in Colombia in 1976. Based in New York for the past 10 years, it is now in residence at the New York Center for Inter-American Relations.

Near the end of the concert year, subscribers will have a chance to compare period- and modern-instrument performances of Beethoven piano trios in back-to-back readings by the Mozartean Players at the Hollenbeck Home’s chapel-rotunda.


Early-music fans will also greet such prestigious ensembles as the Tallis Scholars, the Hilliard Ensemble, Sequentia, Ensemble P.A.N., A Sett of Vyalls and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.

The four Da Camera festivals are: “A Day in Historic Tustin,” Oct. 22; the Temecula Festival of Chamber Music, March 17-18; “Mt. Wilson Festival--A Day at the Summit,” April 22, and Catalina Mini-Festival of Chamber Music, June 4.

Information: (213) 747-9085.