While it's true that music trails off in summertime in Ventura County, all is not lost. Music lovers are merely redirected to outlying areas and, in the case of this weekend, old haunts revisited.
This midsummer weekend's roster ranges from an enticing chamber music program in the arid hinterlands of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute near Simi Valley to an orchestral concert from the Music Academy of the West, conducted by Jeffrey Tate. Meanwhile, a flamenco extravaganza doubles as a venue-warming party.
After weathering changes and transitions over the last few years, the Livery Arts Center in old-town Ventura is again heating up. The Performance Studio, which has occupied a smallish space in the heart of the courtyard for the last four years, is moving up front to the large space on Palm Street, which once housed the Momentum Gallery, before the hosting Ventura Arts Council lost its footing.
While there hasn't been a consistent visual art venue to fill the void left by the Momentum, the ongoing theater programming of the Plaza Players Theater, the various art and music events at Cafe Voltaire, and the Performance Studio's dance programs have kept alive the arts aspect of the Livery Arts Center.
Recently, trumpeter and new music mayhem-maker Jeff Kaiser unofficially christened the new space with an impromptu performance as part of the Ventura Art Walk. But, according to Performance Studio head Pamela Pilkenton, this Saturday's flamenco program, featuring respected San Francisco guitarist Rios-Amaya Agustin and several dancers, "will be the first formal event."
When Pilkenton spoke last week, the new space was going through last-minute changes. "They've built walls and soundproofed the wall adjacent to the Plaza Players theater, and they'll be putting in the raised dance floor. So, by hook or by crook, we'll be there, ready to go.
HILLS ALIVE WITH MUSIC
This is the seventh year that the Brandeis-Bardin Institute has sponsored a concert series, guided by music director David Lowe, who also plays cello on many of the programs. "We started with two concerts and we're up to five now," Lowe said, citing the success in terms of growing audiences, who come from Los Angeles as well as Ventura County.
Tucked into the hills south of Simi Valley, the institute is situated on a rustic, rambling piece of property, ideally suited to function as a retreat.
The public concert series follows eclectic lines. The final concerts of the series, on Aug. 13 and 14, will feature music from Hollywood and Broadway.
But this weekend's concert is a more serious affair, well-stocked with fine musicians who work in noted Los Angeles ensembles. The program includes Mendelssohn's "Octet," Viktor Ullmann's "String Quartet No. 3," Gustav Mahler's "Piano Quartet," Ernst Bloch's "Three Nocturnes" and a world premiere for string quartet by Hollywood-based composer Bennett Salvay.
As Lowe explained, "It's a Jewish institution and we tend to do works by Jewish composers. You can't say Mendelssohn is a Jewish composer, but he comes from a very famous Jewish family. Those are usually the parameters we follow."
Given these parameters, this Sunday's program covers a fair amount of ground. Ullmann, whose music has been gaining attention in recent years, wrote music while in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
One highlight will be the unveiling of Salvay's new string quartet work, an accessible neo-baroque piece. Salvay is best known for his music for television, but, like many composers working in Hollywood, he also writes concert music when the opportunity arises.
Every summer in Santa Barbara, the big musical news is the seasonal, internationally renowned Music Academy of the West, which presents public performances in conjunction with its educational agenda. This Saturday, the orchestra, filled with top-drawer student musicians, will be led by maestro Jeffrey Tate in the final orchestral concert of the season.
Also of note to Ventura County culture-watchers, Ojai residents Gene Lees, the jazz historian and singer, and pianist Roger Kellaway will be involved in a lecture-demonstration under the title "First Cousins: Jazz and Classical Music." It takes place in Lehmann Hall at the Music Academy, tonight at 7:30.
* FLAMENCO PROGRAM at Performance Studio, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at 34 N. Palm St., Ventura; 643-5701.
* "AN EVENING OF CHAMBER MUSIC," 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Brandeis-Bardin Institute, 1101 Pepper Tree Lane (extension of Tapo Canyon Road) south of Simi Valley; 582-4450.
* MUSIC ACADEMY OF THE WEST orchestra concert, 8 p.m. Saturday at Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara; 969-8773.